Kick in the Junk: Kendry Morales and MLB's Most Damaging Injuries
I’m a bit of a fantasy baseball fiend.
I started playing at about 13 when a group of friends and I held a rotisserie salary cap league with pen and paper in my friend’s living room.
God, there were a lot of trees wasted back in those days.
I started my own league—the California Penal—about nine years ago with a bunch of college buddies while at Florida State.
It’s amazing to see how much things have evolved from those makeshift war rooms in the den, to nerdy congregations of 20-somethings sitting around with a computer on their lap, typing messages to each other when they’re sitting right next to them.
I’m ashamed to admit that though I have vast experience, I’ve made some of the worst deals in retrospect that would have had fans comparing me to Omar Minaya the next day.
I once traded Shawn Green to a friend of mine a couple of days before he blew up for four home runs against the Brew Crew.
Hey, he wasn’t hitting for me!
You can’t predict when a guy will go off for a career night and you sure can’t predict when a guy is going to fracture his leg leaping onto home plate.
That’s right, I have Kendry Morales as my starting first baseman.
Seriously—what are the chances that you lose a fifth-round pick and corner offensive building block to a walk-off celebration?
It’s mind blowing!
It’s the strangest on-the-field baseball injury since Milton Bradley tore his knee arguing with an umpire.
I’m sure I’m not the only fantasy owner that felt like they stepped on a rake when they watched Morales crumple at home plate like the fish in front of a Halladay fastball.
The Morales injury is a serious kick to the nads of every fantasy owner that was salivating over his quick power surge this season.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the 10 most damaging injuries that have fantasy owners icing their groins this season. For your viewing/masochistic pleasure, I’ve also included a painful YouTube video to accompany each injury.
1. Kendry Morales
Morales was off to a very solid start at the plate. His average has been high enough (.290) and his power numbers were starting to take off.
The walk-off homer on Saturday was his 11th of the season (seventh in the AL) and the grand slam gave him 39 RBI (fifth in the AL).
He certainly seemed headed for an All-Star season.
The Angels have underperformed this year, and Morales was one of the only bright spots. He leads the team in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and batting average. The Angels are in almost as much trouble as my lineup.
I’m sure plenty of people drafted Morales early this season after he was voted the team’s MVP in 2009 when he led the Angels with a .569 slugging percentage, 34 HRs, and 108 RBI. He finished fifth in the AL MVP voting and his home run and RBI totals were the most for an Angels first baseman since Mo Vaughn.
Yeah, they’ve been starved for a first baseman over there.
The latest word on Morales is that his fractured left leg won’t end his season. He’s set to undergo surgery today. But either way, fantasy owners are going to be without a top run producer for a long stretch.
Plus, whose to say he’ll be good to go when he finally does come back. It’ll be like spring training all over again.
This one feels worse than the grape stomp lady after her three foot tumble .
For a list of possible fantasy replacement options, check out B/R feature columnist Eric Stashin’s article from this past weekend.
2. Cliff Lee
Alright so Lee is back and he wasn’t on the DL all that long.
However, starting the year on the DL is an awfully ominous way to kickoff your season.
Lee first went down with a strained abdominal muscle on March 15. He was finally put on the 15-day DL on April 4.
The injury was made all the more concerning due to the fact that Lee had been plagued by ab injuries throughout his career. He was sidelined for six weeks each of the previous two times.
But, since Lee was activated on April 29, he’s made six starts and hasn’t gone less than 6.1 innings in any of his outings. He’s 3-2 with a 3.22 ERA and a minuscule 0.99 WHIP.
In his last start on Sunday, he got the win after striking out 10 over eight innings, the second time this year he’s reached the 10-strikeout plateau.
This injury hasn’t been as damaging as the others, yet. But as the Mariners (or Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers down the stretch, you know one of them will make a play for him by July) will undoubtedly rely heavily on his arm down the stretch, this injury could flare up once again.
This one’s more of a minor crotch shot, like this unlucky biker .
