The injury bug has ruined many a Christmas, and not a few baseball seasons.
I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about Michael Saunders' knee.
Before Saunders had surgery today, I was planning to write about how odd it was that the same people who were wringing their hands about the absence of Michael Saunders from the lineup, were many of the same ones who were complaining about how he wasn’t going to hit after the Jays traded for him.
Anyway. Now we probably don't have to worry about whether Kevin Pillar or Andy Dirks could fill in adequately in LF (they could have, but if Pompey got hurt or struggled, the team would be in dire straits in the OF). Point being, losing Bautista or Donaldson would be would be disastrous; losing Saunders isn't. J-Bau and J-Don are both expected to produce 5+ fWAR, while Saunders has never been worth more than 2.1 fWAR and Steamer has him projected to 1.7 WAR (over 113 games, and he may yet reach that threshold!). Saunders' replacements might be worth half a win less over a half season.
But now all those concerns are behind us, because Saunders didn't have the meniscus in his knee repaired, he had the damaged part of the meniscus removed. Removing the meniscus cuts the recovery time to 5-6 weeks, instead of 4-5 months.
I understand that the damage to the meniscus was severe enough, once the doctor had opened up the knee to look, that the torn portion was irreparable and had to be removed. That makes me feel a bit better about the fact that Saunders had reportedly decided to have it removed, regardless of whether it could have been repaired, so he could come back sooner. His coming back sooner is obviously in everyone's best short-term interest, but losing the meniscus will make it more likely that Saunders suffers from serious knee issues (arthritis), later on in his life.
I can totally understand why Michael Saunders wants to be back sooner - aside from wanting to play baseball and contribute to his new team, he's going into his final arbitration season, and missing 60% of it will likely cut into his future earnings. Pro athletes have short careers; baseball players play longer than football players do, but even so, Saunders might only have 3 or 4 good years left. Missing significant time this year could really cost him, earnings-wise.
All that makes perfect sense. But isn't Saunders deciding to get important parts of his knee removed so he can keep playing analogous to a guy with a concussion getting back on the field so he doesn't lose his job? Knee injuries aren't brain injuries, but isn't the principle the same - a player (or his team) risking his long term health so he can help the team in the short term?
Maybe Michael Saunders doesn't turn into Mo Vaughan by his mid 30s. Maybe he has a great career and an arthritic knee in retirement is a price well worth paying. But I'm glad, in a way, that the injury was so bad that repair wasn't an option. Because if there was a choice, I would have a hard time feeling good about the choice Saunders made.