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Ferguson: Cabrera situation similar to former Astros' Richard

Scott Ferguson
9/9/2013 12:23:51 PM
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I have to admit I thought Melky Cabrera was just a relatively expensive mistake by the Blue Jays.

The organization gambled that Cabrera could bounce back from last year's PED suspension and be a credible bat, and left fielder hitting near the top of the order.

 When he struggled, we looked at each other knowingly saying this was simply a guy, who couldn't do it anymore without the "Juice".
 
Cabrera looked achingly slow in the outfield, unable to cut off balls hit into the gap, and get to them quickly when they were driven into the corner.

He had a litany of knee, leg muscle and ankle problems and finally shut it down on August 1st. You had to wonder, if the Jays were going to waive him in the off-season and effectively eat the final year of his contract or if Cabrera might even retire.
 
Either way, it looked as though he was done as a member of the Blue Jays.

Then the real story, the more concerning story came out over the weekend.
 
Melky had been playing for months with back pain, and hadn't told anyone, trying to play through the agony.

Finally on a visit, to his own personal doctor, it was discovered Melky had a benign tumour on his spine. It was pressing on the nerves and was causing general leg weakness.
 
Melky underwent successful surgery and should be ready for spring training.

While, this might not explain every aspect of why Cabrera's game faltered this season, it certainly qualifies him for another chance.
 
This story reminds me very much of one of the most dominating right handers of his generation. James Rodney Richard, or J.R. as we knew him, was a giant of a man at 6'8 and 222 pounds. He was the number two overall pick of the Houston Astros in 1969.
 
He was a slow, but steady developer, going 23-16 over his first five seasons, before it all clicked for the intimidating power pitcher.

Over a four year span between 1976 and 1979, he went 74-48 winning 20 games once and 18 games three times.

In 1979, he set an Astros club record with 313 strikeouts that still stands. Over 221 career starts Richard had 76 complete games and 19 shutouts.

However, that would-be Hall of Fame career came to a crashing halt in 1980. J.R. got off to an incredible start that season, winning five straight and striking out 48 over that span. At one point he pitched three straight shutouts.
 
As the season wore on though, it was clear something was wrong as Richard complained of various arm and back troubles.
 
No-one was buying, some members of the media thought the pressure of playing for an Astros team with high expectations was too much for Richard to handle.

Others felt he was jealous of a big contract given to his new free-agent teammate Nolan Ryan.

 In any event, he kept going. In a game on July 14th against Atlanta, his condition worsened.
 
He had trouble seeing the signs flashed by his catcher Alan Ashby and his right arm just wasn't functioning properly.

Richard left that game in the 4th inning, saying his arm was dead, and he couldn't even manipulate his fingers to grasp a ball. It proved to be his final Major League game. He was placed on the 21-day disabled list and nine days later checked in to Methodist Hospital in Houston for a full battery of tests.

 Doctors found two sets of arteries in his arm were obstructed. But later tests found no problems with the arteries in his neck.
 
 On July 30, Richard went to a Chiropractor, who rotated his neck, to improve blood flow in his upper body. Later that day, while playing catch in the Astros pre-game warm-up, Richard suffered a full blown stroke. He had to undergo emergency surgery later that night to clear a blockage in an artery in his neck. Doctors discovered he had actually suffered three separate strokes.
 
 J.R Richard tried to mount a comeback the following season, but it never worked out. He didn't have the same strength or body control.
 
 Richard's life spiraled out of control for a few years after that. Bad investments and two broken marriages left him destitute and at one point living penniless under a bridge.
 
 J.R Richard found salvation through the church and ultimately became a minister and motivational speaker who specialized in helping underprivileged youth.
 
 I guess the morale of this story if there is one, is try to make sure you know all the facts before you judge a player's performance.

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