Cubs have to stay healthy if they want to contend in 2023

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

If you are bored, or having trouble sleeping, trying scanning the Cubs transaction log from this season. It is of Tolstoyan proportions. The people in charge of reporting these to MLB deserve an end-of-season bonus. What stands out the most is, as you might have guessed, is the injuries. You may want to whistle the theme song from M*A*S*H* as you read (as I did while writing this).

A good friend pointed out that in one of these stories, I recently used the term ‘disabled’ list instead of ‘injured list. That was officially changed before 2019 and if that offended anyone, my apologies. Old habits die hard, right?

The Cubs are tied for second in MLB this year with 31 players on the IL, missing a combined 1,875 games – the fourth-highest mark in the league. This is obviously one category you do not want to be among the league leaders. Bear in mind there are players who haven’t even played yet here in mid-September, namely Adbert Alzolay. Manny Rodriguez just resumed pitching in late August after missing the rest of the year due to injury.

I am a fan. I have no expert knowledge of injuries and the like. Yet, this seems extreme. There are various types of injuries. The reason for the injury is often, but not often indicated. There has been appendicitis, COVID, inflammation, sprains, strains, turf toe and a freak ‘mouth injury’ to Jonathan Villar.

Regardless of the reason, the Cubs have to cut down on injuries

I already wrote of the lockout and its potential impact on injuries, especially pitcher’s arms. EVERY starting pitcher (from April 4) has been on the IL, all of them, and Marcus Stroman and Keegan Thompson have been twice. Justin Steele, who is currently on the injured list, is leading the team in innings pitched with just 119 frames across 24 starts. The entire Opening Day lineup has been been sidelined, as well, with a lone exception in Ian Happ.

It gets worse. Besides Stroman and Thompson, Jason Heyward, Alec Mills, Frank Schwindel and Andrelton Simmons have also been on the IL two times. This week, Nick Madrigal hit the shelf for the third time this year – very much throwing his future role into doubt.

The Cubs are currently on pace to win 68 games. Obviously, if more players had been healthy, that number would certainly be higher. I know 2016 is an anomaly because of the World Series championship, but the rotation started 152 of the 162 games. Mike Montgomery started five and five others one each. This season, 16 different pitchers have thrown the first pitch and we all expect Hayden Wesneski to make that 17 sooner rather than later. Forty-one different pitchers have taken the mound this season, three of those were position players.

Next. Cubs on pace for fifth-worst record in last 20 years. dark

I realize the game has changed since I was a kid collecting baseball cards and reliever Phil Reagan (1969) amassed a staggering 112 innings. You cannot prevent appendicitis or the bizarre Villar injury.  I am not criticizing trainers and medical staff, but keeping these guys on the field in 2023 needs to be a major focus this winter. This just isn’t sustainable.