Among 'Snakebitten Six' no team has had worse luck than Twins
To borrow a phrase from the suddenly talkative Mets owner Fred Wilpon, plenty of teams seem "snakebitten'' this year. There have been so many injuries this year, particularly to star players (Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, David Wright), that the Snakebitten Six teams, listed below, have to feel something's just not right.
No team has suffered like the Twins, the two-time defending AL Central champions who are used to outplaying expectations. The expectation now, however, has to be nothing more than merely finishing out a star-crossed season that seems almost unfair. It's not only the ridiculous number of injuries that have ruined Minnesota's season but the the fact that their very best players have been the ones sidelined. Star catcher Joe Mauer, one of the game's greatest players, is DHing in extended spring training with no timetable or a return yet set. It is clear now to both folks inside and outside the organization that the Twins shouldn't have waited until December to operate on Mauer's knee, and they surely shouldn't have placed him on the active roster to start the year after only a week's worth of spring games. He wasn't nearly himself and he lasted only a matter of days. (Twins GM Bill Smith, who apparently has his hands full, didn't return text messages,) Mauer has dealt with leg weakness from a lack of readiness plus shoulder issues from overcompensation.
Mauer's fellow former AL MVP, Justin Morneau, meanwhile, has toughed things out but clearly hasn't been himself, batting just .247 with only four home runs. He hasn't complained of the concussion issue that wiped out more than half of his 2010 season, but it appears, at the very least, his strained neck has affected his power. And that's just the start. The disabled list could stretch from one twin city to the other, with Delmon Young, Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Jason Repko, Jose Mijares, Glen Perkins and Jim Thome also idled for a time. Jason Kubel, their best player in what looks to be a lost season, sprained his foot on Monday. The way things are going, they will be barely able to field a team, much less the fine one they're used to having.
The Cubs aren't quite as unlucky as the Twins this year (it's not possible), but they have been unfortunate even by their own standards of misfortune. They seem to have had 103 seasons of ill will since last winning the World Series in 1908, and this one has involved some particular type of torture. Outfielder Marlon Byrd has no timetable for a return 10 days after being hit in the face by a 92-mph fastball from the Red Sox' Alfredo Aceves. Byrd sustained multiple facial fractures, but he can at least be thankful his eyesight was unaffected by the baseball that is said to have come within millimeters of his eye. Long before Byrd's beaning, the Cubs felt the sting of losing two fine young pitchers within 24 hours, as Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells went down on April 4 and 5, respectively. Wells just got back, and Cashner recently suffered a setback, with no new timetable for him. Meanwhile, Alfonso Soriano, who was finally playing up to his $136 million contract, endured a quad strain on a jaunt to first base and is now on the disabled list, a spot also populated by Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson.
They knew going in they wouldn't have ace Johan Santana until at least midsummer, but he has been joined in sick bay by several more Mets, who have furthered Wilpon's snakebitten theory. Two of their best players, David Wright and Ike Davis, went on the disabled list soon after knocking into each other while chasing an infield popup, though Wright's stress fracture in his back is being blamed on a sweep tag at third of the Astros' Carlos Lee. Davis was only supposed to be out a few weeks, but it's already been that long and there doesn't seem to be much progress. Outfielders Jason Bay and Angel Pagan also have spent time on the disabled list, as has reliever Bobby Parnell. Unpredictably, one of the few players who has been completely healthy is Carlos Beltran, whose knee was such a question mark he only played three games in spring training.
Colorado's problem isn't necessarily the number of injuries, it's that they've been almost exclusively to starting pitchers. The biggest blow, of course, was the elbow tear of Jorge De La Rosa that's going to need Tommy John surgery this week. Aaron Cook hasn't thrown a pitch since breaking a finger in spring training, and a different finger injury knocked ace Ubaldo Jimenez out for a while. Jimenez still hasn't won a game so one has to wonder whether he's been totally healthy. For good measure, up-and-comer Esmil Rogers also has been out with a ribcage injury.
They have suffered the granddaddy of all injuries, the wreck at the plate that cost star catcher Buster Posey his season. That was the killer but is only one of many. Andres Torres had a debilitating Achilles injury, Pablo Sandoval has been out several weeks with a broken hamate bone and Barry Zito had a foot injury that landed him on the disabled list for the first time in his career. With Mike Fontenot and Mark DeRosa also having injuries at different times, the left side of the infield has hit especially hard. So has the bullpen, where closer Brian Wilson and Santiago Casilla both went on the disabled list.
