Injuries have been a major issuue during the 2012 Major League Baseball season. This year, baseball pennant races may not necessarily be won by the best teams, but by the teams that remain healthiest. Fifty games into the season, there are several teams missing their stars.
The Washington Nationals have led this trend, playing thus far without closer Drew Storen and sending 12 players to the disabled list. In addition, they played two weeks without Ryan Zimmerman, lost catcher Wilson Ramos for the season, and will not get Jayson Werth back until August. In spite of it all, the Nationals have maintained a narrow first place lead due to its solid pitching.
The Nationals have been hard hit by the injury bug, but they have lots of company. It seems as though every day another star player leaves the field with some sort of injury. Take a look at this short list of players that have missed significant time this season, and you'll see it reads like a who's who of major league baseball:
Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Mariano Rivera, Chipper Jones, Carl Crawford, Nick Markakis, Jason Bay, Matt Kemp, Brian Wilson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Pablo Sandoval, Lance Berkman, Huston Street, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, Salvador Perez, Chris Carpenter, Neftali Feliz, and Evan Longoria.
This season's playoff races could be determined by which teams experience the fewest injuries. In the National League East, the Miami Marlins have remained the healthiest. Emilio Bonifacio recently went down for about six weeks, but otherwise, the Marlins have gone untouched. So, is anyone surprised that the Marlins won 21 games in May to get back in the hunt for first place.
Some injuries could have huge implications. Despite their major injuries, the Phillies have a winning record and are within a few games of the first place Nationals. But without Halladay, and not knowing when Howard and Utley will return, the Phillies could fall out of the race and may even consider trading free agent-to-be Cole Hamels to another contender.
Given the absence of Kemp, the Dodgers may try to trade for another big bat. And when you think of all the injuries the Red Sox have experienced, they might offer Kevin Youkilis to the Dodgers. On the other hand, the Red Sox can expect the return Ellsbury and, maybe, Crawford.
This season has become a battle of attrition. May the team with the fewest injuries win.