Long ago, a Greek soldier named Pheidippides ran into Athens shouting "Nike!" (if that's Greek to you: "Victory!") Then he collapsed from exhaustion. Pheidippides' dash had originated at a battle site in the faraway town of Marathon. So now you know where the name of the classic race of endurance comes from. That should also tell you why a baseball season is often referred to as a marathon. There are guys falling all over the place.
How many? Through Sunday, the 30 Major League clubs had used the disabled list a combined total of 374 times -- just about half of the total pool of 750 active players at any one time -- although not all disablements impacted the 25-man roster and several players have made repeat trips to the DL. The disabled players had missed an aggregate of 13,856 games. To better understand that staggering number, bear in mind that, say, three Boston Red Sox players being disabled at the same time for the same 30 games computes to 90 missed player games. At any rate, it is understandable why managers are always conceding that "injuries are part of the game." A huge part, one which places a premium on both creatively responsive general managers, and more importantly, deep farm systems.
Also, a part which invariably leaves its mark on the standings. Just take a look at our DL Standings in each division according to games lost to injuries: Four of them vaguely are topsy-turvy of the actual standings. The inescapable, pervasive nature of injuries explains why teams which take a big hit don't look for, nor expect, any sympathy. Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper had a very typical shoulder-shrug in early July when Jake Peavy was lost for the season with a shoulder injury that called for surgery. "No one's going to feel sorry for us," Cooper said. Nor for the Phillies, who have one-third of their starting lineup currently on the DL -- the right side of their infield (second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard) and center fielder Shane Victorino. The left side of the infield -- third baseman Placido Polanco and shortstop Jimmy Rollins -- has already had its DL turns. At times like these, the notion of a "team game" is reinforced, and phrases like "stepping up" are coined. "Quite frankly, we've got a bunch of good players on this team," noted Scott Proefrock, the Phillies' assistant GM. "The cupboard is not bare. We're still a good team." "We're a good team," echoed Philadelphia right fielder Jayson Werth. "We have faith in each other. We've been here before. We're resilient. Guys are just going to have to pick it up." No condolences either for those Red Sox, who also march on without the right side of their infield (second baseman Dustin Pedroia and first baseman Kevin Youkilis) and have been playing DL roulette all season with their outfielders. Sounding like just about any other manager in a similar fix, Boston's Terry Francona said a rash of injuries "doesn't help" nor does it mean "you can't win." "We have good players," Francona said. "I understand. We have some really good players that are getting beat up. I think you lose a little bit of margin for error when you have some of the big guys go down, but that still doesn't mean you can't win." No pain, no gain? Perhaps. Too much pain, however, makes it difficult to gain on the division leaders.
|The standings, as of Aug. 8, according to the aggregate totals of games missed by each team's disabled players.|
|Games||On DL||Key loss (games)|
|Red Sox||672||18||Ellsbury (95)|
|Blue Jays||551||12||*McGowen (111)|
|White Sox||115||4||*Peavy (30)|
|* = still on DL|