Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hurting Yourself For A Living

I'm off about baseball again, because politics is making my skin crawl again.

And something  I saw during the World Series gave me a painful feeling as well.
It was a slow motion replay of San Francisco Giants pitcher  Madison Bumgarner throwing his slider.
It hurt me to watch somebody's elbow turn that way and reminded me how unnatural pitching a baseball -- as opposed to just throwing one -- is. It hurt my arm to try to mimic that motion slowly.

And that's why the starting pitcher only goes every fourth or fifth day -- he needs the time off to heal the damage he's done to himself.

That's why Carl Hubbell, baseball's greatest screwball pitcher, shocked his colleagues in the Hall of Fame by showing up for the festivities each year with an arm permanently deformed by his pet pitch. With his arms hanging at his sides, the palm of his left hand faced outward.

It's why possibly the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, Sandy Koufax, retired at 30 because he couldn't stand the pain anymore.

Because every pitcher injures himself every time he pitches.

If Koufax played today he'd likely be a candidate for Tommy John surgery, an operation named after the left-handed pitcher who first had it successfully in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from somewhere else in the body.

The surgery has become routine for Major League Baseball pitchers and college, and even high school, player often have it.

After the surgery, and about a year of rehab, pitchers come back throwing as hard as ever -- the Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg,  among the National League leaders in strikeouts this season, is a great example.

Corrective surgery for the other common pitching injury, a torn rotator cuff in the shoulder, is less successful, some pitchers come back from it -- but it's not a sure bet.

Given the toll that pitching takes on a pitcher's arm, it's surprising that most of the news we heard about steroids in baseball dealt with hitters. 

A few pitchers were caught by drug testing, Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte  admitted he'd done them and, although he was found not guilty of perjury for claiming that he never had, there's some pretty 
strong evidence that Pettitte's buddy Roger Clemens did them too.

What do steroids do? Well, they help you to pack on muscle. Strong legs and arm muscles are at least as important for a pitcher as they are for a hitter. What else do steroids do? Well, you won't hear this from the nation's sportswriters who only want to talk about "drug scandals," but the other thing that steroids do is they help you recover from fatigue and injury faster. Can't talk about that because it makes steroids sound like medicine.

But it seems to me that recovering from fatigue and injury faster would be much more important for pitchers. 

That's not an endorsement of anabolic steroids by the way, they have a bunch of nasty side effects. Just like all the drugs pitched on television every night do.

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