I recently tweeted that the Pirates have had the most unfortunate start in MLB and was surprised at the backlash I received. Hundreds wanted to suggest so many other teams have been even more unfortunate, at least in their minds, and I didn’t realize then how much misery there was to go around. Many, many teams are off to some amazingly unfortunate beginnings, it turns out.
Disabled list stays through 43 days are up significantly from a year ago, from 184 to 232, though some of that can be accounted for by the decrease in days for the minimum DL stay, from 15 to 10.
Without further ado, here goes, my unlucky 7. (Though keep in mind that misfortune is different than doom. The Rockies had the roughest spring training, between Chad Bettis’ testicular cancer news and assorted baseball injuries, and they are in first place. So good for them.)
7. Texas Rangers
The team thought to have one of the better and harder-throwing bullpens in baseball was nearly undone by that very pen, right from the very start. Keone Kela was demoted for disciplinary reasons, Matt Bush need an injection and Sam Dyson inexplicably lost his mojo after a brilliant WBC. None of that was good, but folks forget that even before the season began Jake Diekman needed extensive colon surgery that’s expected to keep him out for the bulk of the year. Of course, they aren’t as unfortunate as the 2014 Rangers, who are in the unlucky Hall of Fame. But the absence of Cole Hamels and the absence from the beginning of Adrian Beltre have compounded things—though give them credit, they’ve fought through it to win seven in a row and move from last place to second.
6. Miami Marlins
Never deep, they’ve lost three infielders, forcing them to call up Steve Lombardozzi and sign Mike Aviles, two blasts from the past. Martin Prado, Adeiny Hechavarria and Miguel Rojas (who’s more important than one would suspect due to his ability play all four infield positions) remain on the DL, too, meaning they’ve had to play some of the recent desperation signees. Ace Edinson Volquez missed time, and no one can be sure when Wei-Yin Chen will be back, thinning a rotation that began the season as somewhat suspect. The bullpen, full of good names, has been used extensively, as expected, but they haven’t performed up to expectations. For good measure, Dan Straily, who’s been easily their best pitcher, on Monday was nailed in the right forearm by a 108-mph liner. He tried to keep pitching, but a welt swelled up, forcing an early exit and perhaps putting his next start in jeopardy.
5. San Francisco Giants
They are starting to win now (never give up on the Giants!) but Hunter Pence made it a trifecta of starting outfielders who’ve gone on the DL, following Jarrett Parker and Denard Span. Buster Posey is back now and hitting homers, but he suffered a concussion getting beaned and didn’t have his power stroke in April. Brandon Crawford, who Giants writers point out is way more valuable than even you’d think, was out earlier (they were awful without him). Madison Bumgarner, who along with Posey has been the most valuable player of this decade in terms of winning championships, is out for months after an unfortunate dirt-bike accident. Even manager Bruce Bochy missed a couple games to get a heart procedure. The team, though, has plenty of heart.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
Starling Marte is out half a year after a steroid ban, Jung-Ho Kang can’t get out of Korea due to three DUIs (there’s said to be a hearing Thursday regarding his visa issue) and promising young starter Jameson Taillon had surgery for suspected testicular cancer. In terms of “variety” of unfortunate happenings, they certainly have had the most hits. In any case, those three losses add up to a combination of unfortunate happenings that will devastate teams. But as some tweeps pointed out, two of the three were self-inflicted. The Taillon illness is just plain unfair, of course. Beyond the fact that no person in their 20s should ever get cancer (testicular cancer only strikes men under 40 unfortunately), Taillon had overcome a lot to get back to the mound and get to the cusp of stardom. Taillon is believed to have cancer, but tests are so far checking out nicely, which could give him a chance to return to pitching in a few weeks since he’s working out religiously (though the team wouldn’t say anything until they are sure, which will probably come sometime next week). While that’s only three guys, it’s three important players, and also a very sad trifecta of absences.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
The problem with the Blue Jays is that the wrong guys have been getting hurt, and just about all of them at one time or another. Josh Donaldson (calf) has been out most of the year, and now he and Troy Tulowitzki have been pushed back again. And team leader Russell Martin (shoulder) is out now. And it’s no better on the pitching front, with Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ both hitting the DL. Roberto Osuna and J.P. Howell are back to bulk up the pen, but it seems like it’s been one thing after another. After their rough start, they began to straighten things out, then last-place (at the time) Atlanta came to Toronto and took three straight, adding depression to their long list of maladies.2. Seattle Mariners
The team with a great offense but brittle rotation has had all its worst fears realized for its starting pitchers. Their top four starting pitchers are out, which is nothing short of devastating. “We’re going to wind up playing a third of the season without our rotation, which is pretty challenging,” GM Jerry Dipoto said. “If you take a team’s top four starters away, it’s really hard to survive.” Yovani Gallardo has pitched like a solid No. 5, but for now he’s the ace, fronting four minor leaguers. They will use their 10th starter by their 40th game, with the entire rotation of Triple-A Tacoma all getting a shot. Putting aside the record 35 trades Dipoto made, they’ve had to make 70 transactions since the start of the season, or one every 16 hours, as Root Sports recently pointed out. “It’s been nuts,” Dipoto said. And that is true. While coming star James Paxton could be back May 31 if all goes well, ace Felix Hernandez had a setback and won’t be until mid June, Hishashi Iwakuma is looking at late June or July and Drew Smyly, who was to begin throwing Wednesday, close to the All-Star break, if then. Hernandez had never had a shoulder, Smyly never an elbow and Paxton never an arm issue of any kind. Smyly is gone awhile after looking so great in the WBC. To make matters worse, prospect Ryan Weber, after being called up from the minors to replace one of the many injured, almost immediately went on the DL with an arm issue. His case is the “grayest” of them all, as Dipoto said, as he’s only the second MLB player ever found to have this particular nerve issue. And if that wasn’t enough, Robinson Cano, who never goes on the DL, had to go on the DL (though unlike the pitchers, he’s expected back very soon).
1. New York Mets
OK, I give in, they are the “winner.” They began with what was seen as the best rotation in baseball, and by the beginning of this week had the worst rotation ERA in the game. Matt Harvey was found in his bathrobe by concerned team security but he still isn’t quite himself after returning from thoracic outlet syndrome (he has the velocity but not the results) and Noah Syndergaard really should have gotten that MRI (the lat injury may be unrelated, but there’s no good reason not to have a prescribed MRI). Steven Matz and Seth Lugo are working their way back, but not fast enough. With these kind of defections, it shouldn’t be a shock the Mets vaunted rotation has underperformed (though it’s a little surprising they are dead last in the NL in ERA). And now a pen that’s understandably used quite a bit has been breaking down. Jeurys Familia is likely out until very late in the year after an arterial clot was discovered in his shoulder, and the reinforcements, all amply used, are almost to a man struggling to succeed. Beyond all that, they’ve been without their best all-around everyday player Yoenis Cespedes for weeks (and have lost Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Travis d’Arnaud and Asdrubal Cabrera at different times, not to mention David Wright, who’s stopped throwing entirely). As manager Terry Collins, who becomes the Mets’ longest-serving manager Saturday (surpassing Davey Johnson), said recently, “Somebody has pissed off the baseball gods.” Indeed.