Tom Verducci Weighs In on the Tommy John Epidemic of 2014


Apr 15, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg walks back to the dugout in the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Verducci is one of the few national-level sportswriters I follow consistently. He has weighed in on baseball’s version of the 2013 NFL concussion story. There is an increasing percentage of young MLB pitchers blowing out their elbows and getting Tommy John surgery. Also, the legendary Dr. Frank Jobe, the surgeon that pioneered the technique, passed away just before the start of spring training. As surely as sunset follows sunrise, the national baseball press is in full Chicken Little mode, complete with with Bob Costas putting on his Serious Face.

Back to Verducci’s article. He’s usually a voice of calm in a world that thrives on high emotions. Over the last few years, most of his stuff has been thoughtful and relevant. My only major area of disagreement with him is that he thinks the DH is a good idea, and that it is inevitable that the National League will eventually cave. Proof that no one is perfect, I guess. His piece today is a little on the dramatic side for him, but for Verducci to play the drama card means that I am going to pay close attention.

The articles in the links below are food for thought for me as a parent of an above-average young ballplayer. Soon, my boy will be hearing the siren song of Select, showcase, and other high-level youth baseball. If you’re the parent of a baseball kid, please give these articles a read, and spend some time forming your opinions through research that’s a little deeper than Wikipedia. There are plenty of charlatans out there that will swear they have little Johnny’s best interests at heart, but don’t ever forget that for organizations like USSSA and Perfect Game, it’s big money and big business.

The baseball world is learning about elbows at an unreal pace. Common wisdom is updated on a weekly basis. Take some time and educate yourself a little more than usual to find out what is Shinola and what isn’t. Ken Rosenthal, Bob Costas, Will Carroll and a few others aren’t peddling the former, but are getting plenty of attention (and ad clicks) as they try to sell the latter. I’m not saying they’re wrong, just pointing out that they’ve never been caught getting passed by a bandwagon.

Here is a link to an older Sun-Sentinel article on the business side of USSSA.

And here is a link to Verducci’s article from today on the recent uptick in TJ surgeries at the Major League level.

Personally, I’m glad my son plays in a system that actually pays attention to pitch counts and innings worked. This is my thank you to his coaches and the local league for enforcing pitching discipline, despite the temptation of additional marks in the “W” column.

Recently, I watched a nearby opponent send a kid in for 68 pitches in a single inning. That’s not good baseball on a number of levels.