About two and a half weeks ago, Paul Maholm of the Pittsburgh Pirates landed on the disabled list for the first time in his six-year major league career when he suffered a left shoulder strain. Now I know most people aren’t up to date on the rosters of teams who haven’t made the playoffs or even had a winning season since half of the students at Ithaca College were even born. So just know that Maholm is a starting pitcher, not exactly on the same level as say, C.C. Sabathia but he’s not nearly as terrible as his win-loss record would indicate. This happened exactly a week after veteran Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski suffered a fractured left wrist and was placed on the DL for the first time in his 14-year career.
Now the thing about pitchers and catchers is that they can be particularly prone to injuries. All it takes is just one movement of the arm in a direction arms were never meant to go or just a couple pitches too many over a couple games or one hard-hit 90 mph fastball that’s just a little too fast for the pitcher to duck and they can get hurt in all kinds of new and creative ways. That’s not even mentioning pitchers in the National League who actually bat in games and sometimes strain muscles running out hits or tripping on the bases (Chien-Ming Wang anybody?).
Meanwhile, catchers have to spend nine innings crouching on the ground grabbing impossibly fast baseballs for undetermined amounts of time before they completely alter their stances to bat. And any time a base runner speeds towards home plate, the catchers attempting to throw them out have to assume that those base runners will literally try to hurl themselves at the catcher at top speed in order to knock the ball out of the catcher’s glove. Needless to say, this has caused some nasty injuries over the years. Just ask Buster Posey and his broken lower left leg bone and three torn ankle ligaments.
A lot of sports fans are increasingly aware of just how dangerous and full of injuries football can be for players like Peyton Manning. But for what’s sometime supposed to be the most peaceful of America’s pastimes, baseball can be pretty gruesome with its injuries as well. Avoiding the disabled list in the major leagues for five years, let alone 14 is pretty impressive, to say the least.
So give Paul Maholm and A.J. Pierzynski a hand folks. They may both play for sub-.500 teams that probably don’t have too many fans around here but at least they’ve managed to hang in there and make almost every start for a lot longer than some much more well-known players.