A good Major League pitcher is a highly sought after commodity. Teams routinely throw absurdly large contracts at the best pitchers available on the free agent market each and every year.
While each of these pitchers are different, increasingly, many of them have something in common. They’ve either had, or will have had, Tommy John surgery before the end of their career. The surgery seems routine to us fans as we’ve gotten used to pitchers coming back after a year or so away. But, that’s not always the case. And baseball as a whole has no idea why.
“The impetus was, their stories (Daniel Hudson and Todd Coffey) were going to frame this whole issue about baseball not understanding something it spends a billion and a half dollars on every single season,” said Yahoo! Sports MLB insider Jeff Passan on CBS Sports Radio’s Doug Gottlieb show. “That’s five times more than every quarterback’s salary combined. It’s about as much as the top 200 NBA players make every year. Baseball spends an exorbitant amount of money on the pitching arm and it has no idea how to keep it healthy.”
For all of our scientific advances, we can’t seem to figure out how to keep that most valuable commodity healthy. More importantly, it’s not just the guys at the Major League level that we struggle to keep from getting hurt. It’s the young arms at the high school level who are having these issues with increasing regularity.
“We don’t understand how to keep it healthy, we don’t understand why it gets hurt,” said Passan. “We can’t pinpoint those things that are going to unquestionably keep it healthy. The thing that I learned along the way and the way the book evolved, I always had my kid in mind. He was five at the time I started doing this. Just, I know he loves baseball, how am I going to manage to keep him healthy.”
“When you hear the word epidemic when it comes to arm surgeries it’s been tied a lot to Major League Baseball,” said Passan. “It doesn’t matter with Major League Baseball. What’s happened, between 2007 and 2011, 56.8% of Tommy John surgeries were on 15-19 year olds. That’s a staggering number.”