Rough Time to be a Pitcher, But Who is Responsible?

The last week or so has been a horrible time for that sub-class of multi-millionaires who receive their income in exchange for throwing a baseball by, near, or at a sightly different sub-class of multi-millionaires who receive their bounty by swinging a piece of wood at said baseballs.

In the last few days it has come about that four of the 150 or so members of the sub-sub-class of multi-millionaires first referred to above – those pitchers who are the starting pitchers for their employers, and who are generally expected to pitch, in this modern era of oversight and previously inconceivable precautions and restrictions, have nevertheless managed to tear a ligament in each of their pitching elbows, which tears

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would never on their own heal sufficiently to allow any of them to ever pitch again, but which rather require the transplanting of a tendon from their other arm, a process which is known as the Tommy John surgery and which has a recovery time in excess of one year.

Thus, the Arizona Diamondbacks will be without the services of their number one starter, Patrick Corbin, the Oakland A’s will be without the services of their starter Jarrod Parker, who had been their designated opening day starter, and the Atlanta Braves will be

without the services of both Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen, their number one, each for this full season and possibly longer.

Oakland is also missing starters A.J. Griffin, out until May with elbow soreness, and Scott Kazmir, out for an unknown time with triceps stiffness. Atlanta is also missing starter Mike Minor, also out for an unknown period as he recovers from off-season surgery. Bronson Arroyo, another Arizona starter, has missed much of the spring with back pain.

And all that is just about starters, on only three teams. The list goes on and on.

Expanding the injury survey to relievers, Aroldis Chapman, ace closer for the Cincinnati Reds, suffered a terrible injury yesterday, when he was hit above the eye by a batted ball. Medical reports indicate that he should make a good recovery, but the reality is that bones above his eye were crushed, requiring surgery to implant a metal plate in his head, and he will be out a minimum of two months before he would be beginning spring training anew.

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What is it that is causing all of these major injuries, getting hit by batted balls aside? For decades, starters pitched every fourth day, and years before that, every third day. Starters were expected to pitch eight, nine innings, and would pitch 275, or 300, or 325 innings or more, year in and year out, many for 15, 20 years or more.

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There would appear to be only one explanation, the exploitation of young boys in organized ball, whether it be little league or high school, and also into college, where they are instructed to throw pitches that put too much pressure on ligaments, tendons, and muscles far too early in their physical development. Coaches want to win, and they want their players to earn major league attention, and major league contracts, and by doing so, pave paths for them towards professional jobs with major league organizations.

More and more young pitchers are having Tommy John surgery in college or in the minors, before they ever even reach the majors, and more and more pitchers like Beachy and Medlen are having the surgery multiple times.

All this, for only several million dollars per year.

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