NEW YORK -- Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, appearing on Mike Lupica’s radio show on ESPN New York, cited the "aberrational number of injuries that beset us” as one of the primary factors in Boston’s sub-.500 record this season.
There is no disputing that the Sox have been wracked by injuries this season. Entering this weekend’s series against the Yankees, they have placed 25 players -- that is equal to a full roster -- including 13 All-Stars, on the DL. The front page of the Red Sox media press notes, on a daily basis, reminds that according to STATS, Inc., the 25 different players are the most by any team since at least 1987, and that only two teams in the last 25 years have had as many as 29 disabled stints -- the 2004 Rangers (29) and 2008 Nationals (30).
But is it valid to cite injuries as the primary reason the Sox have stumbled as badly as they have?
Consider this: The Sox used the DL 19 times in 2011, with 17 different players, and still won 90 games, a record that would have been much better, of course, before a 7-20 September.
In 2010, they used the DL 24 times, placing 19 different players on the list, and went 89-73.
And yes, in both instances, injuries played some role in the team missing the playoffs those years, a decisive role in 2010, but there’s a huge difference between missing the playoffs and having the 17th-best record in baseball, which the Sox have entering play Friday.
The Sox were relatively injury-free in 2007, when they last won the World Series, using the DL just 9 times. But in 2004, when they also won the Series, they used the DL 18 times, with 16 different players.
And it is not as if the teams ahead of the Sox in the race for a playoff spot have been immune from injuries:
The Yankees have the best record in the American League (70-48) and are 22 games over .500, despite placing such key players as Mariano Rivera, Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia (twice), Andy Pettitte, Eric Chavez, Michael Pineda and Joba Chamberlain on the DL, with Rivera and Pineda lost for the season and Gardner, A-Rod, and Pettitte all out for extended time.
Orioles: Brian Roberts, Zach Britton, Taylor Teagarden, Tsuyoshi Wada, Nolan Reimold, Endy Chavez, Mark Reynolds, Matt Lindstrom, Nick Markakis, Nick Johnson, Jason Hammel, Robert Andino, Jim Thome, Troy Patton, Ryan Flaherty.
And the Toronto Blue Jays (55-63) are just behind the Red Sox even though they lost three starting pitchers for the season -- Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek and Brandon Morrow -- in the span of four days in June.
Even a casual perusal of the names on the list reveal significant absences, some by teams whose resources can’t compare to those of the Red Sox.
The Athletics, for example, have used the DL 19 times (17 players), the Rays have withstood the prolonged absence of Longoria, and the Orioles, with a talent base that allows for a much smaller margin of error than the Red Sox, has used the DL 18 times.
And this is just the American League.
So, yes, injuries extract a price. But clearly, the Sox are not alone in having to overcome them, and have failed by comparison to do so.