This news rarely turns in the other direction. 

The Texas Rangers might not know for sure yet, as Yu Darvish discussed (via Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News), but the sprain in his ulnar collateral ligament is likely to lead to Tommy John surgery. He will be done for this season.

With that continues the Rangers’ misfortune of injuries and probably ends their chances at postseason baseball in 2015. It also continues a baseball epidemic—we are not using that diagnosis lazily—that has seen elbows fail again and again, with Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez, two of baseball’s brightest stars, the latest in a dense line of promising or established arms.

Now, Darvish. The New York Times‘ Tyler Kepner provided Jon Daniels’ comments regarding how promising Darvish looked “early in camp”:

Maybe it’s been lost on baseball-watching America because it hasn’t seen much of Darvish in the last year, either because of injury or his team’s irrelevance. But this guy is legit. In an age of pitcher revival, Darvish is an ace.

Since arriving in America prior to the 2012 season, Darvish has struck out hitters at a double-digit-per-nine-inning rate, been an All-Star three times and could undoubtedly be classified as elite.

“When he’s right, he’s one of the best in the game,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told’s Jerry Crasnick. “That much is clear. You’re talking about a guy who’s a year removed from being second in the Cy Young voting. It speaks for itself.”

Darvish is now part of the franchise’s ongoing problem. Again.

The Rangers are coming off one of the most injury-struck seasons in recent memory, one that took them from contenders to about the worst record in baseball, and Darvish was a part of the ugly run. Now, after a snag that was hopefully no more than a triceps bug, the Texas ace is likely gone until May 2016 if surgery is needed.

Major League Baseball has taken on the Pitch Smart initiative, which vows, “A series of practical, age-appropriate guidelines to help parents, players and coaches avoid overuse injuries and foster long, healthy careers for youth pitchers.”

But as a culture, worldwide, we are well beyond that for entire generations of pitchers. Harvey, Fernandez and Stephen Strasburg are examples that immediately stick out. Young pitchers all of them. But Darvish is 28, going on 29 by the end of this season. He was supposed to be clear of this sort of trauma. Yet here he is, another casualty of a baseball problem that is far bigger than pace of play or the length of the season.

Darvish is done now. He is the latest. He will not be the last.

And the Rangers are left to continue cleaning up a mess they believed to be tidy.

Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and even Darvish. The Rangers expected more from them all, at least in terms of them being on the playing surface. But with this Darvish news, spoiling the playoff hopes of the Los Angeles Angels or Seattle Mariners or Oakland A’s is about the best they can hope for.

Last year the Rangers lost 2,116 days to the disabled list, according to Jeff Zimmerman of Hardball Times. That total is the most in the majors, dating back to 2002, and Darvish is likely going to add 162 days to their 2015 total before 2015 even begins, and one-time top prospect Jurickson Profar, who already added 162 last season, could add up to four months to the tally. 

Fielder is healthy. So is Choo. Adrian Beltre is a steady force, and Elvis Andrus will again be counted on. Yovani Gallardo is in the fold, and Derek Holland should be ready to fill his rotation spot once the season starts.

But none of that really matters. Darvish was the key. He was the ace most slumping teams do not have, the guy the Rangers would lean on every fifth game.

There are options to replace Darvish, sure. The Rangers have been interested in Cole Hamels in the past, according to The Dallas Morning News, and now Dillon Gee is an option. So is Cliff Lee. But at this point, does it make much sense? Is it worth giving up a top prospect or two to have what you had just days before? Can the franchise justify moving out a player like Jake Thompson or Jorge Alfaro, two of its best prospects, just to replace Darvish?

No. Because Hamels or Lee or Gee will not make the Rangers a contender. Maybe one of them along with Darvish and Gallardo would have, but that is no longer a plausible scenario.

Anytime an awakening of the Rangers was discussed this offseason, it started with Darvish. Now it ends with his faulty right elbow.

A season after losing Harvey and Fernandez, baseball faces a 2015 without Darvish, stars all of them. It is a true epidemic, and this season already has a feeling of “here we go again” for fans and the Rangers.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired first-hand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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