Chase Headley: A Riddle Wrapped In a Mystery Inside an Enigma

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Artwork courtesy of Jeremy Nash

Chase Headley has been walking around on crutches in the Padres’ Spring Training clubhouse in Peoria thanks to a strained right calf muscle. It’s merely the latest in a surprisingly rich history of injuries suffered by Headley over the past few years. And that may answer a few questions.

You may be asking, “What questions?”

How about:

Why hasn’t Headley been able to put up the equivalent of his second half 2012 numbers over a full season?

August 2011: Fractured Left Pinkie

Headley fractured his left pinkie finger while sliding on August 6, 2011 against the Pirates. Headley was hitting .292 with four home runs and 43 RBIs at the time of the injury. And some might say it was a sign of things to come, in both positive and negative ways.

2012

I think we all know what happened in 2012. While the Padres were extending contracts of some of their players (Cameron Maybin and Cory Luebke), they did not pursue a deal with Headley due to the potential of third base prospects Jedd Gyorko and Logan Forsythe. After a slow start, Headley was rumored to be traded but was kept at the trade deadline in July. Headley was a monster at the plate after the trade deadline. He was tied for the major league lead in home runs (10) and led the majors with 31 RBIs in August. He hit .306 (33-for-108) in August with 20 runs scored and a .611 slugging percentage. Over the final 57 games of the season, he batted .313 with 19 homers, 44 runs scored and 63 RBIs.

Padres fans screamed “EXTEND HEADLEY!” at the tops of their lungs during the 2012-13 offseason.

March 2013: Fractured Left Thumb

Headley fractured the tip of his left thumb attempting to break up a double play sliding into second base during Spring Training. He missed the first 2 weeks of the season and never really found a groove all season.

As it turns out, there could have been another reason for that…

October 2013: Torn Left Meniscus

Headley had arthroscopic knee surgery immediately after last season. He said the knee gave him problems when he hit from the left side. I give him credit for going out there anyway last season and not using it as an excuse for his “below average” performance.

2014: Strained Right Calf

After suffering a “Grade 1” strain of his right calf during infield drills Saturday, Headley will likely miss anywhere from two to three weeks after getting an MRI yesterday.

Now, does this mean if he was healthy for an entire season, Headley would put up gaudy numbers? No. He has always been a late bloomer, as 2012 showed. However, all these nagging little injuries can only cut into his training and conditioning. I’d would have loved to have seen what a healthy Chase Headley could have done with a full year last season.

Now, it looks more and more like this year will be Headley’s last in a Padres uniform. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season and doesn’t want to talk about a contract extension during the season. If he manages to regain his 2012 form early the Padres will be faced with the tough choice of whether or not to trade him.

What say you? Does this calf injury mean Headley gets hot later as he has in the past? Or is this just a hiccup and everything will be coming up roses in a few weeks? Is he gone at the trade deadline? After the season? Or do the Padres manage to pull of a minor miracle and sign him to an extension? Tell me stories in the comments.

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