From Derek Jeter to Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer, you could put together an All-Star team just from the guys who have been stuck on the disabled list this season.
If 2010 was the year of the pitcher, 2011 might just be the year of the injury. David Wright, Buster Posey and Zack Greinke have missed big chunks of time as well, and the rash of injured stars may be one of the biggest reasons that all six division races are so close heading into the unofficial second half of the season.
With so many teams playing shorthanded, no one has been able to break away from the pack yet and take command of the pennant race, setting up a 2½-month sprint to the finish.
Jeter spent 21 days on the shelf with a calf injury that slowed his pursuit of 3,000 hits, Pujols stunned everyone by coming back from a broken forearm after just two weeks and Mauer’s seemingly unimpeachable image in his home state of Minnesota took a big hit when he spent most of the first two months of the season rehabbing a mysterious leg injury.
The current disabled list is chock full of stars — Johan Santana, Jon Lester, Roy Oswalt, Carl Crawford, Josh Johnson, Justin Morneau. And many of the trips haven’t been quick ones. Wright has been on the list since May 16 with a stress fracture in his lower back, Morneau is not expected back until mid-August after having neck surgery and Johnson was placed on the 60-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation May 17.
Others won’t be back at all this year. Posey, San Francisco’s bright, young star catcher, is out after breaking his left leg and straining some ligaments in his left ankle on a home-plate collision with Florida’s Scott Cousins on May 25. Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, Yankees right-hander Joba Chamberlain and Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka all have had surgery on their pitching elbows and are rehabbing for 2012.
The Red Sox, Cardinals and Giants somehow have been able to weather a series of significant injuries and sit atop their respective divisions as the second half of the season is about to commence.
Others such as the Twins, who have watched eight regular players hit the DL for extended periods of time, and the Tampa Bay Rays, who saw Evan Longoria miss 26 games with an oblique injury, got off to slow starts in part because of health problems.
With the air-tight nature of the playoff chase — all six division leaders have a cushion of 3½ games or fewer — it is conceivable that the teams who are able to remain the healthiest and avoid any more key injuries will be the ones that advance to the postseason.
How teams choose to address key injuries also will add some intrigue to the trade deadline, which is three weeks away.
Here’s a quick look at the stars, slumps and surprises of the first half of the season:
• Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets: Electrifying presence has made the Mets worth watching. Leading NL with .354 average and 15 triples, six more than next closest hitter.
• Matt Kemp, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers: All-around stud. Hitting .313 with 22 homers and 67 RBIs. Been intentionally walked 12 times and leads in many of the stat geeks’ favorite categories, including wins over replacement.
• Jair Jurrjens, RHP, Atlanta Braves: Leads NL in wins (12), ERA (1.87) to keep Braves within striking distance of the juggernaut in Philadelphia.
• Jose Bautista, OF/3B, Toronto Blue Jays: His assault continues. Belted a league-high 31 homers in first half and also hitting .334, second in the league, while playing two positions.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston Red Sox: Worth everything that the Red Sox invested. Leading league with .354 average and 77 RBIs with 17 homers.
• Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers: With apologies to All-Star starter Jered Weaver, Verlander has been the AL’s best pitcher in the first half. Is 12-5 with a 2.15 ERA and league-leading 147 strikeouts. Also tossed a no-hitter May 7 at Toronto.
• Los Angeles Dodgers: Pretty much everything has gone wrong for one of baseball’s tradition-rich franchises. Owner Frank McCourt is in a bitter battle with MLB over control of the team, with the fight spilling into bankruptcy court. And the team has sunk to the bottom of the NL West in Don Mattingly’s first season as manager.
• J.A. Happ, RHP, Houston Astros: Hasn’t recorded a victory since May 14, falling to 3-10 with a 5.63 ERA. Happ is 0-6 with a 5.85 ERA during his skid, and the Astros are winless in those nine starts.