- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Once again this season, it hasn’t been safe to make a sandwich. Or walk past a parked car. Or get caught outside in a hailstorm. And you know what that means ...
It’s time to “honor” the most creative baseball injuries of the half-year that was. So keep your health insurance cards handy. Here we go:
Fifth prize: Pablo Sandoval, Giants
This was a Pablo Sandoval mishap that’s been waiting to happen. He just missed two games (July 6 and 7) because of a swollen left elbow. OK, that could happen to anybody. Ah, but how did his elbow get so swollen? He got hit in the elbow by a pitch. And obviously, that could happen to anybody. But here’s where this starts getting more Panda-esque: He got hit in the elbow by a pitch that he swung at. And that’s the creative, hack-a-matic Sandovalian flair that earned him a place on this distinguished list.
But wait. There’s one final twist to this saga. As loyal reader Raven Deerwater made sure to pass along, Sandoval wasn’t even awarded first base for getting hit by this pitch. His prize was -- what else? -- a strike. Because he swung. Then, even more spectacularly, Brandon Belt got thrown out trying to steal second on the next pitch to end the top of the first inning, whereupon Sandoval left the game. So here’s how we’d sum up this little calamity: he managed to get hit by a pitch, but not record a plate appearance, meaning he got hurt appearing in a game he technically never appeared in. Or something like that. Now that’s what you call a creative injury.
Fourth prize: Drew Pomeranz, Athletics
Man meets chair. Man punches chair. Chair wins by unanimous decision. We’ve heard that one before, right? Well, the latest guy to get sucked into the old man-punches-chair scam is A’s pitcher Drew Pomeranz. He wasn’t feeling really upbeat -- for good reason -- after the Rangers bombarded him with eight runs in 3 2/3 innings June 16. So on his way back to the clubhouse, he came upon a seemingly innocent wooden chair, just sitting there, inviting him to release his frustrations. His brain (or whatever emotions were overriding his brain at the time) said: “Show that chair what you’re made of.” Then his right hand, which was assigned to inflict that damage, said: “Ouuuucccchhhh,” possibly because he’d just fractured it. Next thing Pomeranz knew ... (A) he was on the disabled list, (B) the A’s were going out and acquiring his temporary replacement (Brad Mills) for a buck, (C) the A’s were going out and acquiring his more permanent replacement (Jeff Samardzija) in the official "trade of the year" and (D) he had a distinct feeling they weren’t leaving a light on for him when he got healthy. So Chair 1, Human 0. Lifetime record of all chairs punched in stadium runways: Undefeated. Still.
Third prize: A.J. Ellis, Dodgers
No-hitters are always a cause for celebration. Getting hurt while expressing that jubilation? Never a cause for celebration. And the most recent player who could tell you all about it is Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis. He was a darned happy guy, for a few moments there, after Josh Beckett’s no-hitter May 25, even though he didn’t happen to catch that gem (since it fell on his day off). But that happiness turned out to be fleeting, we regret to report. After the final out, he was just following the standard post-no-hitter playbook by sprinting toward the infield with his teammates and leaping into the air (which was the only thing available to leap into). But then he made a big mistake -- by coming back to earth. Where he landed on a catcher’s mask. And not even his own. It was the mask of Drew Butera, who caught Beckett that day and fired his mask into -- you guessed it -- the air after the final out. But the mask also returned to earth, where it waited for Ellis to land on it. And one sprained ankle later, Ellis was heading for a big ice pack ..'. and then the disabled list ... and then this exalted injuries of the half-year list. Oops.
Second prize: Felix Doubront, Red Sox
Last year it was Clay Buchholz, forcing his way onto this list by cradling his 2-year-old daughter in his arms, then falling asleep and irritating the AC joint near his collarbone. This year’s mandatory Bizarre Red Sox Pitcher Mishap might or might not top it, depending on whether you’re a joy-of-parenthood person or a car person. But you decide. In May, Felix Doubront headed for the disabled list with a strained left shoulder. And how’d that happen? No, not from throwing those 965 pitches he’s launched this season. That would never earn a guy a spot in a column like this. The culprit, according to manager John Farrell, was a car door, no doubt planted in Doubront’s path by a bunch of Yankees fans, which he then bumped into and bruised his pitching shoulder. Later that day, Doubront tried pitching against the Blue Jays, didn’t have his usual stuff and then fessed up about his earlier little automotive malfunction. He spent the next month on the disabled list. No word on what charges were filed against the car.
First prize: Matt Cain, Giants
Would it even be possible to write these rollicking injury of the year (or half-year) columns, season after season, without the Giants? They’ve turned inventive injuries into a true art form -- led by two-time "Injury of the Year" champ Jeremy Affeldt, whose misadventures while barbecuing and hugging his son have been well documented in this space. But luckily, Affeldt inspires his teammates, even in seasons when he doesn’t make this list himself. So it’s time to salute this year’s most innovative injury (so far) -- the ham and cheese sandwich that attacked Matt Cain. All right, to be technical, it wasn’t the ham, the cheese or the sandwich itself that assaulted Cain. It was the knife he was using to finish off that sandwich. Cain told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman that he’s managed to successfully make sandwiches, and cut them with a knife, many times. But with this one, he “went to cut it, to make it fancy in triangles.” And, alas, the knife cut more than his fancy this time. He was slicing away when he dropped the knife, tried to catch it and learned an important lesson: Knives are sharp. That’s why they’re used to cut fancy triangles in sandwiches instead of, say, fingers. Or sledgehammers. The bad news is: Cain wound up on the disabled list. The good news is: Hey, he won first prize!
Special minor league citation: Jesse Biddle, Reading Phillies
The 22-year-old left-hander had to miss a start in May because of headaches. From getting hit in the head by an ice pellet. During a hailstorm. We are not making this up. And we can prove it -- without even calling Jim Cantore to the stand to testify. Luckily, Jesse Biddle tweeted about it!
— Jesse Biddle (@jessebiddle_54) May 22, 2014
Now really, wouldn’t this injury be more believable if it happened to, ohhhhhh, David Freese?