Mike Wilner says a lot of things I agree with in his post yesterday talking about Vernon Wells and Edwin Encarnacion's wrist surgeries. In two of the last three years Vernon has had terrible seasons and seemingly in both he has tried to play through injuries. Now to his credit, neither year has he tried to use the injury as an excuse. In 2007 he hurt his shoulder and he never said anything about it, publicly, though the team knew and shut him down in September. This year we never knew anything about the wrist and wouldn't have known except the Jays announced he was having surgery. He had a cortisone shot in spring training and was taking anti-inflammatories during the season.
Now we tend to admire players for playing hurt. TV color commentators will give you 10 minutes on how 'back in their day' you played hurt, they didn't have Tommy John surgery. 'Why Mickey Mantle hit 500+ home runs on one good leg.' And I do admire guys that try to tough it out through an injury. Maybe it's the hockey background we have, growing up on stories of players getting stitched up in the trainer's room and coming back to play next period. "Don Cherry says get up."
But baseball, especially batting, is such a split second thing that it doesn't always work to play hurt. But like Wilner says:
It’s very difficult to blame a player for not wanting to come out of the line-up if he’s physically able to play (never mind play well). It’s exceedingly rare to find a player who will step back and say "Not only am I not helping, but I’m hurting the team and embarrassing myself in the process. I have to ask out." Don’t blame Wells for wanting his name written into the line-up everyday.
So who to blame?
At some point, Cito Gaston (and John Gibbons before him) has to be the grown-up, as it were, and tell Wells that he’s doing more harm than good trying to play in his condition and sit him down - or at least drop him to a far lower-leverage spot in the batting order until he gets healthy.