After winning the World Series in 2007, the Red Sox were certainly expected to contend again this year. Before the season began, many prognosticators even thought they had a very solid chance of repeating. But the strength and performance of a team is often directly related to the health of its players. And in that respect, the Red Sox have faced genuine adversity in their quest to repeat as Champions this year.
Case in point, before the season had even started, the Red Sox had lost their staff leader, Curt Schilling, for the year. Additional bad news was quick to follow.
The Sox suffered another blow in March when they lost their new ace, Josh Beckett, to the 15-day DL due to a lower back strain. Beckett, the appointed Opening Day starter, didn't even make the trip to Japan with his teammates. Yet another bit of adversity to start the season for the defending Champs.
But that wasn't all; the Sox have suffered multiple losses to the starting rotation this year. Clay Buchholz was lost to the 15-day disabled list with a broken nail on his right middle finger in May. Later that month, the Sox lost Daisuke Matsuzaka, their wins leader, to the DL due to a mild right rotator cuff strain. Then in June, Bartolo Colon was lost due to back stiffness. In August, Tim Wakefield went on 15-day DL because of posterior shoulder tightness. And, also in August, Beckett went back on the DL once again due to elbow inflammation that caused numbness and tingling in his hand.
But the trouble for Sox pitchers hasn't been relegated to just the starting rotation.
Mike Timlin, who began the season on the DL with a laceration on his right ring finger, went back on 15-day DL in June because of tendinitis in his left knee. And fellow reliever David Aardsma was lost to the DL in July with a right groin strain. That same injury put Aardsma back on the DL again this month. The Sox' shakey bullpen was already looking undermanned most of the year as it was.
And the offense and defense suffered their own losses as well.
Third baseman Mike Lowell also had two stints on the disabled list. He missed almost three weeks in April with a sprained left thumb, and then went on 15-day DL with oblique strain on August 13. The Sox really missed Lowell's leadership, steady defense, and offensive production. Yet they've managed to win without him.
The Sox also lost utility infielder Alex Cora to the 15-day DL in April with an elbow sprain to his throwing arm. Not good for a middle infielder. They lost backup first baseman Sean Casey to the DL that month with a hip strain. Now Casey finds himself back on the DL once again due to neck stiffness. And Julio Lugo went on 15-day DL on July 12 with quadriceps strain.
But perhaps the biggest blow to the Red Sox offense came when David Ortiz went on 15-day DL in June with wrist injury. Ortiz missed 45 games from May 31 to his reactivation on July 25.
That has amounted to 17 separate stints on the DL for 13 different players. It's taken its toll on the team. The Sox have paid a price for those losses, namely the division lead. But they are not just fighting to win the division; they are fighting for their playoff lives in a very tight Wild Card race. Who knows how many losses have resulted from the assorted injuries and missed time, but you can bet the Sox lost more games than they would have otherwise.
Injuries are part of the game. And the Red Sox have played the game pretty well, and contended, despite them.
There's been a lot of talk about the Yankees' disappointing season being the result of injuries. And there's also been a lot of talk about the Rays' success being all the more amazing due to the injuries to Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford and Troy Percival.
While that may be true in both cases, the Red Sox continued success - in the face of these extensive injuries - is quite remarkable itself.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.