This week, baseball fans everywhere got some bad news. Jose Fernandez, the most exciting young pitcher in the game, has hit the DL, and doctors are recommending “Tommy John” (i.e. elbow ligament replacement) surgery. That means nobody is going to get to watch this electrifying 21-year-old pitch for another 12-18 months, which is just depressing.
Of course, it’s hardly surprising any more. We’re currently in the middle of what some are calling a Tommy John epidemic. Fernandez is just the latest high-profile casualty.
What’s the cause? Why are so many elite pitchers going under the knife? Well, it’s likely a combination of two factors.
The first is that more guys are having it done because the procedure is now so effective. In the past pitchers may have tried to rehab elbow injuries. Now they’re electing to go under the knife right away so that, ultimately, they’ll be in peak physical shape for longer.
The other factor? Guys are overworking their arms from an earlier age. With millions of dollars at stake, elite prospects are playing ball year round, playing for multiple teams in multiple leagues, trying to develop their talent as quickly and thoroughly as possible. And this is destroying arms.
Today, in light of this terrible news about Jose Fernandez, we’re going to take a look at some other big-name pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery over the years to prove that, while it sucks now, there a bright future lies ahead.
Take a look…
15. Matt Harvey
By the end of last season the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez was the hottest young pitcher in baseball. However, for the first half of the season, that unofficial title belonged to Matt Harvey, the starting pitcher for the National League in the 2013 All-Star Game.
Of course, now both of them are casualties of elbow ligament replacement surgery. Harvey went down last September and is out until spring training 2015. Now Fernandez is going to be out until at least the second half of next season.
14. Eric Gagne
Former Dodger closer and 2003 NL Cy Young winner Eric Gagne is a member of the 2x Tommy John club. His first ligament replacement came in 1997, before he’d ever cracked the big leagues. So that would have to be considered a success story.
His second came in 2005 and basically ended his three-year run of dominance…and the rest of his career. He was never the same.