Friday, December 27, 2019

Is there any reason to believe last year's avalanche of injuries won't happen again?

It remains an astounding and, perhaps, disturbing quirk of nature - the wave of injuries faced last year by the New York (broken) Yankees. 

Only three Yanks - Brett Gardner, Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahiue - appeared in more than 140 games. Six key players from opening day - Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Miguel Andujar, Troy Tulowitski and Greg Bird - didn't even last through 20. That's not mentioning Jacoby Ellsbury because - well - why bother?

Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks and CC Sabathia played half a year. Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge missed almost as much. Jordan Montgomery only made a cameo appearance at the end. Even an injury replacement, Mike Tauchman, went down in September.

It was as if the Yankees were playing in the NFL. And we experienced a new issue: Players suffering injuries during rehab. Betances went down with a shoulder, then tweaked a lateral, then returned one night to wreck his ankle. Severino, Stanton and Bird were all hurt while healing. Used to be, the good part about an injury was that, at least the guy couldn't get hurt. Last year, the Injury List became a dangerous place. 

I believe I speak for the Yankiverse in saying: W? T? F?

Last week, the team jettisoned its strength and conditioning coach. Fine. I guess somebody needed to pay. The bus demanded somebody to run over. But I wonder...  was it the coach's fault, or is something else afoot? Some theories.

1. Are the Yankees predisposed to players with china doll pasts? They certainly knew Stanton was an injury land mine when they took him (and his contract) from Miami, for a can of sardines. Nobody can pretend Ellsbury and Tulowitski weren't the human embodiments of gonadal tweaks. (It almost seems wrong to mention them.) When other teams sense a player will never perform well enough to justify his contract, they always somehow end up calling the Yankees. (James Paxton, Edwin Encarnacion.) And we are always looking for a deal. We sign people on the rebound. (Zack Britton and, recently, Adam Warren.) Is it simply a management decision: Injury-prone players always come at bargain prices? 

2. Could the pressures of NYC affect rehab time? In April and May, we often heard how Stanton, Hicks, Bird and Severino were on the verge of returning, but they needed to completely heal, rather than go through the season with minor injuries. The idea was to have them absolutely roaring at the end. In that pursuit, they completely and utterly failed. None returned at peak. Meanwhile, grinders like LeMahiue, Gleyber and Gardner shrugged off daily aches and pains. (And Masahiro Tanaka - bless him - has now pitched six years with a slight tear in his elbow.) Could the Yankees be inadvertently coddling certain players, turning them into the princess who can't sleep on a pea? (Of course, then there was the stoic Luke Voit, seeking to play with a hernia and flailing miserably.) 

3. Was this all simply a random sequence? The planets happened to line up, and we suffered a wave of injuries, for no reason whatsoever. If so, well, the law of averages means we should anticipate a period of comparative health and well-being, right? 

Why does this not seem viable? The moral of the story is that, for whatever reason, the Yankees ought to consider 2019 the new normal for injuries - and they better not cut themselves too thin on the margins, or "Next Man Up" will only be a memory. 


TheWinWarblist said...

I have no idea.

Fuck you HalBrian.

Local Bargain Jerk said...


You didn't mention the unthinkable #4:

Were large, enticing trays of "the clear" and "the cream" being passed around to players by a now-canned conditioning coach?  Substances that allow muscles to grow to an extent that the body's tendons can't naturally support might explain a lot also.

I'll never forget that Sports Illustrated cover shot of Nomar Garciaparra who started his MLB career as an absolute string bean yet showed up oiled and ripped on the cover of SI one day.  It wasn't too much later that same season that all his seams and strings started to snap from the unnatural tension.

So, no, I don't want to think it either, but it would explain a lot.

JM said...

I'll take 1 and 4.

In fact, I think Cashman has done a little juicing. Girardi obviously did. Boone? No way.

Now, Suzyn...hmmm...

Alphonso said...

It is a long off season already, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Thank you LBJ. I'll take Number 4 with a side of rice.

However Duque brings up very good questions.

1) "Is it simply a management decision: Injury-prone players always come at bargain prices?"

