Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Baseball's next controversy

In 1974, Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Tommy John tore ligaments in his pitching arm. At that time, such an injury meant the end of a pitcher's career. Doctors, in fact, told Tommy John that his pitching days were over and it appeared to be the end of a solid career.

Dr. Frank Jobe decided to try an experimental surgical technique on Mr. John in the hope of repairing his arm to a degree where he would be able to pitch again. Tommy John missed the entire 1975 season rehabilitating his arm. In 1976, he returned to the Dodgers and won 10 games - earning him Comeback Player of the Year honors. John went on to pitch to 1989, winning 20 or more games 3 times and earned a Cy Young award in 1978. Tommy John clearly became a better pitcher after the surgery. Now, the question is, did he improve due to natural maturing or did the surgery actually improve his pitching arm?

Before I go too far here, I completely respect Tommy John. He loves baseball and had an opportunity to extend his career by bravely going through the surgery. However, I do wonder today when it seems every other pitcher in the major leagues has gone through what is now called "Tommy John surgery". Pitchers are claiming their arms are stronger after the surgery than ever before.

Pitchers have it tough. Baseball fans tend to love lots of offense so pitching stars don't measure up in popularity as hitting stars do. Throwing a baseball 90 mph repeatedly is not a natural motion for a human being. Damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones are commonplace, even before a pitcher gets to the major leagues. But now, it seems that when a young pitcher gets his first pitching injury, they go for the "Tommy John surgery". As I watch the World Series, I heard the announcer mention how White Sox pitcher Jenks has a "bionic arm" due to his surgery.

Steroids aren't for pitchers since bulking up only inhibits their ability to pitch. So the surgery seems to be their answer to hitter's supplementing themselves. Let's see if this becomes a similar issue as the steroid problem.


Erik said...

Here is my thing with steriods. I just have one question: Who, other then the user, does it hurt?

Robert E Wilson said...

It makes a statement to teenagers that it's worth it to screw up your life for a few years of success in professional sports. Steroids have become a problem at the high school sports level. Lyle Alzado, the former Raider who died from steroid use campaigned heavily in the last years of his life to teenagers telling them what a horrible mistake he made.

Also, it hurts the sport considerably. Nobody even wants to give Barry Bonds his due anymore because of his suspected use of steroids. I, for one, watched a lot less baseball over the past years because I strongly disliked the glorifying of Giambi, Bonds, Sosa et. al. I prefer to marvel a player's true abilities and accomplishments.

Erik said...

HEre is my thing. If it sends a message the teenagers PARENTS need to be there to stop them. We've have talked about education beginning at the home.

Robert E Wilson said...

I completely agree with that but you can use the same logic to justify legalizing heroin and cocaine.

Erik said...

problem is with that statement is Herion and cocaine when someone is strung out on that they can and do hurt other people a lot of times.

Robert E Wilson said...

Like cocaine, heroin, and alcohol, steroids can be devastating not only to the individual who abuses, but also to the friends and family.

Again, I must state that it also hurts the sport, and perhaps sports in general. When East Germany and Russia were featuring "women" who looked like they shaved every morning in the Olympics from 1972 to 1980, we condemned them for their use of these substances. Now, it's Marion Jones and Jerome Young who are tarnishing America's athletic program.

Erik said...

Problem is people cheat all the time and get away with that.