MLB Spring Training: The Most Impactful Preseason Injuries Ever, Good or Bad
Preseason injuries are a part of every sport.
Every year, baseball players get injured before the season starts and they all impact their careers or teams in a bad, or sometimes good way. The injuries can derail careers, lead to greener pastures or open a slot for a future superstar.
Here is a list of the top 10 most impactful preseason injuries of baseball history.
No. 10: Chase Utley, 2009
Chase Utley was firmly entrenched as the game’s best second baseman in 2009, but a nagging hip injury forced him to get surgery after the 2008 season in order to correct the issue.
Utley came back with a vengeance and had a brilliant postseason in 2009, as he led the Phillies to the World Series. Utley played outstanding in the series and was really the only reason the Phillies weren’t swept outright by the world champion Yankees.
No. 9: Joe Nathan, 2010
The Twinkies headed into 2010 as one of the favorites to win the AL pennant until Joe Nathan tore his UCL early in spring training, which forced Nathan to get Tommy John surgery. As a result, the Twins to scramble for another closer.
The Twins still cruised to the playoffs, but they missed their closer when they ran up against the Yankees in the ALDS, where they were promptly swept.
Nathan’s 2010 season was lost before it began, and there is no way to tell if he will regain his pre-injury form until he holds up over the course of the 2011 season.
No. 8: Francisco Cervelli, 2011
Cervelli was set to be the Yankees’ back up catcher this year, but an injury to his foot opened up the door for uber-prospect Jesus Montero. Montero raked this spring, and he clearly belongs in the major leagues.
The Yanks are hesitant to bring him to the show, but they have no other choice for the time being. If Montero sticks around and gets playing time, he is a favorite to become the AL Rookie of the Year.
No. 7: Alex Rodriguez, 2009
A-Rod planned to represent the Dominican Republic in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but a torn labrum on his hip derailed his plans. A-Rod missed a chunk of the 2009 season, but like Utley, he came back with a vengeance and played nearly MVP-caliber baseball after returning.
In the end, the injury may not have been so bad for Rodriguez. He powered the Yankees to a World Series title and was the team’s undisputed MVP of the playoffs, getting a big hit every time the team needed him to.
No. 6: Adam Wainwright, 2011
There is no doubt this is a devastating injury for Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals. Just barely into spring training, Wainwright has been lost for the year and must get Tommy John surgery.
Tommy John is a horrible surgery for any pitcher to go through, and whether or not Wainwright comes back late this season or next season at all is unknown. It is also unknown if he will regain the stuff he had before the injury.
Either way, the Cardinals go from being one of the NL’s top teams to a mid-tier club without Wainwright.
No. 5: Wayne Garland, 1977
In 1976, Wayne Garland was one of the best pitchers in baseball and a highly coveted free agent in the early days of its practice.
Garland got a then massive 10-year, $2.3 million contract from the Indians and was expected to pitch them into contention.
When Garland was in his first spring training start with the Indians, he hurt his shoulder. Garland toughed out the entire season and pitched through the injury. Unfortunately for Garland and the Indians, the injury caused Garland to pitch poorly, and he was never the same pitcher after the injury.
No. 4: Nomar Garciaparra, 2001
Heading into 2001, Nomar Garciaparra was one of baseball’s premier players and a member of the shortstop holy trinity along with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Unfortunately, Nomar injured his wrist in spring training and he was never the same player.
Garciaparra lost support of the Red Sox organization over the next few years and was traded to the Cubs just before Boston's World Series run in 2004.
He spent the rest of his playing days injured, and what was once a sure-fire Hall of Fame career is now a long shot.
No. 3: Mark Prior, 2005
In 2005, Mark Prior was one of the best pitchers in baseball, and many felt it was his destiny to become one of baseball’s all-time greats. Sure, he had been a victim of the injury bug, but he was still effective when he played.
Then, in the spring of 2006, Prior strained his shoulder.
The injury was originally thought to be minor, but was much worse. In the end, the strained shoulder cost him his effectiveness and health in 2006, and he would not pitch in the majors again after that season.
Prior is trying another comeback with the Yankees, but it is unknown if he will ever make it back to the show.
No. 2: Ken Griffey Jr, 2001
Heading into 2001, Ken Griffey Jr. was indisputably the best player in baseball and was on track to become one five greatest players of all time.
Unfortunately for Griffey and baseball fans everywhere, Griffey hurt his hamstring during spring training of 2001, which started a chain of injuries to Griffey’s legs that compromised the rest of his career.
He was never the same player after the injury, and although he still managed to hit over 600 home runs, we all wonder what might have been...
No. 1: Aaron Boone, 2004
The pickup basketball game that shocked the world. Back in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Aaron Boone hit a clutch home run that won the Yankees the pennant in an epic series against their arch-rival Red Sox. Boone’s legacy in pinstripes seemed to be secure, and there was hope he would improve in 2004.
Unfortunately, Boone tore his ACL in the aforementioned pickup basketball game in early 2004 and was lost for the year. In a masterstroke, the Yankees’ brass decided to fill two important needs: replacing Boone and sticking it to the Red Sox.
The Sox had focused on acquiring Alex Rodriguez for the previous year, and they even had a deal done, but it was vetoed by the MLBPA because the deal involved A-Rod taking a voluntary pay cut.
So the Yankees swooped in and traded for Rodriguez, giving them the game’s best player and changing the course of baseball history.
Sure, the Red Sox won two World Series without A-Rod, but how many more would they have won with him?