Yahoo’s lead baseball columnist offers an in-depth look at the most valuable commodity in sports—the pitching arm—and how its vulnerability to injury is hurting players and the game, from Little League to the majors.
Every year, Major League Baseball spends more than $1.5 billion on pitchers—five times more than the salary of every NFL quarterback combined. Pitchers are the game’s lifeblood. Their import is exceeded only by their fragility. One tiny band of tissue in the elbow, the ulnar collateral ligament, is snapping at unprecedented rates, leaving current big league players vulnerable and the coming generation of baseball-playing children dreading the three scariest words in the sport: Tommy John surgery.
Jeff Passan traveled the world for three years to explore in-depth the past, present, and future of the arm, and how its evolution left baseball struggling to wrangle its Tommy John surgery epidemic. He examined what compelled the Chicago Cubs to spend $155 million on one arm. He snagged a rare interview with Sandy Koufax, whose career was cut short by injury at thirty, and visited Japan to understand how another baseball-mad country treats its prized arms. And he followed two major league pitchers, Daniel Hudson and Todd Coffey, throughout their returns from Tommy John surgery. He exposes how the baseball establishment long ignored the rise in arm injuries and reveals how misplaced incentives across the sport stifle potential changes.
Injuries to the UCL start as early as Little League. Without a drastic cultural shift, baseball will continue to lose hundreds of millions of dollars annually to damaged pitchers, and another generation of children will suffer the same problems that vex current players. Informative and hard-hitting, The Arm is essential reading for everyone who loves the game, wants to keep their children healthy, or relishes a look into how a large, complex institution can fail so spectacularly.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Professional baseball has a legitimate epidemic on its hands: A quarter of MLB pitchers have undergone “Tommy John surgery” to repair a small, easily torn elbow ligament. ESPN columnist Jeff Passan examines why things have gone so wrong with the powerful arms that cost team owners millions of dollars a year. Passan dives deep into cutting-edge sports medicine without losing sight of the players’ personal stories, from promising young recruits to ’70s All-Star pitcher Tommy John himself. The Arm is a fascinating read for sports lovers.
Sportswriter Passan (Death to the BSC: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series) delivers one of the more important books on baseball of the decade, a superbly researched and detailed look at the current "epidemic" of arm injuries in the sport. Passan expertly describes the main problem, the torn ligament in the elbows of baseball pitchers that requires what is commonly known as Tommy John surgery using a tendon in the wrist to rebuild the elbow. Passan's focus on the people affected by the injury makes the book successful history as well as compelling reading. He presents fascinating accounts of those most responsible for the success of the Tommy John surgery, notably Dr. Frank Jobe, a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge whose experimental surgery remains the best of its kind over 40 years later. Passan also follows the careers of two major-league pitchers, Daniel Hudson and Todd Coffey, as they try to return to the game after surgery. Passan argues passionately that unless Major League Baseball confronts a situation in which "more than 50 percent of pitchers end up on the disabled list" as do increasing numbers of young pitchers in the American and Japanese youth leagues and figures out how to keep them from blowing out their elbows, "the current generation of pitchers is lost, their arms ticking time bombs."
Intriguing look at a baseball's greatest real life mystery that still goes unsolved today. Invaluable read to anyone with a child that pitches competitively. Great insights and helps blow up many myths and misconceptions.
Most Important Book Since Moneyball
Jeff Passan first told me about this book over three years ago. My first thought? Why would anyone want to read about the arm?
Then it happened, and happened again, and again. The ucl's of MLB pitchers everywhere were blowing out. The Braves lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachey (twice). It was frustrating. I had so many questions. Why? Why so much? What can teams do to protect pitchers?
Jeff Passan delivers a book that is thought out, researched, and human. He tries to answer all of the questions. Some just don't have answers. Following the elbows of Dan Hudson and Todd Coffey give this book the human element it needs. Information from doctors, scouts, coaches, players and parents give us a perspective from all sides of the epidemic.
Passan didn't just deliver a good book. He delivered the most important book about baseball since Moneyball. It's a five star must read for any baseball fan or parent of a you get pitcher.