Peter Gammons: GMs forced to retool as pitching injuries continue to impact the game

sandy alderson

Mets’ General Manager, Sandy Alderson

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—Sandy Alderson and Frank Wren chatted before Thursday’s exhibition (and Ervin Santana’s debut), and the conversation quickly went where many a general manager’s conversations are driven these days.

Tommy John Surgery. Or any other pitching injury imaginable.

Out in front of the Mets dugout stood Matt Harvey, who by his nature wants to talk about getting back on a Citi Field mound before the season. Indeed, one of the Mets’ biggest concerns is holding Harvey back and insuring that he has had a full recovery period and can be the front man for a pitching staff that in 2015 could be one of the most interesting in the National League; in fact, Thursday afternoon, Zack Wheeler got better and better as he went along and gave a viewing of the present and coming attractions.

Wren had just briefed the Atlanta media on Brandon Beachy’s plan to have Tommy John Surgery, which followed Kris Medlen’s similar operation, and the dangers inherent in having each of his best starters undergoing the procedure for the second time in their careers.

“I really believe we in the industry have to study and address the pitching injuries,” Wren said. He blamed no one. He did not sidetrack to the abuse many in the medical community feel is happening to teenage and college age pitchers, between the year-round showcase circuits and the pressure on college programs to win at any arm-wearying cost.

Alderson thinks that somehow Major League Baseball needs to construct some type of medical database, which, in the end, would benefit both the clubs and players like Beachy, Medlen and Jarrod Parker, who have all undergone TJ Surgery twice at a young age. Rationally, rather than be concerned that such a database might damage the marketability of free agent pitchers like Santana and Matt Garza, about whom there were medical concerns, the Players Association might see such a database as a place where pitchers’ issues could be better studied.

It has been estimated that between 30 and 33 percent of all pitchers’ salaries are paid to pitchers on the disabled list, that disabled pitchers were 30 percent of all pitchers salaries paid out and that 40 percent of starters spent some time on the DL last season.

The Braves have a very good team that is coming off a first place finish and now, with a budget that has limits, is retooling without two of their best starters and a third, Mike Minor, opening the season on the DL. The Mets will likely play the 2014 season without one of the best young pitchers in the game.

Jim Fregosi used to remind John Schuerholz and Wren that if they thought they had seven starting pitchers, they might be fortunate to have five. It is, unfortunately, a fact of life.

  • danaking

    It’s staggering to think no one has thought of this before. On the Bill James web site, someone suggested tracking Tommy John surgery re-do rates by who the surgeon was. Given the money at stake, creating what would be a simple database should be a no -brainer.

  • Tim Bliss

    For years it was believed that the slider was the death pitch for pitchers. But I’m starting to think the change up might be the death pitch for pitchers. Seems all the pitchers getting hurt, at least the young ones, all throw a bunch of change ups and really good ones at that.