|Courtesy of Zimbio|
In 2012, Ricky Romero carried the weight of the Blue Jays starting rotation on his shoulders. After countless arms went down to injury, I suppose carrying that weight for the better part of a season really did take its toll on Romero.
Under normal circumstances, discovering that Ricky Romero underwent surgery would be rather concerning. But in this rare instance, it was actually somewhat of a relief … because then there’s an “excuse” so to speak for his career worst season.
Some might say that playing through an injury is incredibly selfish. But I actually think it’s one of the most selfless things Romero could have done for his injury-riddled teammates.
From Romero’s standpoint, I can completely understand what he did and I commend him for it. Whether or not the injury was mild or moderate, it really does take some stones to pitch through an injury like that.
I’m reminded that Jose Bautista played with a nagging hernia during the his breakout 2010 season. For the final five months of the season, Bautista roughed it out and still somehow managed to hit 54 home runs, all while sitting just one game. Can you imagine what he might have done had he been completely healthy?
Bautista’s case is the exception to the rule though, because more often than not there are players out there playing with undisclosed injuries … whether the team knows about it or not. Jason Frasor was another player who struggled with an injury this season until it finally became too much.
Which brings me to the million dollar question; how hurt does a player have to be to go on the disabled list?
The Blue Jays are certainly no stranger to having some of their players stay on the roster while they were still hurt. There’s the aforementioned Ricky Romero, Jose Bautista, Jason Frasor and even Adam Lind.
After transitioning over to first base, Lind suffered from back pain during the 2010 season. Rather going on the disabled list, he decided to play through it, and it was eventually revealed closer to the end of the season that he was ailing.
At the time, I remember wondering why Lind didn’t just go on the DL. After all, he was occupying a spot on the roster that could’ve been used on somebody else; someone that surely could have gotten on base at a better than .287 clip.
However, I now see it from Adam Lind’s perspective. The instant he alerts the team about his back pain, he becomes a concern. On a visceral level, it must suck to have your livelihood taken away from you.
So I really can’t blame these guys for playing through an injury because it’s probably much better for their psyche to play hurt than to sit at home. I’d probably do the very same thing, because one can only sit around and play so much Little Big Planet every day.
And who’s to say these guys didn’t let the team know that they’re hurting? Perhaps the coaches told them to suck it up and just play through it. Maybe there’s a pain threshold so to speak, and the trainers just send the players on their merry way if they aren’t past that line.
If Ricky Romero spoke with his coaches and trainers and they determined that the pain he was suffering from didn’t warrant a DL stint, then so be it. Even if Ricky didn’t alert the team to what was going on, it’s not like there were any pitchers banging down the door to replace Romero.
Here’s what Ricky had to say himself about his 2012 season:
“There’s a difference between being hurt and being sore. Was I sore at times? Yeah, everyone’s sore. You just continue to pitch.”
I also wonder how much of it is mental. Everybody has a different pain threshold; what might be excruciating for one person might just feel like a small side effect to another. That would explain why Jose Bautista could still hit 54 home runs in 2010 nursing a hernia, while I would surely cower in pain and ask for my momma.
Once again, I commend what Ricky Romero did this year. He could have easily just laid the blame on an injury and attributed his struggles to all of the above. But he never dodged any questions throughout it all and owned up to everything – an old school quality that’s sorely lacking in baseball today.
In this age, it seems like pitchers especially are put under the microscope and babied like never before. With Stephen Strasburg, it was obviously a tug of war between the Nationals and Scott Boras as to whether or not to shut him down; because both sides truly wanted to protect their investment. The Nationals wanted to save Stasburg’s arm for the future while Boras wanted him to build as much value as possible up front to lead to a bigger payday down the road.
In Ricky Romero’s case, he probably wanted to protect himself and continue to prove his value by pitching through the pain … even if that meant he didn’t have all that great a season statistically. It’s an admirable quality, but at the same time it makes me wonder how many other pitchers around the league are doing the very same thing.