I don’t want to be too much of a wise guy, but if you thought the Mets had headaches and other ailments over their disabled list a couple of years ago, the Yankees would like to inform you that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The DL is known now as the more politically correct “injured list.” The Yankees as of today have thirteen players on theirs.
Their front office may be fool enough to succumb to political correctness and banish Kate Smith (on recording, anyway), but that’s not the players’ fault. And they’re probably not in the mood for PC when they think of their wounded. When the Yankees mash it’s supposed to mean long balls, not M*A*S*H.
They’re about ready for drastic measures, like maybe calling in Hawkeye Pierce’s Yankee Doodle Doctor. Complete with Trapper John wielding the butcher’s mallet for the anesthetic. These days a mallet on the coconut couldn’t possibly hurt as bad as the Yankees do.
Thirteen. As a uniform number, 22 Yankee players have worn it, from pre-World War II pitching star Spud Chandler all the way up to the back on which it was seen last, Alex Rodriguez. Considering their incumbent roll on medical leave, the Yankees may be tempted to retire the number. Not in any player’s honour, but on behalf of not pushing their luck.
Welcome to St. Elsewhere, Yankee Stadium. Where you shouldn’t be shocked if someone hangs a big white flag with a big red cross over the main ballpark entrance behind home plate. With the following advisory sewn in beneath the cross: “Players Enter at Their Own Risk.”
That the Yankees are only 2.5 games out of the top in the American League East may be as much a miracle of medical science as a baseball miracle. Just because the Red Sox helped them for a change by sweeping the Rays this weekend doesn’t mean the Yankees have been ushered to safety.
These days you can’t pick up a newspaper story or click on an online story about the Yankees without being tempted to wonder, before the coming week expires, whether two relief pitchers, a utility player, the bullpen coach, the field-level stadium vendors, and the late Hall of Famer Yogi Berra will go on the injured list.
Bad enough that too-often injured veteran outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury missed all 2018 with hip and foot injuries and opened this season on the list. His entire Yankee career has been an ill-fated injury morass, and none of his injuries were incurred in any way other than playing the game.
Forget the big contract Ellsbury signed as a free agent to become a Yankee in the first place. This is one guy you actually have to feel sorry for. He didn’t ask to spend half or better of his Yankee life as a recurring episode of House.
Worse: The former Red Sox sparker has enough company on the IL that, in theory, you could win a division and maybe even a pennant with those on the list since spring training ended if they were healthy, prime Ellsbury (who won two World Series rings as a Red Sox) included:
Didi Gregorius (shortstop)—Tommy John surgery on his elbow; out until after the All-Star break at minimum.
Ben Heller (pitcher)—Missed last season and won’t be re-activated until some time in July. Tommy John surgery.
Jordan Montgomery (pitcher)—Tommy John surgery recovery; isn’t expected back until some time in August.
Luis Severino (pitcher and staff ace while we’re at it)—On the IL until the second half of the season at minimum thanks to rotator cuff inflammation and a lat muscle injury.
Giancarlo Stanton (outfielder)—Out three weeks or better with a Grade One strain in his left biceps. He could return a shade sooner but nobody’s said anything in that direction as of this writing.
Miguel Andujar (shortstop)—Gregorius’s substitute needs a fill-in himself until “at least some time in May,” as Baseball-Reference.com puts it: small labrum tear in his right shoulder.
Dellin Betances (bullpen bull)—Shoulder impingement. Out until the beginning of June at minimum.
Greg Bird (first baseman, bombardier when his swing is right)—Left plantar fascia tear (it’s a foot injury, folks) and, as of 17 April, expected to miss from four to six weeks.
Aaron Hicks (center fielder)—Don’t put him in, coach: his lower back stiffened up on him and he won’t be cleared to play again until some time in May at least.
Troy Tulowitzki (infielder)—Left calf strain. Not expected back until the end of April.
Gary Sanchez (catcher)—He’s had enough trouble keeping himself honest behind the plate even as he can flat out hit, but a 20 April calf strain sent him to the IL until possibly this coming Wednesday, against the Angels.
Aaron Judge (right fielder, ICBM launcher)—The Leaning Tower of the South Bronx strained his left oblique while swinging at the plate against the Royals this weekend. On the ten-day IL but it could be a little worse, considering the Yankees’ press people called the injury “significant.” Could.
The foregoing may be why some might consider it miraculous enough that the Yankees just took three straight from even the lowly Royals after dropping the series opener Thursday. Even if they had to overcome a bullpen immolation to win in extra innings Sunday.
“There’s a couple guys that are irreplaceable here,” said catcher Austin Romine after Sunday’s ten inning, 7-6 survival, “but we’ve got to find a way to do it. We’re still winning games. We’ve got guys stepping up left and right.”
Careful with those steps, Eugene. All things considered, you never know which of those guys stepping up left and right is liable to slip and ding a foot or an ankle.
The Yankee farm system is plenty deep enough right now, but you might understand if the Yankees aren’t in that big a rush to move a few of them up to the Bronx for relief. How would they explain breaking any more players? Even Gregory House himself might be stuck for an answer no matter how many diagnostics he and his team rummage.
They’d better find a way to exterminate the injury bug and soon. Their opponents may be tempted to face them wearing lab coats, not jerseys, just to try psyching them out.