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Prince Fielder's Surgery Would Be Knockout Blow to Rangers' Injury-Filled Season

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Prince Fielder's Surgery Would Be Knockout Blow to Rangers' Injury-Filled Season
Kim Klement/USA Today

For the Texas Rangers, the good news is they won on Thursday. The bad news? Just about everything else.

While the Rangers were beating the Detroit Tigers by a score of 9-2 to take the first of a crucial four-game series against a team with the second-best record in baseball, the club announced, per T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, that first baseman Prince Fielder's season may be over. Oh, and second baseman Jurickson Profar's, too.

Fielder, a 30-year-old five-time All-Star, had been bothered by a herniated disk in his neck for much of the season, although it only came to light over the past week or so when he brought it to the team's attention.

Initial reports earlier in the week indicated that Fielder could return in short order after receiving treatment for the injury. With surgery set for Tuesday, that's obviously no longer the case. While Fielder is seeking a second opinion before making a final decision, this all but ends his first year in Texas after coming over from the Tigers in an offseason swap for Ian Kinsler.

And what a brutal beginning it's been for Fielder as a Ranger, considering he was off to a slow start (.247 BA, 3 HR, 16 RBI) and was owner of the longest active streak of consecutive games played (547) before his neck became too painful to try to play through.

There would be a joke here about how Fielder's injury is the embodiment of how all the injuries that Texas has suffered to start 2014 are a real pain in the neck—except given how many Rangers have been hampered or downright felled, it's not exactly a joking matter.

Profar, a 21-year-old former top prospect in all of baseball, had been out since spring training with a right shoulder injury that he reinjured—by rolling over in bed. Essentially, the team is hitting the reset button on his initial eight-to-12-week timetable, meaning his season could be over before it ever began.

While the entire right side of what was supposed to be the Rangers infield is now very possibly done for the year—having combined for all of 42 games, all by Fielder—that's hardly the only part of the club to be hit hard.

Paul Sancya/Associated Press/Associated Press
Jurickson Profar playing baseball: something that may not happen at all during the 2014 regular season.

As Sullivan points out, once the transaction is made, Fielder will become the 14th Ranger currently on the disabled list. (Seriously, take a look at the 40-man roster and note each and every "DL" designation.) That's twice as many DL'd players as any other major-league squad at the moment (the Washington Nationals have seven).

Here's general manager Jon Daniels' take on his club's plague of injuries, via Sullivan:

I haven't ever been a part of anything like this…never across the board to this degree. You try to plan all offseason to give yourself depth, we did a better job in some areas than in others. But there is a limit to how many premium innings you can replace and how many premium offensive players you can replace. We had expectations at the beginning of the season that if we had a healthy club, we expected to contend and win.

Clearly, this is not how it was supposed to go for the Rangers in 2014. Not even close. This is a franchise filled with superstars, productive veterans and promising young players alike, both in the lineup and on the mound. But just about all of them have had some sort of health issue, concern or problem.

In fact, it's easier to name the few projected starters on Texas who haven't dealt with any sort of injury, malady or ailment so far. Those would be: shortstop Elvis Andrus, outfielders Alex Rios and Leonys Martin and first baseman/designated hitter Mitch Moreland. And that's about it, really.

Here's a handy chart of all the injuries that have ravaged the noteworthy players on the Rangers roster this season:

The Injury-Riddled Rangers
PLAYER POSITION INJURY GAMES MISSED*
Derek Holland LHP Knee surgery 47
Jurickson Profar 2B Torn muscle in shoulder 47
Geovany Soto C Torn meniscus in knee 47
Neftali Feliz RHP Recovery from Tommy John surgery 47
Matt Harrison LHP Back/Spine 31
Tanner Scheppers RHP Shoulder inflammation 31
Adrian Beltre 3B Quad 14
Martin Perez LHP Tommy John surgery 10
Colby Lewis RHP Hip surgery 8
Yu Darvish RHP Neck 5
Prince Fielder 1B Neck surgery 5
Shin-Soo Choo OF Sprained ankle 5
*Through May 22

Baseball Prospectus

Oh, the carnage! Folks, that's almost the entire starting infield and, in fact, the entire starting rotation listed above.

And that's not even counting some of the team's lesser players, like outfielder Daniel Robertson, a 28-year-old who made his big-league debut with Texas on April 29. He came out on the wrong end of a scary collision with Rios in Thursday's game.

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Look, injuries impact every single team in Major League Baseball, and it's not like the Rangers are the only club feeling the pain. However, the extent and frequency of said pain to key players that this club has experienced is almost impossible to fathom. Remember, it's not even the end of May—which makes the fact that the Rangers' 2014 appears to be on life support only eight weeks in even more disheartening.

The silver lining? At least all the early misfortune makes it less likely this franchise will have to endure yet another late-season or postseason failure like it has each of the past few years. First, the Rangers fell one out short of a World Series title in 2011, then they lost the Wild Card play-in game in 2012, which was followed up by a second straight September collapse that culminated in a defeat in Game 163 against the Tampa Bay Rays last year.

At this point, Texas would be lucky just to be relevant in September.

Sure, at 23-24 and only 1.5 games out of the second wild-card spot through Thursday, the Rangers' season is far from over. But that's only mathematically speaking. There's still a long, long way to go. Only, in this case, that's probably a bad thing: The Rangers still have to play out the majority of the season.

As big as Thursday's win over the Tigers was, the news that both Fielder and Profar will be lost for most, if not all, of the rest of the year feels like a knockout combination.

One that, when added to all the other body blows already sustained, just might leave the Rangers' 2014 season on the mat for the count. 

 

Statistics are from Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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