Today is an off-day. Usually off-days are filled with the frustration of no baseball but that frustration is tempered with the certainty of baseball tomorrow. One can look back the series that just wrapped up or ahead to the series that will commence tomorrow. But, not today. This off-day we collectively sit in a virtual waiting room, anxiously awaiting either a confirmation of our deepest fear or an answer to our collective prayer. Albert Pujols was injured yesterday and we don't know how badly injured he is. Not knowing is the hardest part.
The play developed innocently enough. It was a grounder up the middle of the diamond off the bat of Wilson Betemit, slightly on the second baseman's side of the bag. Pete Kozma--much more skilled with the glove than Skip Schumaker--was able to range to his right, slickly backhand the ball, and perform the jump throw so often employed by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. It was a fine play by Kozma, but his throw drifted. Pujols followed and, just like that, the three-time MVP's glove hand met Betemit, who was running to first base full-speed. Pujols's red-laced navy mitt went flying as his hand bent awkwardly. Pujols immediately grasped his left hand and crumpled to the grass in foul territory. It was there he would lay as the training staff did whatever it is the Cardinals training staff does.
After a collective gasp, a funereal silence permeated Busch Stadium as the trainers tended to the crown jewel of the Cardinal lineup. The beer man was not calling out his sales pitch and no one was flagging down the peanut vendor. All eyes were on the fallen star as he grasped his quickly swelling hand and wrist, clearly in pain. The trainers poked and prodded. Eventually, the great Pujols rose and was escorted off the field and back to the clubhouse, accompanied by a concerned applause from the fans in attendance. The manner of his leaving cast a shadow over the reminder of the Father's Day ballgame at Busch, and it is a shadow that may yet stretch another fifteen or sixty days into the season, if not longer. We just do not know.
Injuries are never fun and serious injuries often jarring. For a fan base that has been force-fed rosy injury forecasts that, seemingly time and again, have proven to be as accurate as your typical local weatherman's forecast, the pins and needles upon which we now sit seem all the sharper. The initial declaration of a sprained wrist from the St. Louis Cardinals, LLC has been met with an understandable sneer, if not a snarky guffaw. Even as the club itself attempted to put on the happy face of optimism, Pujols provided a contrast. (Perhaps the reason for all of the poor injury management over the years was shoddy equipment?)
General manager John Mozeliak said on Sunday afternoon that Pujols underwent an X-ray as part of his initial examination, and that no broken bones were revealed at that time. Still, a full read on the severity of Pujols' injury will not be available until at least Monday.
"There is going to be another round of diagnostic testing in the morning," Mozeliak said. "Just to rule out ligament issues and all that. I'm cautiously optimistic, but I couldn't handicap it either way at this point."
In the same article from the Cardinals' propaganda arm, Pujols appeared to discredit the training staff's X-ray while looking to the tests and examinations to be performed today:
"I can't give you too much until we do X-rays tomorrow," Pujols told reporters after the game. "Pretty much right now, I'm just telling you I'm pretty sore in my wrist and my shoulder. We'll see tomorrow. We took a look at it. I passed a couple tests. But tomorrow, we still need to do an X-ray and an MRI. They can't tell anything with the machine that we have here."
And so, here we are, in our virtual waiting room, attempting to be strong. Pujols would want us to be strong. Today, Pujols will escape the facilities used by the St. Louis training staff to do whatever it is they do for the safety of a real-life hospital with a real-life X-ray machine and a real-life MRI with real-life doctors. Today we will get an idea of just how long the third spot in the Cardinals batting order will be filled by Matt Holliday. In a season that started off with the worst possible injury news regarding Adam Wainwright and has seen player after player hit the disabled list, the St. Louis Cardinals could use some good injury news for once.
*For the second week in a row, the VEB community has caught a mistake by me. Today, it was Yadi2Second, catching my use of the wrong word: "baited" instead of the proper "bated." A tip of the hat to Yadi2Second.