I’ve got injuries on the brain this morning. When Matt Carpenter left last night’s Cardinals-Pirates game with an apparent injury – it turned out to be nausea – I started thinking about how many injuries they’ve dealt with, pretty much all over the roster for periods of time. And then in just the last few days, they’ve been hit with DL stints for Marcell Ozuna, Jedd Gyorko, and Kolten Wong.
What the Cardinals have achieved here in the second half is wildly impressive, given the constitution of their roster, and I don’t want to take anything away from it. But I get the sense that, while folks generally acknowledge what the Cardinals have overcome this year, most people – including Cubs fans – don’t see the same narrative applying to the Cubs.
While wading through the daily torrent of rehab-related news this morning, I was reminded this morning just how injured the Cubs have been this year. After two season of excellent health in 2015 and 2016 (Kyle Schwarber excluded (well, except the World Series)), the Cubs dealt with some injury issues last year, but certainly not enough that you’d say it was one of those “wow, look what they’ve done despite the injuries!” kind of years.
But this year, you’ve got three of the team’s most important players – Kris Bryant, Brandon Morrow, and Yu Darvish – missing significant chunks of time spread over multiple disabled list stints. Even from a volume perspective, there have been a ton of injuries. Not including those three, the Cubs have also weathered disabled list stints by Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Mike Montgomery, Carl Edwards Jr., Jason Heyward, Brian Duensing, Anthony Bass, and more.
The Cubs have been very, very injured this year!
So why don’t we think more often about the “overcoming it” angle? Well, I think there are a lot of reasons. I think the fact that the Cubs have been the class of the NL for so long now (yeah, I said it) means that it’s always difficult to put them into an “overcoming it” frame of mind. They’re on top, so what are they overcoming? The slow-play of the injuries also is a factor – it wasn’t like the big injuries were *immediately* known to be big injuries, so they just kinda get thought of differently as narratives are developing. There’s also the fact that the Cubs have been so successful bringing in outside players to fill in some of the holes, and for whatever reason, that just doesn’t seem to square with folks’ idea of “overcoming it.”
But I think the biggest reason folks don’t credit the Cubs with overcoming so much on the injury front is because the Cubs are still underrated. In other words, if you don’t recognize that the Cubs are awesome, then it’s hard to also recognize that they are awesome despite X, Y, and Z challenges.
Admittedly, the Cubs have had some struggles, and their performance has not always matched their talent. Still, here we are at the end of August, and the Cubs still have the best record in the National League. They still have the largest divisional lead in the National League. They are good!
This is all to say that, as we head down the stretch, I think, at a minimum, Cubs fans need to recognize, in the same way they might recognize it in other teams, that it’s really, really impressive how many games this team has won despite serious injury issues infecting the season. The healthy players deserve a ton of credit. The call-ups deserve a ton of credit. Joe Maddon and the coaching staff deserve a lot of credit. And the front office deserves a lot of credit.