Yes. But I don't condemn them for it. When they got EE then for Juan Then they got pretty much what they were looking for and even though it was only a matter of time before he got hurt he was serviceable in the role. Where they screwed up was sticking with him after the injury. Plus they got their money back on stuffed parrot sales. I'm still all in on Paxton BTW especially now that Mooby is gone.

2) "Could the pressures of NYC affect rehab time?"

Yes. One time while living in So. Cal I spent a week of silence in a monastery. Even though I needed the break, the Yankees were in a pennant race and I kept going over the wall to the 7-11 down the street to pick up a USA today to check the standings. So, absolutely.

3) "Was this all simply a random sequence? The planets happened to line up, and we suffered a wave of injuries, for no reason whatsoever. If so, well, the law of averages means we should anticipate a period of comparative health and well-being, right?"

It's possible. There are years that are worse for some reason but, as LBJ brought up, I'm thinking #four.

Here's a fifth (and not the good kind) what if the adjustment on the swings to create a better launch angle torqued, and torched, their torsos? After all if you swing on a plane for your whole life and career your body gets used to it.

Now you are swinging harder, trying for greater bat speed to increase ball velocity and you've change the plane of your swing to increase launch angle in the 1000 swings you take a week and the body freaks out.

Just a thought but it might explain the core injures. (Add #4 and those swings are harder than ever)

Doug K.

JimmyEatsHotDogs said...

For some players I believe it's too much time lifting weights look at Stanton, Judge and Voit as some examples others just fell under the spell of random injuries hey you gottta remember the season is a long one. Yankees had depth and won 103 so I see the upside to getting a new S&C coach and trying new approaches to training.

Anonymous said...

The IL is a way to run an expanded roster without overwhelming Scranton, while shifting some expenses to Geico, or whoever insures china dolls these days.

13bit said...

Juicy Suzy and The Master Blaster

Anonymous said...

So besides #4 (juicing) and #5 (adjusting swings for better launch angle), we can add another possibility #6 (too much weight training) as JimmyEatsHotDogs above theorized. I agree with JimmyE, although the possibility of juicing is always there. All athletes today do quite a lot of weight training. It certainly develops explosive power, but the down side is that injury is very common. Some injuries happen while doing the weights, some happen later on the field as a result of weights. There is no question weights will help you hit the ball harder and further. And there is no question that such training causes injuries. You can develop muscle imbalances, so the weaker muscle ends up tearing during a powerful movement. You can overtrain a muscle so that it ends up tearing, either during the weight training or during a game. You can develop tightness and lack of flexibility, which will lead to injury during a full extension of that muscle or body part. A muscle that has become too powerful for the tendon or ligament in a joint will cause that weak part to fail during a strenuous move. Too many repetitions can cause tendonitis or bursitis. Doing squats can cause herniated or bulging discs. You name it, there are many, many ways to hurt yourself as a result of weights. I'm not against weights, they have their place in a practice or training regimen. But in a sport like baseball, you really have to use your head and be careful about adverse effects.

The Hammer of God

Mediasavvy said...

Since not every team in baseball had the obscene injury record the Yankees had, the problem is clearly internal and fix-able. Overhauling the training, conditioning and medical staff AND their policies/programs/protocols should be a given. Glad to see the head trainer go, but a lot of people need to be dumped as well.

But the larger problem - I suspect - is the team's obsession with the micro-stats of performance - exit velo, spin rates, etc. etc. etc. By focusing on these elements of performance and pushing athletic bodies toward extreme outputs, it is inevitable that bodies will break. After all, that wrist is attached to a whole body. The foot may seem secondary to the task of throwing a 98 mile an hour fastball, with an excellent spin rate. but if it's tight, instead of stretched, it will snap under game conditions. Just ask Dellin.

And if pre-game prep is driven by producing those numbers in a game, then players will be engaging in pre-game routines that may produce excellent (AND PERIPHERAL) performance stats, while setting themselves up for soft tissue or freak injuries, instead of being loose for the game.

When you look at the types of injuries incurred by the Yankees last year, it is as if nobody stretches before a game and everyone is pumping iron between innings and at-bats. I'm sure the answer isn't as simple as that, but that's what it looks like from the cheap seats................

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