Just saying ...
Let's begin with Lou Gehrig:
How could a guy who played that hard keep from getting injured?
He didn't. He just kept playing. He had three broken fingers, dozens of fevers, and certainly more than his share of aches and pains, until ultimately, sadly, ironically, he played himself to death - or would have, had not the final diagnosis literally kept him from playing.
Is that to say all MLBers should play with the same intensity? In a word, yes! Intensity, yes, but they may be forgiven when hurt beyond reasonably being able to play.
Got a headache? Take an analgesic and play!
It hurts when you pee? Stop playing around with "roadies", get the shots to cure it, and play!
The wife is sleeping with the hitting coach? Make HER teach you to perform better!
Joe D. is next. Some say he bailed too early. He called it quits after the 51 series, he said, because of all the recurring injuries. But the scuttlebutt tells a deeper story!
Since Mantle had that career threatening injury in the 51 series, it was easy to envision the Yankees needing Joe for one more season, at age 38, in 1952. But Casey Stengel wanted no part of the continuing lionization of Joe. He had his boy (Berra) and his new boy (Mantle) to carry the torch. Add to that the fact that Joe had slowed down and his arm was all but gone, Casey judged that carrying Joe without demoting him to a part time player (Casey was the master of platooning) and the bottom of the batting order was a P.R. nightmare. And with Topping and Webb holding the purse-strings, saving that 100K salary (12 times the average player's) was a huge deal to them.
Truth be told - anyone who looks at Joe D.'s final season stats will plainly see the decline in baseball production, including the abysmal 200 point drop in OPS (which wasn't a known quantum in those days). The injuries were true, and Joe D. played only half an injury plagued season in 1949 and "willed" the Yankees to that WS championship, despite Teddy Ballgame coming within .0004 of his third triple crown! And the Yankees had to beat the Bosox in both the last two games of 1949 to reach the series.
Joe knew it was time to go.
Mantle's injuries were massive and well documented, and through it all (because baseball was all Mickey knew) he played until he was almost literally in tears. No wonder he drank so damned much! It numbed the pain, which when not deadened by the adrenaline of competition, was all the more intense.
But because Mickey was Mickey, the press suddenly went with their "yellow journalism" mutation on anyone else who took a day off, including "my man", Roger Maris, who was victimized not only for daring to hit 61 homers and surpassing the Babe, but not performing while injured when Mickey played the way he did.
But Mickey didn't play when he was legitimately injured (Duh!) whereas Roger DID HAVE a broken hand that the team stupidly misdiagnosed . The press had a field day with that. But it's in Wikipedia. Roger played 1965 with a broken hand, and his average plummeted 40 points, while the press called him malingerer. (As a personal testament, I will compare Roger to Paul O'Neill for arm strength, intensity (hustle), and overall hitting, but certainly less apt to damage any water coolers. That's a very fair comparison, so that younger readers may relate to this man.)
Whitey Ford pitched for a living, so it was virtually impossible to play hurt. But through cardiac scare or aneurysm, he pitched until his arm gave out that fateful day in Detroit. He felt it. And he was cruising along with an ERA of 1.64 - no getting whacked around, although the Yankees' hitting was no longer there to win games in which he gave up two or more runs.
Thurman Munson, over decade later, was in such pain during the 1978 World Series that (on film) he struggled like a newborn colt, just to fight his way back to his feet. It's why they experimented with him playing RF (a total failure) and why he was willing to suggest Cleveland as his next team, to be close to home and to DH, which fate interrupted by that weather downburst in Canton, in 1979.
Donny Baseball, whose career was shredded by back problems until he was just an ordinary performer ... until his first and only taste of post season in 1995. Then, he either mainlined analgesics or ignored the consequences of pain because, after all, it was his valedictory performance. Look it up. He led the team in hits, doubles, RBI (tied) and hit .417, making sure not to go out with a whimper.
And all this leads me to comment on A-Rod, who I defend as a performer ... up to a point.
When I read (and commented on) last week that A-Rod is to go ahead with hip surgery, more serious than the 2008-2009 off season, I assumed he would get it done as soon as possible, right? (The old DiMaggio saying about owing the fans 100% each and every time in case they never saw him before.)
Well, today, I'm reading that A-Rod is putting off surgery until mid January, moving back his possible return until after the All-Star game.
THAT's a month less of time to perform for the fans! If you're hurt, fine. Get it fixed on the company dime. But this month delay (at a cost to the Yankees of 2 1/3 million dollars) is tantamount to malingering. And in one month of his salary (which MLB/players bargaining agreement would never allow), if he can't give that back, then he should donate it to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort!
That would show the fans who booed him that he is a true Yankee and not another Ebeneezer Stooge! (misspelling intentional)
Oh, and BTW, beginning in 2013 and for the rest of A-Rod's contract, there are bonuses built in for HR milestones from 660 right through 763.
I Wish I could bring back Freddie Mercury (who sang while dying of AIDS - how's that for playing hurt?) to reprise his famous refrain ... "On with the show"!