Team igniter Brian Roberts has been idled, the result of another concussion. He's been prescribed rest, but it isn't known when he'll be able to return. Free-agent pickup Derek Lee, who was supposed to be the veteran presence they needed, has wrist and thumb problems in spring and is now sidelined with the ever-annoying oblique injury. Cesar Izturis recently had elbow surgery. And J.J. Hardy earlier was out with his own oblique injury, making the infield nothing short of a disaster area. Starting pitcher Brian Matusz, who is much-needed, will make his season debut Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Justin Duchscherer is still out with a hip issue.
• While MLB is investigating the offseason shoulder surgery that appears to have been a miracle cure for Bartolo Colon, the Yankees don't seem overly worried anything nefarious will be uncovered. The doctor who performed the stem cell procedure has welcomed MLB to take a look, but the expectation is low that anything untoward will be found. If anyone has a call to challenge anything, it would be the Yankees who could challenge Colon since he failed to inform them about the procedure; but alas, he has been a No. 2 starter for $900,000, so there's zero chance the Yankees complain.
• The Dodgers had unofficial initial conversations with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier at one point, and people familiar with the team's thinking say GM Ned Colletti would like to do a deal with both players. MLB would be well-served to get new ownership in there to give the National League's marquee franchise a realistic chance to keep the team's stars who are due to be free agents following the 2012 season, and baseball does seem hopeful a new owner can be found in fairly short order. In the meantime, it's hard to imagine Frank McCourt swinging big deals since he is struggling just to meet bi-weekly payroll. If the Dodgers are limited to keeping one, the guess here is that they'd have a better chance with Kemp. Colletti did do a multiyear deal with Kemp's agent, Dave Stewart, involving Chad Billinsgsley.
• A few stories have come out suggesting the terms of proposed Mets limited partner Dave Einhorn with the Mets, and it appears the deal would indeed give him a chance to boost his ownership stake from 33 percent to 60 percent, but not until after five years. Meanwhile, Fred Wilpon would then have the chance to block him by repaying Einhorn's $200 million. If Wilpon was able to do that, Einhorn would still retain 16.5 percent ownership. So the deal is somewhere between the first reports, which favored the Wilpons, and the next reports, which favored Einhorn. People close to the Wilpons say they don't see any chance they'd allow Einhorn to become majority, controlling owner barring a defeat at the hands of Madoff trustee Irving Picard. Picard is suing Wilpon for $1 billion, but sources suggest the trustee is "overreaching'' in seeking the Wilpons to return principal invested since his knowledge of Madoff's fake empire appeared to be no greater than the other dupes who were cheated out of their money.
• Rice University third baseman Anthony Rendon's stock is creeping back up since returning from shoulder trouble and most folks now see him going No. 2 to Seattle, assuming the Pirates make UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole the No. 1 pick. Should the Pirates pass on Cole and grab University of Virgina lefthander Danny Hultzen at No. 1 instead, the Mariners could then take Cole or Rendon. Rendon is playing second since his return, but two talent evaluators say Rendon is still viewed as a third baseman. Rendon was the NCAA player of the year last year, and the Mariners could use the offense. Cole recently hit 102 mph in a game at Arizona State. Others who could crack the top few are Oklahoma prep pitcher Dylan Bundy, Kansas prep centerfielder Bubba Starling, Florida prep shortstop Francisco Lindor and UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer.
• Yankees icon Jorge Posada avoided a possible release by apologizing for his bad day a few weeks ago, but his hitting hasn't improved since. There is a Jorge Posada bobblehead giveaway June 10, so figure he makes it at least through then.
• The Red Sox could be in the market for an outfielder if J.D. Drew's injury problems persist. Beltran is a player who's interested them in the past.
• The Nationals are suggesting they will ask for a high price for Ivan Rodriguez. But unless they somehow play their way into the race, it would make sense for them to trade him, with the Giants the most obvious target team now. Washington is well-stocked with young catching talent, with Wilson Ramos, Derek Norris and Jesus Flores.