If you’re like me, you play fantasy baseball (you can also procrastinate with the best of them and tend to tear up every time you see Mustafa fall into that wildebeest stampede, but that’s neither here nor there).
And if you play fantasy baseball you probably don’t have three of baseball’s biggest superstars – Joey Votto, Jose Bautista and David Ortiz – in your lineup right now. Not because you didn’t draft them, or because you were an idiot and traded one of them in a package for Jason Bay. But because of what happened a few Mondays ago.
Something was in the air a few Mondays ago, flying around and shooting down at the diamond. There’s no other way to explain why all over the baseball world, for no apparent reason, superstars seemed to be dropping like flies.
The insanity of all the potentially team-crippling injuries that occurred a few Mondays ago lies not the proximity in which they happened (merely hours apart), or the severity of the bruises (no 60-day DL stints were sparked). Instead, the most ridiculous element of it all was how each All-Star went down. These world-class athletes, who are some of the best people at playing baseball on the planet, all buckled doing the simplest things the game demands. There were no collisions, wall slams, fence flips or heaters to the head. It all kind of just, happened. Like a little guy with an arrow targeted them from the clouds.
First there is Votto, who will be out of commission for 3-4 weeks with a knee injury. Reports say he initially hurt it on June 29, but had been playing through pain that had receded recently. Then the pain came shooting back. How did he re-injure it? Running to first base on a single. It’s not that leg problems are unusual; it’s just surprising that Joey Votto would injure his leg. Guys like Matt Kemp, who just returned from a bum hammy that kept him on the shelf for a month? More likely. Kemp’s a threat on the bases and plays a more demanding position. His game revolves around his legs, which are always pushing at max-effort, superhuman speed.
Votto, though, isn’t a burner; he relies much more on his hands and his eyes to do what he does best. That said, you would think if he hurt his knee it would be because he was really going hard: maybe trying to take an extra base, or stealing third for some reason. But no. Joey Votto re-hurt himself rounding first base as mundanely as anyone could – after hitting a single. He wasn’t even jogging, he was slowing down his jog. Cruising, with the calmness of a line drive hitter who knows how to round first base because he’s ALWAYS on first base.
Next it struck Bautista. Joey Bats always looks like he’s going to hurt himself, swinging so wildly you’d think he was in 8 Mile, twirling and twisting in such a violent way that you grimace just watching from the couch. But nobody saw this coming. Nobody saw the reigning home run king hunched over holding his wrist, withering in pain in the Bronx moments after striking a David Robertson fastball so hard that had it not been foul may have landed somewhere on Long Island.
Robertson’s heater didn’t strike Bautista on the wrist. He wasn’t sucker-tripped by Yankee catcher Russell Martin on his way home after launching another no doubt moonshot. All he did was swing. See it, hit it. Boom. X-Rays. MRI. Disabled list. Another giant goes down.
Then the plague hit Boston. In the 8th inning of a 2-1 game against now-nemesis Kevin Youkilis and the White Sox, Adrian Gonzalez broke out of a season-long funk and finally hit his 7th homer of the year, a long, towering three-run thing of beauty over the Green Monster, to make the score 5-1 and put the game firmly out of reach. Everything was good in Bean Town. And then Big Papi, who was on base, started limping.
The Red Sox had already weathered injuries this season to practically every everyday player on their roster, which on paper is stacked. Jacoby Ellsbury had been down since the first week of the year. Carl Crawford hadn’t played until the day before. Dustin Pedroia is on the DL. Andrew Bailey is too. Youkilis was traded in the first place because his cornucopia of boo-boos made room for Will Middlebrooks in the lineup and eventually made him not just expendable, but a burden.
At age 36 and always on the husky side, David Ortiz was probably the Red Sox most likely to make a trip to the DL this year. But that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt Boston. He’s been their best player, hands down. The official word was that he has a strained right achilles tendon and would be out at least a week. It’s been almost two and he’s still not back. Oh, and how did he strain his achilles tendon? Jogging home on somebody else‘s home run. JOGGING HOME ON SOMEBODY ELSE’S HOME RUN.
I don’t know if this is unprecedented, but it’s got to be close. Together, Votto, Bautista and Ortiz have hit 64 home runs this season. They will make a combined $40-plus million dollars this year. All three of their teams have legit playoff chances. And how did they all get hurt, on the same night, within hours of each other? Stopping, swinging and jogging, respectfully.
This is an angry column, even if it hasn’t come across as one thus far. What baseball fan wouldn’t be angry at whatever power decided to find all these guys’ tiny weaknesses and in one night, knock ‘em all out ancient Greek Achilles style? Like a sniper. Boom, boom, boom. All that gunfire put last Monday in the running for the title of MLB’s Worst Night Ever. It better be careful though – wouldn’t want to pull a hammy.