Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Injuries and Bad Karma

The New York Yankees had already experienced plenty of bad luck with injuries in recent months, so the outcome of Curtis Granderson’s first plate appearance in Spring Training was almost to be expected.

The Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ looked at the low-and-away target from his catcher and let loose a pitch that sailed high and in. It was too far in for the Yankees and Granderson’s liking. The ball made a deadening thud off his right forearm and Grandy immediately let go of the bat before grimacing his way to first base.

X-rays revealed a fracture putting him on a 10-week timeline before he will make it back into the Big League lineup sometime in early May, subject to any setbacks along the way.

The Yankees had been toying with moving Granderson from his customary centre-field position into left, allowing the better-fielding Brett Gardner to swap over. Gardner will now get the chance to play in centre when the regular season begins, but Granderson’s injury may make them revert back to type once he returns from injury. Spring Training would have been the ideal time for him to get used to playing left-field, a position he has very limited experience with, and for the pair to get used to playing together in that formation.

Asking Granderson to move to left-field with limited practice time would be less than ideal, although they may have little choice.

The plan was being discussed as it’s expected that the Yankees will need to save every run they can this season, fielding an offence far-less potent than it has been in the past.

The absence of Granderson’s bat in the early going will make that even more pronounced. He led the team in 2012 with 43 longballs and there was already talk of a power outage in the Bronx before his injury, with the team having lost Russell Martin (21 HR), Raul Ibanez (19), Nick Swisher (24), Eric Chavez (16) and Andruw Jones (14) over the off-season, and Alex Rodriguez (18) continuing to be plagued by the injury curse. A-Rod may be back in late June or early July, but there’s no telling how productive he will be as the veteran falls victim to the inevitable ravages of Father Time.

Whilst it’s normally just perception rather than a meaningful trend, it often seems that when one player goes down to an injury, their team is then hit by further setbacks.

The Milwaukee Brewers are a good – not ‘good’ from their perspective – recent example of this. First baseman Corey Hart suffered a knee injury before Spring Training began, but the blow was softened a little by Mat Gamel seemingly coming back healthy after missing most of the 2012 season with his own knee injury. Relief soon turned to dejection as Gamel’s dreadful bad luck continued as he reinjured the knee and is set to miss yet another season.

This past weekend brought more bad news for the Brewers as Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Yovani Gallardo reported minor ailments, in Gallardo’s case a groin strain that may result in him withdrawing from Mexico’s World Baseball Classic roster.  Even though none of the injuries are serious, they will remain a concern until the players prove those concerns to be unfounded.

Breakout performances and slumps always catch the eye, but keeping key players healthy and on the field is an even more important factor in a team having a good season.

The Cleveland Indians’ pre-season optimism was noted in this column last week. That optimism was quickly followed by Chris Perez’s right-shoulder strain that could make him a doubt for Opening Day. One minor injury in Spring Training shouldn’t deflate Cleveland fans at all, but shoulder problems are never a good sign for a pitcher and it’s easy for pessimism to take hold, particularly for a team that hasn’t been competitive in the last couple of seasons. The surprise of a team actually showing signs of promise can make the mental scars of long losing seasons all the more sensitive.

‘You know what our luck’s like, the bubble will burst’.

Yes, the fickle finger of fate looms large when it comes to injuries. The ‘Why me? Why now?’ unfairness of it all compels players and fans to find an explanation.

In the Miami Marlins’ first Spring Training game, newly-acquired catcher Jeff Mathis suffered a broken collarbone after getting hit by a foul-tip. If Mathis was a mere innocent victim as the baseball gods punished the Marlins for their miserly off-season, we can only be glad that this was the required sacrifice – a back-up catcher getting an injury that shouldn’t lead to any long-term damage – rather than the pitch that collided with Giancarlo Stanton’s helmet.

Even the Marlins’ bad karma didn’t warrant their star young slugger to suffer a concussion (or worse) and all of the dreadful consequences that it can bring to a career and quality of life.

Thankfully on that occasion, luck was on our side. For your chosen team to do well this season, they’ll need good fortune to find them too.

Rounding the bases

Matt Garza can be added to the injured list, as of Sunday evening. The Cubs expect the right-handed pitcher to miss the first month of the season due to a “strained left lat”, the “lat” being his Lattissimus dorsi muscle.

Chien-Ming Wang has had his own injury struggles over the years, but his impressive outing for Chinese Taipei in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday suggested that he’s still worth a look from Major League teams. Whilst the Australian line-up clearly isn’t of Big League quality, his sinker was working well and there will be more than one MLB team willing to take a chance on him.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim paid Mike Trout $482.5k for his incredible 2012 season. His financial reward? A $10k bonus for winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award and a raise of $27.5k, a mere $20k increase on the Major League minimum.

His agent was as unimpressed as you would expect him to be.

Trout will be earning the equivalent of approximately £6.5k per week this season. For comparison, the average Premier League wage is thought to be just over £22k per week, with the average Championship wage being just over £4k.

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