02 June 2004

Which player's injury has been the most devastating to his team?

The most devastating injury thus far has not been the loss of Nomar Garciaparra. Despite Boston shortstops’ cumulative .604 OPS this season, the Red Sox are still competing for first place, compensating for Nomar’s loss just fine. Mark Prior’s absence hasn’t hurt the Cubbies all that much, as their surplus of starting pitching talent has generally picked up the slack. The most devastating injury wasn’t suffered by Richie Sexson or Marcus Giles or any of the myriad of stars the Anaheim Angels have placed on the DL this season. Even Barry Bonds’ recent absence has not hurt his team the most. In fact, you’ve probably already forgotten about the most devastating injury to happen to a baseball player this season.

Because it didn’t happen this season: It happened in January.

In a basketball game.

That’s right, now you remember. Erstwhile Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone left his keys, his wallet, and apparently his brain in a locker and went out to play basketball, where he suffered a torn ACL and essentially forfeited almost $6 million in salary. But he also set the wheels in motion on a series of roster moves that practically changed the entire character of the Yankees lineup.

"Yay!! Yippee!! Ya-hoo!!! Ow! ...I think I pulled something..."

Before the injury, the Bronx Bombers were just that, Bombers, with perhaps the most productive infield in major league baseball. Jason Giambi is so good he could lose 65 points in batting average and still be one of the best first baseman in the AL. Derek Jeter, when healthy and right, can reasonably be expected to put up .300/.390/.450-type numbers, with 15 homers and 30 steals, one of the best shortstops in the majors. Second base was also manned by one of the best players at that position in the majors. In 2002-2003, Alfonso Soriano had the most runs, hits, homers, and steals of any 2B in MLB. He was second in slugging percentage and OPS, and third in RBI, while mostly hitting lead-off. He was and is, in short, a great player.

The Yankees, however, needed an even greater player to help make up for the loss of Aaron Boone, and they got one in Alex Rodriguez, who’s been playing third for the Yanks this year, and doing a fine job overall. Boone was capable of a .270 average with 20 homers and 25 steals, which doesn’t seem like all that much for a third baseman, until you realize that Boone’s offense isn’t really being replaced by A-Rod, but rather by Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo. Yuk. Through late May, Yankee second basemen had “hit” for a combined .614 OPS, with three homers and twelve runs scored. Almost as pathetic as Boston’s shortstops, and not helping the team to rank any better than eighth in runs scored in the AL.

Furthermore, rumors out of New York suggest that Derek Jeter’s recently anemic bat may be caused by the added strain, pressure and competition of a guy 30 feet to his right who frankly deserves his job. I don’t personally believe that, but it’s worth considering that Jeter may not be having so much trouble if he were more comfortable with his job security.

So Boone’s injury, his simple and singular decision to play a game of pickup basketball and the aftermath that ensued, has affected the Yankees at three positions.

No one else on any of the 30 disabled lists in MLB can say that.

Check out the other BaseballOutsider.com writers' opinions on this issue...

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: