MLB made a switch this year, sending the problematic nomenclature of the DL packing, and replacing it with the Injured List.
And the New York Yankees, ever the gentlemen with their cleanly shorn faces, are playing the part of good hosts.
Just a week into the season, the otherwise terrifying Yankees squad has a whopping 11 players on the IL. And we’re not talking fringe 40-man roster guys who are being stored on the 60-day IL just because. Here’s the list:
Now, the Bronx Bombers weren’t hit by a plague at the start of the season - they’ve come about their IL trips in myriad ways. Some, like Gregorious and Montgomery, and still recovering from Tommy John surgery that occurred during the 2018 season. Others, like Severino, have been flirting with health but haven’t quite been able to get there. And still others, like Stanton and Tulowitzki, simply couldn’t make it through opening week unscathed.
You almost admire their creativity in finding ways to get on the IL.
Naturally, the loss of these players hurts New York. Those 11 players combined for 30.5 WAR last year (or, in the case of those who missed last season, 2017). To put that in perspective, the nine players that took the field on Opening Day for the San Francisco Giants combined for 9.0 WAR last year.
If the Yankees IL decided to secede from the Steinbrenners, they would be able to form a baseball team much better than what the Giants are currently offering. That’s how much talent is missing.
While injuries are never worth cheering, competitive baseball is. And the Yankees loss has been the gain of a few other teams - namely the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays entered the season in an odd position. Many counted on them to be among the best teams in the American League, but they played in a division with two teams that held very legitimate aspirations of 100 wins.
But then the Yankees went and got themselves an injured player for every two healthy ones. And the Boston Red Sox decided they’re not yet ready for a championship hangover - they’re still drunk.
And just like that, the funny-shaped door in the AL East is open for the Rays. After beating the Giants on Friday, the Rays moved to 6-2, with a healthy lead over both the Yankees and the Red Sox.
It’s a long season. But it’s already 5% of the way over, and this 5% is as important as any other 5%. Yes, even that 5%. And in order to win, you need breaks. You make some of those breaks, and you stumble across others along the way.
The Yankees could get healthy and run away with the division by mid-May. The Red Sox could wake up, start playing the way we all expect them to do, and rattle off 17 wins in their next 20 games.
But for now, New York’s insistence on getting to know the newfangled place for injured players, and Boston’s insistence on sleepwalking into the season, and Tampa Bay’s insistence on . . . well . . . being a good baseball team, means the AL East, with its enormity of talent, could be a fun race to watch.