Looking at disabled list stays can put one on a slippery slope. After all, not all players are created equal – losing a Chris Carpenter for an extended period would be far more painful to the St. Louis Cardinals’ chances of a successful season than missing out on the gamble taken on Matt Clement, for example.
Yet at the single point in time where we stand currently, the start of the 2009 regular season, the Cardinals are relatively healthy. That “relative” comment is made in the context of a comparison to the other 13 season-opening rosters during the Tony La Russa era in St. Louis.
As the table below shows, over the previous 13 years, the Cards have averaged four players on the disabled list to start the season, with the number of injured pitchers roughly double that of the position players.
In 2009, only Jaime Garcia and Troy Glaus begin the season on the DL.
Garcia will be out for at least the majority of the year, if not all, while recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. While his ability to contribute in 2009 would have been intriguing, especially given his left-handedness and top prospect status, there was no assurance the 22-year-old would be ready for a major role.
On the other hand, Glaus will surely be missed. His best-case return looks to be around mid-season as he slowly recovers from shoulder surgery. On top of it, as I have mentioned a number of times, a major question lingers over how soon his power stroke might return.
In only two of La Russa’s seasons, 2004 and 2002, did the club start the year with fewer players hurt than here in 2009.
In an ironic twist, note that Rick Ankiel was that single DL’ed player both times. In fact, each of the even years this decade seem to have been most unkind to Ankiel. He also spent all of 2006 on the shelf after knee surgery plus missed considerable time late last season due to a sports hernia. Finally, we all painfully recall what happened to Ankiel on the mound during the 2000 post-season. As an impending free agent, where he suits up in 2010 remains to be seen.
The players listed in bold are those who began the season on the DL and did not later contribute in a meaningful manner to the Cardinals that season. (Going from left to right, pitchers are listed first.)
2008 offers the greatest contrast to this season, as a TLR-Cardinals record eight players started the year by being formally placed on the disabled list. Of the eight, only Joel Pineiro and Brendan Ryan put in a decent season for the Cards.
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