Posted on September 4th, 2010 by TheSportsVirus
It’s terrible that Stephen Strasburg didn’t even make it through his rookie season before having to undergo Tommy John surgery. But, maybe in a strange way, this might be GOOD for baseball. GOOD? You say, how can an injury to a future Cy Young Award winner, MVP and Hall of Famer all wrapped into one be GOOD for the game? Well, hear me out. I would never want to see any young player with this kind of potential go down. But, recent history tells us that pitchers can come back strong from this surgery and sometimes they throw even harder after rehab (hard to believe that Strasburg can throw any harder though since he already reaches triple digits on a regular bais). So, although his amazing arsenal will be on hiatus, I’m assuming he will be just fine upon his return in late 2011 or early 2012. In the meantime, what have we learned from this injury? Where do we point the finger? Who’s at fault for another phenom pitcher going down? Is he another Mark Prior? Kerry Wood? Well, how about this? How about, nobody is at fault! The Nationals? Exonerated. They watched his innings and pitch counts religiously. They could have started him out in the majors, but chose the careful route through the minors instead. His college coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn? Uh, no. He didn’t have any arm issues at San Diego State. In fact, as a college freshman he was overweight and didn’t know how to bench press. Gwynn and his staff deserve credit for turning him around, not blame. His High School coach? According to an SI.com story by Lee Jenkins, Strasburg’s High School coach Scott Hopgood didn’t even consider Strasburg to be his ace. He was so out of shape that he would collapse during games because his knees couldn’t support his weight. Doesn’t sound like he was overworked there. He needed more work. Maybe we need to track down his Little League coach for proof of neglect, because somebody has to be at fault. Well, actually, there is nowhere to point the finger. Nobody did anything wrong that I can see. It’s just that throwing a baseball as hard as you can, puts an amazing amount of stress on your arm. Throw in breaking balls and changeups with different grips and you can understand why pitchers are icing down after every outing (Tim Lincecum notwithstanding). So, I say we abolish pitch count restrictions. Innings limitations? Hogwash. The Joba Rules? I don’t want to hear about those again. I’m not saying it’s time to be reckless and go out and throw 370 innings and 38 complete games like Hall of Famer Walter Johnson once did. Times have changed. But, maybe building up arm strength isn’t such a bad idea. So what if a pitcher has to throw 120 pitches in a game. I understand starters need to build up to a long major league season, but shutting down pitchers at the end of the year is weak. Phil Hughes missing a start just to lighten his season workload stinks. If a pitcher is tired I can understand, but Hughes was not thrilled with the idea and I don’t blame him. Yankees management was being overprotective. Rather than concentrate on pitch counts and innings, the focus should be on mechanics. Even then you can get unlucky and run into trouble, but pitchers like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were never asked to skip starts. They were throwing over 200 innings a season early in their careers and both hurlers went over 20 seasons in the majors without a problem. So, here’s a memo to managers and pitching coaches across America. Give your starter the benefit of the doubt. If he’s tired, pull him. But, if he’s strong even though his pitch count is high, give him another inning. The Strasburg injury proves that pitchers can get hurt at any time no matter how carefully they are treated. And as Robin Williams said to Matt Damon (10 times–I actually counted) in a classic scene in Good Will Hunting, “It’s not your fault.”
For a player’s perspective on the Strasburg injury, check out a recent conversation I had with Rockies closer Huston Street.
Listen to Interview with Huston Street
Tags: Strasburg, Street, Tommy John surgery