Injuries are a part of baseball. In fact, they are a part of every sport. Every year, any team is going to have to deal with injuries, which is why depth tends to be such an important factor in building a team.
With that said, it seems like this season has been worse than most for the Twins on the injury front. Numerous players have had their performances impeded throughout the season due to various ailments, and in some cases it appears that the injury issues may carry over into next season.
Joe Mauer has played hurt throughout the majority of the season. From a stress reaction in spring training to a strained quad in May to a hamstring injury in late August, Mauer's legs have been giving him trouble pretty consistently, and it seems likely that the problems have played a big part in his disappointing numbers while limiting him to just 107 games. Now, it has come to light that Mauer will likely need hernia surgery in the offseason. This is generally considered to be a minor surgery and it shouldn't present a problem going forward, but it does put an exclamation point on what has been an injury-riddled season for the defending batting champ.
Looking up and down the Twins' offense, you'd have trouble finding anyone who hasn't dealt with a notable injury of some sort. Jason Bartlett missed a chunk of games after straining his hamstring in August. Michael Cuddyer hurt his back early in the season and later spent time on the disabled list due to an injured thumb. Mike Redmond is done for the year thanks to an injured finger. Jose Morales went 3-for-3 in his big-league debut before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Rondell White was Rondell White. Just about the only position player that avoided injury in 2007 was Nick Punto, which is impressive considering that many people were no doubt jabbing away with needles at their Lil' Nicky voodoo doll.
While these injuries have no doubt slowed down the offense over the course of the season, it's at least comforting to know that none of them seem to be serious enough that they will carry over into the 2008 season. The pitching staff -- specifically the bullpen -- has not been so lucky.
After getting off to a horrible start this season, Jesse Crain learned that had a torn labrum and rotator cuff. He underwent surgery at the end of May, but the road to recovery for such a procedure is long and difficult; it seems that the Twins would be fortunate to get anything out of Crain even next season.
Pat Neshek, who set a career high with 71 appearances out of the bullpen this season, has been shut down for the season due to what has been described as "a weak shoulder that has led to an inflamed ligament in his elbow." Reportedly, the injury is not believed to be serious, but it's difficult not to read that statement and be reminded of the diagnosis that was initially given to Francisco Liriano last year.
Speaking of Liriano, he missed the entire 2007 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last winter. All reports have indicated that Liriano is on track to return to the Twins next spring, but you can never be too sure when dealing with such a drastic surgery.
Much has been made of the disappointing season that the Twins have had, but it is not often mentioned that their clubhouse has basically turned into an infirmary this season. If things are to improve next year, many hitters will have to bounce back from disappointing '07 campaigns, but it may be equally important that the guys who were nicked up this season get back to full strength and stay healthy and productive all season next year.