Before the start of every season teams sell themselves on the best-case scenario, largely rooted in a long series of “What If” situations based on the premise that all of their players will be healthy. And yet when a couple of players suffer an injury, hell breaks loose.
Why not just plan for injury rather than to deny the possibility? This is not a case of being pessimistic but rather to acknowledge the obvious - guys get hurt.
I asked Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister that very question: Do you plan for injuries?
“That’s a great question that nobody ever asks,” he said. “Nobody.”
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I agree with Banister - it is a great question. At my advancing age, any time I can interject compliments and verbal roses, I’m doing it.
Banister’s belief should be followed by every team in every sport, from the Dallas Cowboys to the Dallas Stars to the TCU Horned Frogs: Plan on guys getting hurt. By planning for injury it forces you to at least have an idea of what worst-case scenarios look like.
Teams pay lip service to planning for “guys getting hurt”, but they never really do. It’s all crossed-fingers.
“Before we went to spring training, one of the things I challenged our guys was with all of the Armageddon scenarios - to have contingency plans for everything you can think of; ‘What do we do if this guy goes down?’” he said. “When you play that exercise out, then you do have an initial plan and it’s not as devastating to you. You don’t think, ‘This ship is sunk.’ To me, if you don’t go through that process you are planning to fail.
“You can almost say before the season starts Player A is going to go on the disabled list because he does every single year. You know that shortstop, center fielders, starting pitchers and catchers get banged up.”
Such planning straddles dangerously close to the age-old concept of, ‘If you think something bad is going to happen, it’s more likely to happen.’ I don’t buy that either. The Banister way is the better way - at least draw out every scenario on the chance your team is hit with catastrophe.
Rangers players such as Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo and others have repeatedly proven they will get hurt, and require time on the DL. May as well plan for it.
There are cases when planning doesn’t even matter. The Rangers’ losing their two top starting pitchers to start the season to major arm injuries (Yu Darvish, Derek Holland) means the backup plans are, to most normal people, Doom and Gloom. Banister had to at least ponder that devastating reality.
He said it’s rooted in watching his dad coach high school football in Texas.
“He had a smaller number in a big district area that any given Friday night we might not have half of the starting lineup because they may not have made the grades,” he said.
Unlike last season the Rangers have not been destroyed by injuries, but more than a few guys have spent some quality time on the DL - Beltre, Yu, Holland, to name a few.
It’s at least better to plan for that inevitability rather than to pretend it won’t happen.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760