When Marlins star Jose Fernandez was diagnosed with elbow ligament damage, baseball fans braced themselves for the announcement that would surprise no one. Indeed, it turned out Fernandez will have Tommy John surgery, making him the latest of dozens of pitchers departing the game for the operation and its minimum twelve months of recovery. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has been widely criticized for his handling of steroids in baseball since taking over in 1992. In his final year, Selig must address the Tommy John epidemic as the game is facing a genuine crisis of lost talent.
MLB’s best pitchers on the shelf
The names Matt Moore, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey, and Jose Fernandez read like a Who’s Who of young MLB aces. They’re also four pitchers who have undergone Tommy John in just the past few years. Rather than affecting pitchers who have thrown for a decade or longer, the injury is hitting high school, college, and young MLB players with minimal service. As Dr. James Andrews (who performs many of the operations) has said, young pitchers who throw harder than their arms can bear need to be educated on the risks. Andrews’s appointment book is full of young pitcher who need Tommy John before their twentieth birthdays.
More than twenty MLB pitchers (including Moore, Fernandez, Jarrod Parker, Brandon Beachy, and Ivan Nova) have gone down for the year since the start of the 2014 season. Unless he takes action from the top down, Selig could turn a blind eye to the latest threat to America’s national pastime. In many respects, it is as dangerous as the effects of steroids on the game.