Whatever happens with A.J. Burnett this year, he will always endear himself to fans of the Philadelphia Phillies for deciding to pitch through a sports hernia.
In an age where other pitchers routinely make themselves unavailable (see Jonathan Papelbon) due to things like “sore necks” and other questionable reasons, Burnett was diagnosed with a sports hernia earlier this season and eschewed an operation in an attempt to tough it out.
Good for him for a couple of reasons. Burnett signed a one-year, $16 million deal to pitch for the Phillies this season despite having once settled on retiring in the offseason. He could have taken the injury, went home and collected the rest of the $16 million without doing so much as lifting anything heavier than a 12-ounce can of his favorite beverage.
There’s another reason for continuing to carry on because Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings’ running back, proved that you can play through even an MVP season (2012) with a sports hernia.
Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards that season, eight short of the 1984 record set by Eric Dickerson. For Peterson, the surgery he needed was put off until after the season. Burnett can do the same. Peterson proved an athlete can play through a certain amount of pain and even do great things. For Burnett to leave that possibility on the table in a year that might be his last would not be giving him or the team that took a chance on him a chance to win.
Burnett should keep on keeping on until he can no longer do it and, for that — no matter what happens — Philadelphia fans will always admire his toughness and wish all of his teammates would have displayed the same qualities.