It was a rough week for several teams in MLB. Many big names went down with injuries, and may have taken their respective clubs’ playoff chances with them. Two division races could be significantly affected by these developments. Off the field, at least one team should probably reevaluate how its upper management interacts with fans.
The past week was a brutal one for five clubs. The All-Star break can’t come soon enough for them. But which team had the worst week? Counting down in descending order, here’s how we see it.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays actually lost Edwin Encarnacion last week, when he strained his right quad muscle running to first base in Saturday’s game versus the A’s. But he was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday, officially beginning a rough week for Toronto.
Losing their first baseman, who’s hit 26 home runs with 70 RBI so far this season, for two weeks would’ve been bad enough. But on Friday, they also placed designated hitter Adam Lind on the DL. Lind had been dealing with pain in his right foot for weeks, and his mother encouraged him to get a MRI exam. That revealed a broken bone in the foot, which should keep him out two to three weeks. Lind is batting .320 with an .878 OPS.
4. Cincinnati Reds
Helping the Cardinals’ chances in the NL Central could be the multiple injuries suffered by the Reds this week. Second baseman Brandon Phillips sustained a thumb injury similar to Molina’s, tearing a ligament in his left thumb as he attempted to make a sliding catch. He’s expected to miss six weeks, taking one of the Reds’ best bats out of the lineup. Phillips was batting .272 with 19 doubles, seven homers and 40 RBI.
Cincinnati was already missing its first baseman, with Joey Votto going on the DL earlier in the week due to a strained quad. The same injury sidelined Votto for a month previously this season and is likely a key reason why he’s batting only .255.
The Reds also had a major scare when pitcher Homer Bailey left Thursday’s game against the Cubs after straining his right knee. Bailey felt pain in his patellar tendon, and looked pretty bad when he came out of the game. The 28-year-old is second among Reds starting pitchers with 105 strikeouts and has an 8-5 record and 4.21 ERA this season.
A MRI exam revealed no structural damage in Bailey’s knee and the right-hander is expected to make his first start after the All-Star break. That might be the best news Cincinnati received this week.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cards are making their typical midseason run at the NL Central lead, winning six of their past nine games to close within one game of the Brewers. But an already underperforming lineup took a major blow with the news that catcher Yadier Molina would be out for eight to 12 weeks with a torn ligament in his right thumb.
Molina suffered the injury sliding into third base, with his thumb sticking in the dirt. After surgery, it will be five weeks before he can begin a rehab program. Missing the rest of the season is a very real possibility.
Though Molina’s numbers have been down compared to his past three seasons, his .287 batting average was still second-best among Cardinals everyday players, while his .751 OPS and seven home runs rank third. That’s not even considering that Molina plays one of the most difficult positions to replace in MLB, with so few elite catchers in the sport. Additionally, he provides veteran guidance behind the plate for a young Cardinals pitching staff.
Perhaps the Cards can get by with a stopgap catcher, depending on who general manager John Mozeliak can find before the July 31 trade deadline. But that player won’t provide the same level of offense, and certainly won’t throw out 49 percent of attempted basestealers, as Molina had this season.
2. New York Yankees
The Yankees were already drifting toward the edges of the AL East race, losing eight of their past 13 games to fall five behind the Orioles and 3.5 back in the AL wild-card race. Age — and the more frequent injuries that come with it — appear to be taking their toll on this team.
But losing Masahiro Tanaka, who’s been far and away the Yankees’ best starting pitcher, might be the knockout blow to their dwindling playoff hopes. The starting rotation was already thin from losing Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda earlier in the year. CC Sabathia appears to be done for the season with a knee injury.
Yet Tanaka — with a 12-4 record, 2.51 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 129.1 innings — still gave the Yankees a chance. That is, until he was put on the DL with right elbow inflammation. An MRI exam revealed a small tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, which is typically a precursor to Tommy John surgery.
However, the three doctors who examined Tanaka advised against surgery for now, recommending a platelet-rich plasma injection and rehab program. That will keep him out for at least six weeks. Better than losing the rest of this season and half of next year recovering from reconstructive surgery. But where will the Yanks be if and when Tanaka returns?
Oh, and Carlos Beltran was placed on the seven-day concussion list after being hit in the face with a ball during batting practice. If he suffered fractures in his nose, the 37-year-old may need surgery. Not a good week for the Yanks.
1. Colorado Rockies
Though the other teams on this list sustained significant injuries that hurt their playoff chances for this season, I’d argue the Rockies had the worst week in MLB. Public relations gaffes by owner Dick Monfort, along with an expressed disinterest in trading veteran players that could yield needed prospects, could damage this team for years to come.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Monfort had sent a terse e-mail response to a fan who filled out a feedback form expressing his frustration with the team following the Rockies’ 9-0 loss to the Dodgers on July 4. ”If product and experience that bad don’t come!” Monfort wrote to the fan.
Days later, Denver CBS affiliate KCNC-TV reported that the Rockies owner had also sent messages last week to a longtime season ticket holder who had written e-mails to feedback form that was heavily critical of how Monfort ran the team. “By the way you talk maybe Denver doesn’t deserve a franchise,” Monfort responded in an e-mail, “maybe time for it to find a new home. Thanks.”
Yes, Mr. Monfort, maybe a city that is providing the Rockies with the ninth-best average and total attendance in MLB despite the team being 13 games below .500 with the second-worst record in the National League doesn’t deserve a franchise. This will be the fourth straight season in which Colorado finishes in fourth place or lower. Though the Rockies have made the playoffs twice in the past 10 years, the team has never won a division title during the current ownership’s regime.
Monfort’s response? If you don’t like it, don’t come to the games! That’s what he said in yet another e-mail to a disgruntled fan, as reported by the Denver Post‘s Nick Groke. Replying to a complaint about “major league prices for a Triple-A team” sent in on July 4, the Rockies owner wrote the following:
“If it is that upsetting don’t come to the games, if I don’t like a restaurant because of the food or prices I just don’t go, Colorado Springs has a different experience, maybe that would be more enjoyable.”
The immaturity of Monfort’s responses to fans is stunning. Maybe it’s a sign of his frustration with the team’s performance, and no one enjoys hearing continual criticism. But in an industry that is built on a relationship with the fanbase, lashing out at customers and alienating them is terrible business.
Monfort has since apologized, but his behavior has potentially far worse consequences than any season-ending injury or falling out of contention.