For Tigers and Dodgers, injuries make you wonder what could have been

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Cardinals starter Michael Wacha went home with the NLCS MVP hardware, but perhaps it should have gone to Joe Kelly. Kelly started off the series by drilling shortstop Hanley Ramirez — one of the most productive players during the regular season, and a godsend to the Dodgers in the NLDS — in the ribs with a 95 MPH fastball. Tests later confirmed that Ramirez suffered a cracked rib, but he played through it for the rest of the series. He was ineffective, logging just two hits (both singles) in 19 trips to the plate.

Meanwhile, the Tigers watched a hobbled Miguel Cabrera play out the final two months of the regular season. At one point, he was in a position to take the lead in all three Triple Crown categories, but slowed by a groin injury, Chris Davis jumped far ahead in the home run race. Cabrera was able to muster just one home run in 86 plate appearances in the final month of the season. During the ALDS, he was exploited by Athletics pitching, which held him to no more than one hit per game. He hit just one home run and batted .250. In the ALCS, the Red Sox staff limited him to one or fewer hits in five of six games, and let him homer just once. Cabrera hit .273 in the series.

As both the ALCS and NLCS went six games, one has to wonder what kind of an impact a healthy Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera would have had on their teams’ respective fates. They will, unfortunately, watch the World Series from home as the Red Sox and Cardinals match up in the World Series, starting on Wednesday.

Clay Buchholz apologized to the Phillies for getting injured

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MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.

According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.

It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.

Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.

Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.

Eric Thames leaves game with apparent injury

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Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

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Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.

The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.