Athletes Who Would Be Great(er) if They Hadn't Spent Half Their Careers on the DL

Who are some athletes that would be great (or greater) if they hadn’t spent significant portions of their career injured? I’ll toss out a few for discussion.

Mark Prior: In five seasons he’s 42-29. That’s 71 games in which he figured into the decision, where should have had 120 or more. Considering his winning percentage, he should have 70 or 80 wins by now, against 45-55 losses. He could potentially be a Hall of Fame pitcher if he could stay off the DL.

Kerry Wood: 30 years old, had has 10 seasons with the same team, and has managed all of 71 wins, against 56 losses, and is now a bullpen pitcher.

Rex Grossman: The Bears’ #1 draft pick who had, what was it, all of 3 starts over his first 3 seasons in the NFL? As of now he’s a mediocre quarterback who many Bears fans think should be on the second string (if not completely cut).

Ken Griffey, Jr.: He’s pushing 40, and is in his 19th season. He has 590 career Home Runs, and could conceivable have over 700 if he hadn’t been beset by injuries for large portions of his career.

Who else?

Terrell Davis comes to mind immediately, although he’s long retired now.

Chris Chandler, aka “Crystal Chandelier,” had the brains and the arm to be a great QB, especially late in his career when he took the Falcons to 14-2 and an NFC championship. But he couldn’t stay healthy, and his knees were shot by then. I don’t know if it was a matter of him getting his mental game together, or if he just never had a good enough team around him, but up until then he was nothing spectacular.

Bo Jackson, if by “on the DL” you mean “retired early due to injuries”

Roy Campanella’s career was tragically cut short by a car accident.

Sandy Koufax never played as long as he should have.

Imagine Mickey Mantle if he had been healthy throughout his career.

Regarding Ken Griffey Jr., 590 home runs may be below his potential, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. He’s still, what, 5th all-time?

You could easily name fifty pitchers, maybe more, who’d be Hall of Fame candidates if it weren’t for injuries. Often the thing that distinguishes the successful pitcher from the unsuccessful one is health, not talent. Kerry Wood isn’t even a good example; while he was spectacular to watch he never actually had a great season even when healthy because he often couldn’t throw strikes.

Speaking of pitchers named Wood, Smoky Joe Wood would likely have made the Hall of Fame given decent health.

One of the all-time what-could-have-beens in baseball is Pete Reiser, who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and other teams and was sensational, when he wasn’t running into outfield walls and getting carried off on stretchers (Ryan Freel*, take note).
*nowhere near as talented as Reiser, but has some of the same “luck”.

The name that pops into my mind is Bobby Orr. The numbers he would have put up if he had healthy knees would have been even more astonishing.

IIRC, he has had both of the knees replaced in the last 20 years.

First name that came to my mind when I saw this thread: Tony Oliva.

Were it not for injuries, he would’ve been in the HOF a long time ago.

As for football, the name Billy Sims comes to mind.

I think Grant Hill would have had one of the best all time careers if not for the damn foot.

Herb Score as a left handed pitcher he was 36-19 in his first two years until his career was derailed after he was hit by line drive.

Bob Horner was injured so much that I named my beater car, which was also broken down all the time, after him.

IIRC, they started padding outfield walls because of Reiser’s reckless abandon.

I opened this thread specifically to mention Ken- when I was a little kid it seemed like he was always “broken” as we said. (As in, “Oh no, they broke Griffey again!”) My mother used it as a teachable moment- drink your milk or you’ll end up like Griffey. (She said that he didn’t get enough calcium because he was lactose intolerant. Is she right, or was that just one of those things parents tell children?)

I do have one actual fact for you: even with all the injuries, he’s still sixth on the list of most home-runs ever, 170 runs behind Bonds, 14 runs behind Sosa, and 84 runs ahead of Frank Thomas, who’s the only other active player in the top 20. (A-Rod’s 22nd, so he’ll probably be up in to the top 20 soon, but that is not precisely the point.)

Orr’s statistics are so warped - a defenceman leading the LEAGUE in scoring? - that it’s almost impossible to believe he put them up. He once was +128 for a season. He might actually have been better than Gretzky was… for a few seasons.

He was better. Orr put up his offensive numbers while also establishing himself as the best defenceman ever to play the sport.

Yeah, but still being a great hitter and pretty solid defensive outfielder, his name doesn’t get tossed around in the ‘best player ever’ conversation like Bonds. And Bonds has been a one dimensional player for quite a while now. (admittedly, a powerful dimension)

If Griffey had stayed healthy, he might have around 720 HRs now.

Among soccer players I would mention Marco van Basten. Even though he had a great career I believe he would have been even higher on the list of all-time greats if it hadn’t been for his injuries and early retirement.

By the way, here is a list of top 10 careers cut short in the world of sports which just happens to agree with me. :slight_smile:

Well, Monica Seles lost two of her prime years after suffering a stab wound at the hands of a deranged spectator, though the injury was mostly psychological.

the big e – sans glass jaw, he’d be almost as intimidating a power forward now as he was in junior.

foppa – take away the bad ankles, the ruptured spleen, etc… he’d’ve lead the way to at least a couple more cups, and still be one of (if not the) most dominating forces on ice today.

the magnificent one – no cancer, no back problems, he would be close to, if not already done, overtaking the great one in most categories by now.

and imagine the doc healthy for the entirety of the past few seasons - the jays still may have missed the playoffs, but he’d for sure have captured one, perhaps two more cy’s.