Brad Lidge, Jimmy Rollins, J.A. Happ
Besides maybe the Yankees, I’m guessing no team had more players drafted in fantasy drafts around the country than the Phillies. With a potent lineup (not lately), a solid pitching staff that had just added another ace and a homer-happy home ballpark, everyone loaded up on Fightin’ Phils to leach off of that potent offense and pick up some easy wins.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to cashing that check that contained all your buddies’ league money.
The Phillies have been decimated by injuries to their bullpen, a few starting pitchers and one of their most important offensive cog.
If Jimmy Rollins can get healthy, he could be the cure for the Phillies’ inexplicable offensive woes. Hell, Halladay threw an incomparable perfect game and almost didn’t win because the Phillies could only manage an unearned run vs. Josh Johnson and the Marlins.
Rollins first got injured in another bizarre circumstance, straining his right calf during pre-game sprints back on April 14. It was the first time the former NL MVP hit the disabled list in his career.
He came back May 17 and went 5-for-18 with three runs scored, a homer and four RBI. But he headed right back to the DL after just five games. He strained the same right calf again during the Phillies’ May 21 game vs. Boston while running the bases.
Shortstops are hard to come by, especially former MVPs with a touch of power who have stolen at least 30 bases in each of the last six seasons.
This injury hurts every lineup housing Rollins immensely because there just aren’t many, if any, suitable alternatives on the waiver wire or free agent pool. Shortstop is the shallowest position in fantasy baseball besides catcher.
Don’t worry about too much though all you frantic fantasy owners, he’s resumed jogging and is scheduled to be activated on June 6. Just treat him like you did last year in the first half when he couldn’t hit anything. Keep him on the bench or DL and wait for that line-up to get hot again—it’s inevitable.
Speaking of shallow positions, closer Brad Lidge has had trouble recovering from offseason knee and elbow surgeries. He tried to come back for a few weeks starting at the end of April and didn’t give up a run in his last three outings.
However, the Phillies had to place him back on the DL when the team discovered inflammation in his pitching elbow following his May 9 outing.
These injuries could be career-threatening to the 33-year-old right-hander. He saved 31 games last season, but did blow 11 opportunities.
I’m sure more than a few of you took him early on, despite his injuries, taking a chance he gets healthy and saves 30 easily for the NL’s World Series representative the last two years.
J.A. Happ won 12 games in his first full season last year and—much like the Rays’ Jeff Niemann—a lot of fantasy owners felt like he could expand upon that success.
But, after throwing 10.1 scoreless innings in two starts, Happ hit the DL with a forearm strain on April 23.
Happ wouldn’t have been too high of a draft pick for most of you owners out there, unless you’re a homer Philly fan. As a mid to late-round pick, owners were still counting on him for a good win total and loWHIP and ERA.
Just like this poor unfortunate portly woman, the three Phillies stars keep trying to get on the horse, but can’t quite make it.
6. Jacoby Elsbury
Ellsbury has been one of the top base thieves in the entire MLB the last few seasons. He’s racked up 120 steals in the two seasons, swiping an AL-best 50 in 2008 and MLB-best 70 in 2009.
He’s been slowed by fractured ribs twice this season.
He first went down on April 20 with a hairline fracture in his ribs. He came back for just three games before the pain returned and he headed back down. The word is the Red Sox originally misdiagnosed his cracked ribs and that he came back too quick from the injury.
For owners counting on his steals and run production, this is a devastating blow.
He’s due to come back in early to mid-June, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Sox are a little more cautious with their talented young outfielder this time around. Translation, your steals category will be equivalent to AJ Pierzynski’s steals total until he gets back.
I guess it could be worse, you could forget to the words to your country’s national anthem and fall on your ass in front of thousands of complete strangers.
7. Jair Jurrjens
Fantasy owners couldn’t have drafted Jurrjens too high this year, knowing that he was having various issues staying healthy during the spring.
Not everyone pays attention during spring training,and many probably just looked at his totals from last year and couldn’t resist taking him early.
Jurrjens pitched a career-high 215 innings last season while accumulating 14 wins and posting an impressive 2.60 ERA, good enough for third in the NL.
