Yankees Placing Trust in Injury Risks Is Blowing Up in Their Faces

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMay 13, 2014

USA Today

We can either feel sorry for the New York Yankees, or we can look them in the eye and be honest with them.

You should have been able to see this coming, guys.

For what's happening right now in The Bronx is indeed not the least bit surprising. The Yankees entered 2014 with an expensive roster with a lot of starry names on it, yes. But due to a combination of old age and painful track records, said roster also had a relatively high likelihood of being ravaged by injuries.

The Yankees put their faith in this roster, and it's coming back to bite them.

Already dealing with injuries to right-handers Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, it's in the last few days that things have really gotten bad. Jorge Castillo of The Star-Ledger reported that Pineda will need more than a month to recover from his injury. The Yankees put left-hander CC Sabathia on the 15-day DL with a bad right knee. Right fielder Carlos Beltran might soon join him with a bone spur in his elbow.

And while neither is headed to the DL for now, Ichiro Suzuki is batting a stiff back, and Mark Teixeira is battling a stiff groin.

This sounds like it should be everyone, but a quick look at MLB.com shows that isn't quite the case.

New York Yankees Current Injuries
Carlos BeltranOF37Bone spur in elbowDay-to-Day
Bruce BillingsRHP28Forearm strain15-Day DL
Francisco CervelliC28Hamstring strain60-Day DL
Shawn KelleyRHP30Stiff backDay-to-Day
Ivan NovaRHP27Tommy John60-Day DL
Michael PinedaRHP25Shoulder strain15-Day DL
CC SabathiaLHP33Fluid in knee15-Day DL
Ichiro SuzukiOF40Stiff backDay-to-Day
Mark Teixeira1B34Groin tightnessDay-to-Day

That's a lot of injuries, but we'll stick with the highlighted guys. Among those is three-fifths of the Yankees' season-opening starting rotation, their starting first baseman and two veteran outfielders.

By my count, you could see at least five of these coming.

Apr 20, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran (36) against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Beltran hasn't been on the DL since 2011, but his injury history at Baseball Prospectus reads like a list of every sports injury known to man. Not surprising given his 37 years, not to mention his reputation as a perennially banged-up player.

And according to the latest from Chad Jennings of LoHud.com, it sounds like we shouldn't be surprised if we don't see Beltran again in 2014:

While not quite as old as Beltran, Teixeira is no spring chicken at 34 years old, and the last three seasons have seen him land on the DL three times with leg injuries.

"That's what happens to guys that are older," he told Tyler Kepner of The New York Times. "You get bumps and bruises. That's the unfortunate part about getting old."

Sabathia should also be able to vouch. Once one of baseball's most invincible starters, this is the fourth time he's been on the DL since the start of 2012, including twice with leg injuries.

It was harder to see Nova needing to go in for Tommy John surgery, but not impossible given that he hardly entered 2014 with a clean slate. Nova missed time in 2012 with a shoulder injury and more time in 2013 with an arm injury.

Feb 14, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) throws a bull pen session as pitching coach Larry Rothschild (58) looks on as he works out as pitchers and catchers report for spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Fi

Pineda's injury was even easier to see coming. Surgery on his labrum in 2012 cost him all of that season and all of 2013. It would have been an upset if he didn't miss any time in 2014 with a bum shoulder.

All told, really the only injury that was hard to see coming was Ichiro's stiff back. He's only been on the DL once before and has generally enjoyed a remarkably healthy MLB career.

But then, Ichiro's 40 years do make him the oldest player on the Yankees. It probably would have been an upset if he, too, didn't feel any aches or pains along the way this season.

Make no mistake: The injuries were going to happen. The best the Yankees could have hoped for is that they wouldn't happen in bunches. Alas, so much for that.

You have to hand it to Yankees manager Joe Girardi. He knows what's what.

"You've just got to find a way," Girardi told MLB.com's Richard Justice. "Some people have to step up."

Indeed, but more to the point might have been, "Some people have to stay healthy."

Yeah...about that.

Oct 13, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) reacts after being injured while attempting to field a ball hit by Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta (not pictured) in the 12th inning during game one of the 2012 ALCS at Yanke

It's hard to have faith in the Yankees' collective ability to stay healthy. By virtue of being one of the DL-iest teams in MLB in both 2012 and 2013 (via FanGraphs), they don't get the benefit of the doubt.

And then there's the reality that we've only scratched the surface of their individual injury concerns.

Behind the plate, there's Brian McCann. Shoulder problems in the last two seasons have limited him to 223 games. And while he's just barely on the wrong side of 30, that he's already caught over 1,000 career games means the Yankees have to be careful with him.

On the infield, there's a nearly 40-year-old shortstop in Derek Jeter who was limited to 17 games in 2013 and a 36-year-old second baseman in Brian Roberts who has played in total of 192 games over the last four seasons.

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13:  Jacoby Ellsbury #2 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after he was injured in a double play in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during the home opener on April 13, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.
Elsa/Getty Images

In the outfield, the Yankees have a 38-year-old in Alfonso Soriano and two 30-year-olds in Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury who have both had their issues with injuries. Especially Ellsbury, who's played in over 150 games just once in the last four seasons.

The Yankees still have some concerns on the mound, too. All pitchers are walking injury risks, but the Yankees have a closer in David Robertson who's had some issues staying healthy and a 39-year-old starter in Hiroki Kuroda. And while Masahiro Tanaka is both young and healthy, let's remember that some potential suitors were frightened by his workload in Japan.

We might be able to go on even further, but you get the point. Look up and down the Yankees roster, and you won't struggle to find the age and/or injury concerns.

Which makes sense. This is, after all, the oldest team in MLB, according to ESPN.com. And while it's true that there's no such thing as an MLB roster that doesn't come with injury concerns, most teams are at least able to limit the risk by keeping young, unspoiled bodies next to the old and rickety ones.

A few exceptions aside, the Yankees don't do that. As the Times' Tyler Kepner put it, being old and feeble is "the Yankees' reality now, the price they must pay for years of failing to produce homegrown talent and losing the aggressiveness they once had on the international market."

If they're lucky, now will be the only time all year that the Yankees are bitten this badly by their reality.

Even if it is, though, the bite could be bad enough to put them in a deep hole in the AL East. While the battered-and-bruised Yankees entered play on Tuesday having lost six of 10, the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays have all won six of 10. And according to ESPN.com, each of the three boasts higher odds of making it to October than the Yankees.

And then there's what happens if the Yankees are unlucky.

Perish the thought.


Note: Special thanks to Baseball Prospectus for providing the medical records.


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