Injuries Working for Mets
This season the Mets — like much of MLB — have suffered an unusually high number of injuries. In fact, more players have been hurt than healthy. Check out the list of Mets who hit the disabled list at some point this year:
That’s a big list, and I’m not even counting the DL stints of Juan Padilla, Ambiorix Burgos, Ben Johnson, and Lastings Milledge — nor am I including the 50-game bans served by Guillermo Mota and Lino Urdaneta. Further, we’re not counting the “day to day” issues of Beltran, Easley, Milledge, LoDuca, Marlon Anderson, Carlos Delgado, and others who missed games but weren’t injured severely enough to be deactivated.
Looking at all the games missed by key personnel, it’s suddenly surprising that the Mets have been able to hold on to first place for so long.
However, the Phillies lost Chase Utley, Tom Gordon, Brett Myers, Jon Lieber, Ryan Howard, and Freddy Garcia for stretches. They also lost less-impactful players such as Ryan Madson, Chris Coste, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Adam Eaton, and a few others.
In contrast, the Braves have been relatively healthy throughout the year. Their most significant losses were Mike Hampton, Mike Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria, and Chipper Jones — though Jones only missed about two weeks (John Smoltz also missed a couple starts).
Recently, though, the injury bug has hit all three teams again — hitting the Phillies and the Braves the hardest.
First, Cole Hamels has been placed on the 15-day DL with a tender elbow, and will miss at least two starts. The injury is not considered serious, but missing two starts this deep in the season is major. And there’s a good chance he’s not 100 percent upon his return. Add the fact that Chase Utley only started swinging a bat a few days ago, and Lieber, Garcia, Eaton, Madson, and Bourn remain out, and the depleted Phillies’ chances to fight for first dwindle considerably.
Secondly, the Braves lost both starter Chuck James and shortstop Edgar Renteria this week — Renteria re-injuring his ankle in his first game back. They also recently lost Octavio Dotel, who was acquired specifically for the stretch run. Though those three are the only major contributors on the DL (Hampton doesn’t count), the Braves cannot afford to have any of them out of action while they’re six games back. Though Yunel Escobar has performed admirably, he is not Edgar Renteria — an offensive force at the top of the Braves lineup. And while the Braves may have the best 1-2 starter punch east of San Diego in Tim Hudson and John Smoltz, the remainder of the rotation is a disaster. James had solidified the #3 spot while Bobby Cox played a shell game with the fourth and fifth starters. Now he has to really be creative — maybe pull a trick out of the old “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” book. To compound their situation, the Braves traded young and healthy — if inconsistent — starter Kyle Davies to get Dotel, who is now out indefinitely. For once, John Schuerholz rolled the dice and crapped out.
Meanwhile, the Mets are suddenly getting healthy.
Damion Easley’s recent ankle injury was a downer, but the play of Marlon Anderson and the acquisition of Jeff Conine make his absence unnoticeable. More importantly, Carlos Beltran came off the DL, but it seems more likely he came out of a phone booth, with a red cape on his back. And in about a week, both LoDuca and Castro should be returning behind the dish after serving their time on the disabled list. Further, Endy Chavez could be back soon, and there’s a possibility we’ll see both Gomez and Pedro Martinez return sometime in mid-September.
Of course, anything can happen in the next few weeks — we all remember El Duque and Pedro going on the DL at just the wrong times. But heading into September, the health of the Mets is looking pretty good compared to the two teams in their rearview mirror. Let’s hope it stays that way.