This season he looked pretty crummy, limping to a 0-3 record with a 6.38 ERA in five starts before heading to the DL with a strained right hamstring on April 29.
He threw a bullpen session on Saturday, but he’s still got a long way to go before he can even think about mounting the mound for the Bravos. He’s got three more bullpen sessions, a simulated game and a minor league stint to clear before he can return.
It’s a sit and hold tight type of situation for all you Jurrjens owners out there.
This injury is equivalent to one of your friends executing a sneak attack on your Detective Scotes area.
8. Grady Sizemore
Sizemore was one of the guys a lot of people were picking to have a bounce back, MVP-caliber year.
Last year, Sizemore struggled to his worst season as a pro. He hit just .248 with 18 HRs and 64 RBI, all career-lows.
The conventional thinking was, there’s no way this guy has two crap years like that.
But Sizemore slumped out of the gate, failing to hit a homer in 128 at-bats and posting a pathetic .211 clip before heading to the DL on May 19 due to a deep knee bruise.
It turned out the injury was much worse than that as Sizemore had surgery on the knee over the weekend and is due to miss six-to-eight weeks.
Outfield is always where you want your biggest run producers and home run threats to reside, and I’m sure a good number of owners out there expected Sizemore to carry the load for their teams.
Unfortunately, they’re feeling like this guy right about now.
9. Andre Ethier
Nobody was hotter than the Dodgers’ triple crown threat before Etheir landed on the DL May 18 with a broken finger. It’s the first time in his brief career that he’s ever had to visit the dreaded list.
This was another ridiculous baseball injury as Ethier fractured the top knuckle of his pinky finger while in the indoor batting cage at Petco Park.
Ethier was destroying the ball, posting a Williams-esque .392 batting average, a .457 OBP and a sizzling .744 slugging percentage with 11 home runs and 38 RBI before hitting the shelf. He was leading the Major Leagues in two of the triple crown categories at the time of the injury.
If your offensive production has dropped quicker than Kendra Wilkinson's panties, look no further for the reasoning.
When Ethier went down, you were probably feeling like you went out drinking sweet berry wine with Dr. Steve Brule from Tim and Eric.
10. Josh Beckett
Boston ace Josh Beckett’s ineffectiveness has been one of many reasons behind the Red Sox’ struggles early on this season.
Beckett is a fantasy favorite because Boston is usually a powerhouse within the AL East which means plenty of wins and he’s a big strikeout guy.
This season Beckett has looked far from the form that made him a 17-game winner a year ago.
He’s posted a 7.29 ERA and 1.66 WHIP while going 1-1 in eight starts.
He went down on May 20 due to a lower back sprain which was exacerbated when he slipped on a wet mound against the Yankees.
His rehab has hit a bit of a snag recently when trainers shut him down last Friday. The trainers say they don’t want to move forward until his back feels 100 percent.
It’ll be a long while before the fantasy owners that drafted Beckett in the early rounds feel 100 percent.
This one’s for my buddy Pete, who is a big Red Sox and Rock Band fan.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Beltran
Beltran only played a half a season in 2009, but—as usual—he was productive during his time on the field. He hit .325 with a .415 OBP, 10 homers and 48 RBI in just 357 plate appearances.
His absence was one of the many reasons why the Mets struggled through a terrible season last year and an up-and-down roller coaster this year.
Most fantasy owners probably didn’t jump at the chance to draft Beltran after he had two surgeries on the knee that kept him out last year.
Beltran started running at the Mets spring training facility in Port St. Lucie this weekend, but not at full speed.
Omar Minaya says when Beltran finally resumes baseball activities, it’ll still be another four-to-six weeks before he reaches the majors. Basically that means you’ll be lucky to have him in your lineup in July.
If you took the gamble on Mr. Beltran, your stomach is probably hurting as much as this guy’s.
I’ve got to go because there are some Mets and fantasy owners I’ve got to talk off the ledge. Please feel free to leave comments and tell me about injuries I left out. Hope you enjoyed.
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