What Would Baseball be Like Without Tommy John Surgery?

Saturday July 7th, 2012

Sam Evans: Just in the 2012 season, more than thirty pitchers have lost their seasons due to Tommy John surgery. Even in an era where pitchers are congratulated for throwing just two hundred innings, the wear and tear on a pitchers arm still causes them to be forced to have Tommy John surgery. Some have tried to blame it on pitchers arm slots and delivery, but the truth is every pitcher is vulnerable. Obviously, Tommy John surgery is going to continue to be a big part of the game. But my question is: what would major league baseball be like without Tommy John surgery?

MLB reports features two tools that prove to be very useful when learning more about Tommy John surgery and the pitchers affected by it. First of all, the Tommy John surgery tracker, which you can find here, not only gives you an up to date look at the pitchers out with Tommy John (the latest being Daniel Hudson of the Diamondbacks) but it also tells you about Frank Jobe and how he saved Tommy John’s career. The other Tommy John resource MLB reports has to offer is a story that Johnny Anderson, a Toronto Blue Jays player wrote about his two Tommy John surgeries-you can find that here.

The typical recovery time for Tommy John surgery is twelve to fifteen months. Some come back earlier, but that carries a higher risk. For a pitcher, those rehabilitation months must be excruciating. As someone who has gone to rehab for an elbow injury, the exercises you are asked to do often feel useless and a waste of time. Not to mention, after those twelve months, your team expects you to be where you were before the surgery. However, those twelve months are a lot better than never being able to pitch again. As hard as it is to rehab from Tommy John, it’s even harder to be told you’ll never be able to play baseball again…

After Frank Jobe and Tommy John decided to proceed with the first-ever Tommy John surgery, John pitched for another fourteen memorable seasons. Think about that. One groundbreaking surgery allowed John to continue to get paid by doing what he loves to do for fourteen more years. Tommy John might have been the first but he’s not the only pitcher who has been saved by Tommy John surgery. In recent memory, Dodgers starting pitcher Nate Eovaldi had Tommy John surgery when he was in school at Texas A&M, and he quickly rose through the minors and into the Los Angeles rotation. Over the years, Dr. Jobe estimates that he has performed over one thousand Tommy John surgeries.

Without Tommy John surgery, hundreds of pitchers would have seen their careers end prematurely. As a result of this, more and more players would stop pitching. With less pitchers, the overall quality of baseball wouldn’t even be close to where it is today. Also, we wouldn’t be able to witness some of the best pitchers in the game today. Take Stephen Strasburg for instance. He was the most hyped pitching prospect ever, then after only three fantastic months in the majors, he was out with Tommy John. Strasburg has bounced back nicely from the injury, and now he might be the best pitcher in baseball. No Tommy John likely means no Strasburg.

I read recently in The Spokesman Review that Spokane Indians (the Rangers Class A Short-Season affiliate) pitcher Alec Asher had Tommy John surgery at age fourteen. Imagine how rough it would be to be told at fourteen that you would never be able to play baseball again. Not only did Tommy John surgery allow Asher to continue playing baseball, but it also provided him with a chance at a future career.

Baseball without Tommy John surgery would be not be the same. If Frank Jobe and Tommy John never had collaborated on how to save John’s career, baseball would not be played at the same level it is today. It’s not fun to see your team’s ace need Tommy John surgery. But imagine how hard it would be to see them lose their professional career. Thank you Dr. Jobe and Tommy John. You may not have saved baseball, but you have saves hundreds of careers and counting.

* All photos used in this article are courtesy of Tommy John’s website, which you can find here*


***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter. (@RJA206)***



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About samevans87

I love writing, talking, watching, and playing baseball. I am a baseball writer for MLB Reports and Fish Stripes. "No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined." -Paul Gallic

Posted on July 7, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on What Would Baseball be Like Without Tommy John Surgery?.

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