With 22 players on the disabled list, the most in the Major Leagues, the Los Angeles Dodgers have done an amazing job, entering Monday leading the National League Wild Card race and trailing the San Francisco Giants by just three games in the NL West race.
When a team becomes decimated by injuries, it usually can't compete for a postseason berth. Every injury tests the depth of the organization. Most baseball organizations don't have enough depth to remain competitive after suffering injuries to front-line players. This season the Arizona Diamondbacks are a prime example, having lost A.J. Pollock on the eve of the season opener.
Even before Spring Training began, the media was amazed by how much organizational depth the Dodgers had. Last week, the Dodgers' starting rotation appeared to be on the verge of being healthy for the first time this season. Now, it is far from it.
After Clayton Kershaw pitched a simulated game on July 16, his back flared up again. The Dodgers have held him back from all baseball activities until the back pain subsides. Surgery is a possibility. No one knows whether Kershaw will return this season.
Hyun-Jin Ryu made one start against the San Diego Padres in which he lacked command after having left shoulder reconstruction, and he developed elbow tendinitis. On July 19, the Dodgers placed him on the disabled list. No one knows whether he will pitch again this year.
This week, Alex Wood had his left elbow "cleaned out." He will miss eight weeks, and manager Dave Roberts said Wood will be a reliever when he comes back.
The Dodgers' bullpen has been a strength. However, on the current road trip, it has struggled. The usually reliable Kenley Jansen has blown two saves, and the Dodgers lost both games.
Last week, the Dodgers placed Chris Hatcher, who has a strained oblique, on the 60-day disabled list.
Although Corey Seager, arguably the team's MVP, missed the series with the Washington Nationals because of a stomach bug, the Dodgers won two out of three games from the NL East leaders.
Throughout the 2016 season, the Dodgers have faced adversity, and they haven't allowed it to stop them from reaching their goal. The players accept whatever role Roberts uses them in.
It is a tribute to Roberts and his coaching staff that the Dodgers don't let anything distract them. Through the injuries, he has kept his optimism. This optimism has helped the players keep believing in themselves.
Roberts is an excellent communicator, and this helps prevent turmoil both in the dugout and in the media. Often people can see Roberts explaining to a player what is going to happen. Before a double-switch, he usually tells the players involved. Since he understands his players need frequent rest to stay productive, he tells the player involved before resting him. The players think Roberts is approachable. While the team was in Pittsburgh, Adrian Gonzalez went to Roberts and told him that he needed a couple games off. Since then, Gonzalez has been much more productive. Having good communication in both directions develops trust.
Since Kershaw has been out, the Dodgers have had a new ace. Declaring himself ready without making his last scheduled rehabilitation start, Brandon McCarthy has been remarkable. His control and velocity have been fantastic. Because he can conserve pitches, he has been able to go deep in games, giving the bullpen a well-deserved break. If heat and humidity had not caused his leg cramps, McCarthy probably would have pitched seven innings on Friday.
The Dodgers have faced more adversity than any team should. Instead of making excuses, the Dodgers have tackled their problems and remained competitive. With strong leadership from Roberts, the Dodgers will have a memorable season.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.