The Chicago White Sox have been one of the busiest teams over the off-season and this has raised expectations that a 2015 play-off push is not out of the question after struggling through two poor seasons.
Spring Training is the time of year when every team looks for whatever positives they find can to dream of a good season ahead, yet it can also be a period when harsh reality kicks in.
Spring Training game results aren’t the issue, a good win-loss record in the Cactus or Grapefruit League doesn’t amount to much, it’s the ever-present fear of injury that can be so cruel.
News that ace pitcher Chris Sale had suffered an injury must have given White Sox fans a real scare. Thankfully, the right-foot fracture he has suffered should only put his pre-season routine out by three weeks. It might well mean that Sale will not be on the mound for Opening Day, but much better that he has a slightly delayed start to the season than missing an extended period.
Still, it’s an early reminder that for all we focus on off-season transactions and predictions of probable Opening Day line-ups, injuries are an unavoidable part of baseball and can have a significant bearing on a team’s fortunes.
No one knows that better than the Texas Rangers, who were absolutely devastated by injuries in 2014. This year has started in a similarly demoralising way as former top prospect Jurickson Profar has undergone shoulder surgery that will see him miss a second consecutive full season. Profar is still young enough to come back and have a successful career, but it’s the latest setback for the Rangers who have had some ridiculous bad luck.
Just a few years ago they made back-to-back World Series and seemed set to be play-off contenders for years to come thanks to an enviable crop of young talent, with Profar being one of the leading lights. It would be a shock if they didn’t greatly improve on their miserable 2014 record of 67-95 as that was a year when pretty much everything fell apart, culminating in manger Ron Washington moving on.
New manager Jeff Banister has a good roster of players to pick from and will be looking to lead his team back into play-off contention this year.
Like the rest of us, he’ll be mindful of the Spring Training league standings and how individual players are performing, but the main concern simply will be getting through March with as few injuries as possible.