Tomorrow's going to see the return to Fenway of three players all seen as vital to the success of the 2012 Red Sox. One of them, Kevin Youkilis, will be wearing a White Sox jersey. The other two, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, will be returning from long absences due to injury. Ellsbury, as you recall, suffered a dislocated shoulder while sliding into second base in a game against Tampa in April. Crawford's been battling a number of ailments, originally missing time in the early season recovering from wrist surgery, and more recently nursing an elbow injury that may wind up requiring further surgery.
Crawford's return brings up an old question, though. The Sox left-fielder was quoted last week as saying that he was returning to the team not because he felt fully healthy, but because "I feel the pressure of everybody wanting me to be out there." The pressure is there, certainly. Even taking into account his disappointing performance last year, Crawford is probably a better bet for long-term performance than current left fielder Daniel Nava. The Red Sox signed Crawford to a massive contract in 2010 with the assumption that he'd be a productive member of the lineup, and clearly he can't do that from the bench.
But having watched the steady decline of Kevin Youkilis, in part caused by his refusal to sit while injured (and occasionally his unwillingness to even disclose injuries), and having seen Dustin Pedroia struggle through an injured thumb which wound up putting him on the DL anyway, it bears asking whether playing through injury is actually commendable. (One important clarification: by "injury" I mean something that could theoretically justify a DL trip, not the day-to-day dings and aches of a season.)
So I'll put this one to you all. Is Crawford's decision to try a comeback even with his elbow still hurting a good idea? Was Dustin Pedroia right to try playing through his thumb injury? Should ballclubs allow them to try, or should there be more intervention on the part of management? At what point does staying on the field become counterproductive for a player, and more importantly, for his team? Chat away.