It has come to my attention that three of the most important players for three of the most popular professional sports teams in town are all injured to varying degrees.
So here’s a question to ponder: Out of Miguel Sano, Zach Parise and Sam Bradford, which injury is the most concerning? Let’s build a quick case for each:
Miguel Sano, Twins: When Sano left a game on Aug. 19 with a shin injury and placed him on the disabled list a day later, the hope was that it was a short-term thing. But tomorrow is Sept. 19, meaning we are approaching a full month of Sano being out. He’s taking some swings off a tee, but there’s no timetable for his return.
The Twins’ offense has been doing just fine (and then some) without their regular middle-of-the-order hitter, but some way-above-expectations production from several hitters has fueled that surge (including his primary replacement at third base, Eduardo Escobar). If some of those bats suddenly go cold, Sano’s absence would suddenly loom much larger. And with just 13 games left in the regular season and a potential playoff trip looming, it’s getting late fast. Based on that timetable, Sano’s injury has a sense of urgency about it.
Zach Parise, Wild: The Wild’s regular season doesn’t even begin until Oct. 5, so the fact that Parise has missed the team’s first few practices with what has been reported as a tweak to the back injury that sidelined him last season isn’t a real problem — yet.
What is concerning is that Parise’s production dipped to just 19 regular-season goals in 69 games as he fought his way through back troubles last year. Those 19 goals represented his lowest total in a season in which he played at least 65 games since his rookie season (2005-06) in New Jersey. The Wild has scoring depth, but a healthy and productive Parise could be the difference between a team that treads water and one that really contends.
Big-picture, too, there’s this: Counting this season, Parise has a whopping eight years remaining on the 13-year deal, $98 million deal he signed in 2012. Beyond the potential impact on this season, if Parise has chronic back problems his production relative to his salary could be a strain on the Wild for several years to come.
Sam Bradford, Vikings: If Bradford misses any extended period of time, it could derail Minnesota’s season. Out of these three players, he’s the single most important one because of the drop-off to backup Case Keenum and because quarterback is arguably the most important position in all of sports.
Coach Mike Zimmer insists Bradford will be OK, but he also doesn’t know when his starting quarterback will return.
If Bradford misses a big chunk of games and/or finds his production is limited by his knee issues, it also calls into question the Vikings’ long-term plans at quarterback.
Given all that, I’d rank the injuries like this when it comes to concern level: 1) Bradford. The Vikings need him to be healthy and productive this season to have any real shot at meaningful contention. 2) Parise. The Wild had a great regular-season without a great season from Parise last year. But the chronic nature of a back injury means Parise’s injury has short-term and long-term implications. 3) Sano. It’s taken him longer than expected to come back, but he should return healthy at some point and in the mean time the Twins can function without him.