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 30, 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 listening for all who love the game, want to keep their children healthy, or relish a look into how a large, complex institution can fail so spectacularly.
"The Arm should be required reading for youth baseball coaches and parents with a child who appears to have a gift to throw a baseball. It also should be on the list for fans who want to understand why some of most expensive athletes in sports, pitchers, are such a fragile commodity." (Chicago Tribune)
"By so thoroughly presenting a serious study of the arm - or more precisely, the elbow - Passan has written an important book. For arms, if there is Tommy John surgery, maybe we now also have Jeff Passan education." (Washington Post)
"Sportswriter Passan 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." (Publisher's Weekly
©2016 Jeff Passan (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers