Injury prone?

One -- again -- approaches this subject warily. When sports columnists wander from their cage in the toy department to grapple with issues like health, medicine, and injury they are instantly out of their depth.

Yet it's reached the point -- nay well surpassed it -- where it's impossible to talk about the games and how they are being won or lost and how seasons are evolving or ought be managed without weighing the injury factor, appraising the disabled lists, and/or probing the waiver wire in search of reinforcements. It has become the study within the study.

Has it always been thus? Yes, to some degree. For as long as people have played games requiring any degree of contact or even just sheer exertion they've been getting hurt. It goes with the territory and those who choose to play accept that.

But vaguely there's the sense this phenomena -- however familiar -- is edging to the level of explosion. Like it's spiraling out of control, while never being more dominant as an element in the analysis. I use the term "sense," because it's not possible to actually "know" for sure.

Of all the stuff that's governed by statistical affirmation in sports, the "injury factor" -- among the most vital -- is the least informed. You can't grade injuries like you do base-hits. Nor is there a body of statistical evidence from the 1933 season to compare with what's happening in 2013. There's plenty of myth from the good old days but anecdotes aren't evidence.

Okay, so the research is not terribly valid and the premises are shaky. But you must agree the discussion has never been more extensive or relevant? Is that merely a by-product of the internet-driven, 24-7, news cycle or can we again blame the talk-show mindset where ignorance is invariably bliss. Again, my answer is; "I don't know."

But it is mighty clear that once again this year (and seemingly as never before) baseball players are dropping like proverbial flies. Does a day pass without a couple more going down? No!

On the afternoon the shaken Red Sox concede reliever Joel Hanrahan -- a prized off-season purchase -- is done for the year the Blue Jays, their opponent that day, are disabling Rajai Davis, their most consistent early-season performer. Just the day before, Boston also loses oft-wounded reliever Andrew Bailey. Meanwhile, the Yankees, whose staggering injury ordeal has made them sentimental favorites, were disabling Eduardo Nunez a day after getting Joba Chamberlain back. Not to be outdone, the Rays disable Brandon Gomes, and the A's -- who'd already lost nine players in one month -- disable Josh Reddick, and the Rangers disable iron-willed A. J. Pierzynski, while the Orioles' Brian Roberts undergoes surgery sidelining him two months.

All this in two days! So it goes in baseball these days.

Hanrahan is a huge loss for Boston. A big beefy character it seems astounding that an apparent minor forearm strain should escalate into major flexor tendon damage so swiftly. It will take him six months to recover; maybe nine. But there were warning signs, now becoming clearer in retrospect.

After five seasons of heavy duty relieving he sagged late last year in Pittsburgh. He was shaky in March, got banged-up in April, now is gone in May. Should the Red Sox have wondered why the Pirates were so eager to dispose of a seemingly vital piece in their re-building? Might Hanrahan have been compromised by a yearning to "tough it out"? It wouldn't be the first time a beefy character failed to recognize signals being sent by his own body.

Relievers are notably vulnerable because while their role has been undergoing radical revision there's been no agreement on how best to keep them healthy, though there's no shortage of theories. Relievers have always been inscrutable. For much of baseball history it was a role reserved for the screwiest and most-hard boiled, veteran rubber-arms.

Save "maybe" for Jonathan Papelbon the Red Sox never had greater ones than Ellie Kinder, Dick Radatz, and Sparky Lyle although Sparky unfortunately got to certify his brilliance in the Bronx. This delightful trio had much in common including unlimited moxie and a fine sense of the absurd. But most importantly, all three were fabulous screwballs a Ring Lardner might have been pleased to create.

Kinder, whose wonderful works were wasted on indifferent Sox teams of the fifties, was even more legendary for his antics. It was said the stiffer he got the better he pitched. There's that legendary tale of him driving his car into a Brookline tree at five in the morning and explaining to the gendarmes that he swerved to avoid running over a dog. It inspired a teammate -- probably Frank Sullivan -- to observe, "Actually, I think Ellie saw three dogs."

Old Ellie's madcap life-style had no effect on his performance. Indeed it may have inspired it. He pitched well deep into his forties. Radatz, who for at least two seasons was the greatest relief pitcher ever to walk the face of the earth, was even wilder off the field. It's hard to know if that led to the fabled ''Monster's'' premature burn-out. Much more suspect was the immense burden he was made to bear. As for Sparky, a tall scotch and soda brought out the best in him; on or off the field.

It's the likes of such colorful chaps that stir old-timers -- we dinosaurs, if you will -- to wonder if modern techniques and tactics aren't what they are said to be. Ostensibly modern players in all games -- most especially baseball -- have colossal advantages in the maintaining of health, conditioning, and durability.

The list is endless: better equipment, better playing conditions, safety features (helmets etc.), huge advances in surgical procedures, new medical tools (MRI's etc.), vitamins and other legal enhancements, sophisticated training programs, year-round medical attentions, heightened sensitivity to issues like concussions, regulated diets, counseling.

Where once a part-time, team-doc and a poorly trained trainer bore most of the burden, all teams now have on-call medical staffs quite the equal of what first-class regional hospitals offer in much of the country. If you play for a team like the Red Sox, you have the best medical services in the universe at your fingertips and it's eager to serve your every tender whim.

Yet the problem has never been greater and while I don't have facts to back that up, I know it's true and so do you.

Knowing how to skillfully deal with injury is becoming a crucial attribute of a smart front-office. Last year, the Red Sox used injury as the major excuse for an awful season and accordingly got much sympathy. But the Yankees were just as much impacted yet won the division and made the playoffs. Both teams last year lost well more than a thousand games of player-service to injury.

However, at their present rate the Yankees will exceed that this year. With 11 players disabled and 306 manpower-games lost, they're second only to the Dodgers, who've been decimated, in injury impact. It's interesting that the two highest-payroll teams should be so affected. Or is it merely ironic?

Yet here we find the Yanks hanging out on top, as usual. G.M. Brian Cashman is taking well-deserved bows for skillfully patching his lineup with cheap, veteran, role-players while his erstwhile all-stars gracing the D.L. continue to mend. But then it's only May. We'll see how things look in July.

If there's an explanation maybe it has to do with the simple fact that in all leagues nowadays, more games are played, in longer more grueling seasons, by bigger and stronger people, with greater intensity than ever, for the highest stakes ever.

This discussion has been mainly confined to baseball. But when you watch hockey's astounding Stanley Cup Playoffs -- a veritable human demolition derby -- it seems a wonder as many survive as do.

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...