If Elvis Andrus had been at the World Baseball Classic instead of in the Texas Rangers’ spring training camp he would not have acquired a massive two-day tattoo on his left arm and would not have had to miss a day of workouts.
If Mike Matheny had been at the WBC instead of running around and running the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring camp, would he have been plagued with a herniated disc?
Had Brian Cashman been at the WBC overseeing conditions for his New York Yankees’ players, would he have wrecked his right leg and ankle parachuting out of a United States Army Golden Knights airplane?
All right, so manager Matheny and general manager Cashman weren’t eligible for the third Classic, but their circumstances help make the point I seem to make every year at this time, when Major League Baseball and the Players Association stage the quadrennial Classic.
Many teams prefer that their players not participate in the event for fear that they will get hurt. But those managers and other officials obviously aren’t paying attention. Players get hurt before their very eyes in their own spring camps; they don’t have to play for Team USA or the Dominican Republic or Venezuela to incur injury.
Whenever and wherever baseball is played, some of the players who play are going to get hurt. That’s just the way it has always been.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If the players who compete in the WBC work out and play the way they do with their own teams, they are no more susceptible to injury than if they play for WBC teams. Injury developments from the first two Classics (2006, 2009) bear this out.
In fact, Major League Baseball statistics show that players participating in the WBC have been less likely to be injured than those who are in spring training with their own teams.
Of the 73 major leaguers who opened the 2009 season on the disabled list, only two (Ichiro Suzuki and Rick VandenHurk) played in the World Baseball Classic. And Ichiro had a stomach ulcer, which presumably didn’t result from the WBC.
Of 786 non-WBC players, 140, or 17.8 percent, visited the disabled list in April 2009. Only 9.5 percent of WBC players (11 of 115) needed DL time that first month.
In addition, MLB reports, the lowest percentage of active roster players starting the season on the disabled list over the last eight years occurred in 2006 and 2009, the same years as the first and second Classics.
- 2005 – 9.5%
- 2006 – 8.1%
- 2007 – 11.7%
- 2008 – 12.4%
- 2009 – 8.5%
- 2010 – 9.9%
- 2011 – 11.4%
- 2012 – 12.5%
Based on those statistics, the Yankees might wish they had more players on WBC rosters than they had heading into this Classic. Only three of their players had been scheduled to compete, making up one of the smallest contingents of major leaguers (who wants old guys on their team?), and one of them, first baseman Mark Teixeira, went down before he could get Into Team USA’s lineup.
Teixeira, a Gold Glove first baseman, suffered a strained tendon in his right wrist and was declared out of action for 8 to 10 weeks, until mid-May. Technically, the injury occurred while Teixeira was with his WBC team; he said he felt a pop in his wrist while hitting off a tee in Glendale, Ariz. Maybe the Yankees could blame the injury on the WBC tee.
There was nothing questionable, however, about Curtis Granderson’s’ injury. The outfielder suffered a fractured right forearm when a J. A. Happ pitch hit him in his first exhibition at-bat. He is expected to miss 10 weeks.
The non-WBC Yankees had still more to deal with. Starting pitcher Phil Hughes has been sidelined with a back ailment, a bulging disk in his upper back that he said he first felt while covering first base in fielding drills Feb. 18. He is not expected to be ready for the start of the season.
Left-handed reliever Boone Logan had an elbow problem, and a non-roster player, Adonis Garcia fractured the hamate bone in his left hand while taking batting practice and required surgery.
On the other hand, Ichiro, who is not playing for Japan in the WBC, escaped injury in an auto accident.
Pitchers have not been so fortunate in avoiding spring setbacks.
Zack Greinke, whom the Los Angeles Dodgers signed for $147 million, skipped a bullpen session because of minor tightness in his forearm and missed a scheduled start because of the flu. Had he not rejected a chance to pitch for Team USA, he would probably have been said to be suffering from the WBC flu.
A teammate, Ted Lilly, also missed a start because of flu, and yet another Dodgers’ pitcher, reliever Paco Rodriguez, missed practice one day for the same reason. Perhaps WBC pitchers haven’t been faced with the illness.
Martin Perez, meanwhile, was the victim not of the flu but of a ball that flew off a bat. The ball, smacked by Seattle’s Brad Miller, broke the Texas left-hander’s left forearm
The Chicago Cubs’ Matt Garza has broken no bones, but he is expected to miss the first month of the season with a strained left lat.
The Cubs’ shortstop, Starlin Castro, has had a tight left hamstring, and Chicago is proceeding cautiously. Castro hurt the hamstring running out a ground ball. Obviously that’s an injury anyone can incur with any team on any field. However, if a player were to do it in a WBC game or while working out with a WBC team, the Classic would be blamed.
So far, though, the injuries of the spring belong to Cashman and Andrus. It’s hard to find precedent for their problems – parachuting and tattooing, both voluntary exercises.
Cashman had already jumped once and enjoyed it so much he did it again. Ouch.
Andrus wanted a tattoo of his father’s likeness so he had the tattoo artist display it on his upper left arm, from shoulder to elbow. Resulting soreness forced the shortstop to miss a game, but it wasn’t expected to interfere with his availability for Venezuela in the WBC.