The Cautionary Tale of J.R. Richard

One of the shows the MLB Network has in abundance is a series called “Prime 9”. It’s your garden variety “lists” show, only devoted to baseball-centric topics. One of them that I caught recently was on players who “coulda been great”. J.R. Richard was one of those featured, and his numbers warrant a mention.

Beginning in 1975 and running through 1980, Richard had a streak of throwing least 110 innings annually. During that time, Richard failed to post a FIP over 3.5, and actually had a few sub-2.5 seasons and one sub-2 season. Nolan Ryan signed with the Astros as a free agent for the 1980 season, giving the Astros a heck of a one-two punch, but Richard would miss half the season. Richard noted discomfort in his throwing arm and shoulder, yet was criticized as a whiner. In July, Richard would suffer a stroke and would later need to undergo surgery to unclog a blockage.

Richard would never pitch in a major league game again.

Often, fans and media members praise players for playing through pain and injury. Players who choose to sit out are labeled as fragile, soft, or simply as guys who don’t care about the game or winning. In reality, the “warriors” are actually hurting their team if they play with a performance-affecting injury, yet you would never know it by the praise thrown his way.

Obviously not all injuries are actually the signs of strokes or something worse, but the players know their bodies better than most. If such player says he can’t go today because of a sore wrist then it’s probably for the best if he doesn’t play that day. Some players in the past may have embellished injuries, but trying to judge motives is a slippery slope.

In the future, be careful of who you label as “guys with big hearts”, one might actually have one.

We hoped you liked reading The Cautionary Tale of J.R. Richard by R.J. Anderson!

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Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Reminds me of when Aaron Rowand broke his beak on that chain link fence, and everybody was heaping the “warrior” praise on him. Uh, no, he traded one single out for several weeks on the pine. Bad decision.

Thomas
Guest
Thomas

Actually, it saved three runs as the Phillies went on to win the game and later the World Series while Shane Victorino did his best Pujols impersonation in Rowand’s stead to the tune of .361/.400/.607.

Win-win the way I see it…

nails
Guest
nails

guys like aaron rowand, ryan freel, eric byrnes, they only know how to play the game 1 way, thats full speed, all effort all the time. thats how they were able to make it to the big leagues, and guys like that cant just turn it off on a potential game saving play bc they might break a nose.

theres a reason why guys like wes welker will never back down from a slant pattern over the middle bc thats how they became the players they are today.

obviosly theres a difference if he would have knowingly run full speed into a brick wall to cut a 1st inning double into a single and suffered multiple head wounds.

side note, just a week before the injury, rowand told the phillies that the CF wall needed padding so something like that didnt happen, but apparently padding isnt something you can buy in the greater metropolitan area of philadelphia, so they never “fixed” it till after the fact.