Baseball, runs-hits-errors, and the disabled list.
It’s baseball’s body bag count, the disabled list. It’s just an awful thing to see names added, almost on a day-by-day basis. It’s even worse if you are a pitcher, because the outcome is usually catastrophic. Worst of all, no-one knows what’s causing it.
Sports medicine is spectacular, what they can accomplish on the surgery table. We’ve grown callous to the injuries, the names on the list, and the long road back.
Day-by-day, you get the alerts, couched in words like MRI, UCL, flexor tendon, torn ligaments, forearm discomfort.
Back in the day, pitchers careers ended because of a sore arm. There was no real prognosis, no real remedy. Then as gains were made, some surgeries helped clear problems out. Bone chips and bone spurs were the catch-phrases of the day.
Then the new dreaded phrases words showed up, the ones that were likely career ending, torn rotator cuff.
Now today, it’s the famed Tommy John Surgery, the ligament transplant process, that allows pitchers to get back on the mound somewhere down the road. But we tend to forget how horrific all this is for the individual involved. Baseball just moves on, next man up, while the pitcher moves onto the disabled list, the operating table, and then to the rehab center.
The first two pitchers I ever encountered who had to go thru this were big money free-agent pitcher Wayne Garland, and a promising young fireballer Cardell Camper. The Indians had given Garland a huge 1.6M (for that time) contract, and he promptly tore his rotator cuff. Camper tore the ulnar nerve in his elbow, and never made it back. Careers gone, in the snap of one curve ball.
Greg Harris was such a promising pitcher, then tore his rotator cuff with the Padres. The surgery failed, he never came back. Ditto promising pitcher Marc Prior, now a front office exec with the Friars. Injury after injury to the same shoulder, career finished with the Cubs..
This morning is much like a year ago this morning. A crisis in the game. Last year, there were 35-Tommy John surgeries from the opening of spring training camp thru Labor Day weekend. That’s alot of major league pitchers to go down. The 2015 count so far, 21-surgeries, and it is just the first week of May.
Today, Tampa Bay is fearing they’ve lost bright young pitcher Alex Cobb with surgery likely. Yesterday it was Reds pitcher Homer Bailey. Over the weekend it was likely career ending surgery for Joe Nathan. It’s just overwhelming.
No one has a clue. Is it the stress put on elbows with the violent snap action from the wide variety of pitches they throw? It is high pitch counts? Is it too many innings at too young an age? Is it mistakes in how you work between starts? Is it too much in high school ball or college ball?
One theory not really tested is the supplement usage. Not talking about steroids or HGH, but the legal body-building supplements. All pitchers train year round, with a wide variety of supplement use, to get bigger and stronger, upper body and lower core. Now the 91mph fastball, can get amped up to 96, and every scout wants velocity.
The problem is while muscle and strength, body mass and power are the end result of year round training for pitchers, as the body gets bigger, the velocity higher, the tendons and ligaments don’t grow. Bigger stress on smaller body parts, and they snap.
Rehab is such a long lonely road. Padres pitcher Josh Johnson is coming back from elbow surgery first,then forearm surgery. Corey Luebke tore the same ligament twice, and is still not back. Casey Kelly has had elbow surgery, then a fracture reaction in the back of the elbow. He is back, but not doing well. The Padres had 12-surgeries to pitchers in a 17-month span, and they don’t know why.
Research shows 25% of the pitchers on opening day rosters have had surgery in their career. The numbers show 85% of those who had TJ surgery, recover and resume pitching. No one yet has stats for those who came back, whether they were better or even stronger than prior to the surgery.
So enjoy the game, wait for the next piece of bad news. And while another arm will replace the one just lost, don’t forget what the pitcher in rehab is going thru, hoping to get back up on the hill sometime in the next 12-to-16 months.
Baseball. Love the big innings; hate to report on the next big pitcher breakdown.