Calling Out Baseball Academies

 

On June 12, a George Mason pitcher named Sang Ho Baek died from complications from Tommy John surgery. He was 20 years old.

Now I have a question. What was a 20-year-old kid doing on the operating table for that kind of surgery in the first place? Either his arm was damaged at that age, which I am going to get into in a moment, or was it an elective surgery?

Elective Tommy John surgeries do happen quite a bit. In 2018, a study showed that athletes aged 15-19 accounted for 57 percent of Tommy John surgeries. It’s been attributed to an increased emphasis in kids specializing in a single sport.

Nah, I blame the mindset of baseball academies.

Now in Sang Ho Baek’s case, unless he and his family found a doctor willing to do an elective surgery in the era of COVID, I’m highly doubting this was an elective surgery. This leads to a 20-year-old with an arm damaged enough to need a Tommy John surgery in the era of COVID.

20 years old.

I truly feel for this family, his team, and anyone that knew him. This was such an unnecessary tragedy. Reading up on him, he was majoring in Biology. The world could have had another great doctor.

Why doesn’t it though? What is a 20-year-old doing with that kind of damage on his arm already?

Let’s look at where baseball is right now.

The top five home run hitters in baseball, with a weekend left in the year, are Salvador Perez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Shohei Ohtani, Marcus Semien, and Fernando Tatis Jr. Their strikeout numbers are 168, 109, 187, 143, and 149. When Mike Trout is healthy, he’s considered the best player in baseball. He averages 150 Ks a year in a full season.

The media’s focus this year was Jacob DeGrom. He was the greatest of all time according to them because of some admittedly absurd numbers. The problem was that he couldn’t finish the fourth inning most of the time, and he was effectively done by the end of July. He has 77 career wins at 33 years old.

Both examples I brought up I attribute to baseball academies. They are teaching bad habits.

They teach more power, not a smooth, consistent swing with an emphasis on constant contact. They emphasize 95-98 mph with high strikeouts, not painting corners and getting early ground balls. Complete games were once the norm … now they are rare.

Mind you, I get the point. Baseball’s popularity has sunk over the years, so they are trying anything to gain attention. You start with building up the dominant actions…strikeouts and home runs. A 98-mph pitcher is fun to watch. A 475-foot homer is fun to watch. You try to give the new fans more.

That said, the people in charge miss the point of why baseball is struggling, and they have the wrong solutions. First off, the game is entirely too slow for today’s microwave/Sportscenter generation. Go to YouTube and find out how many people watch a simple clip of a home run. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions. How many watch the whole three-hour game? Mere hundreds.

Shohei Ohtani is the biggest star in baseball for one simple reason. Availability. He pitches and hits, which is a first in this era. His face is always in front of the camera. Always. This doesn’t say every player needs to be like this. That’s just a rarity. It means that the sport doesn’t have enough stars because you don’t see them enough. The healthy strike out, the pitchers have dominant moments, but they are injured way too often.

This goes back to my original point. Why are kids’ arms damaged at such a young age? First off, they are taught to throw curveballs at way too young of an age…10-11 years old. Why? Of course, you can strike a kid that age out with a curveball, especially when most don’t have that good of plate discipline, but you can also strike them out with a changeup. An 11-year-old’s frame is not built for the curveball, period. They should not be throwing curves till they are 15 or 16. They also shouldn’t be lifting weights. They need to build their core strength first.

These are just a few examples.

I know baseball is trying to save their sport, but they need to go back to basics. You know what impresses this new era of viewers? Speed. You know what baseball doesn’t do anymore? Steal bases. You know what else they don’t do? Keep star pitchers in the game past five or six innings.

I just gave the sport two things to save their sport that will keep a lot more stars healthy, and the games more exciting.

You are killing these athletes for temporary attention. The rest of the game is boring as hell.

Think about it.

Published in Sports
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  1. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Every player and team wants an edge, and TJ surgery is one way to do it for pitchers . . .

    • #1
  2. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Call a strike every time a batter steps out of the box.

    • #2
  3. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    How could the practices that lead to this be stopped? Generally we don’t like new mandates and regulations around here.

    • #3
  4. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    I don’t think the autopsy results have been made public but social media was filled with reports of Baek’s death being attributed to a pulmonary embolism. If true that immediately made me wonder about his Covid/vaccination status. Either  can cause clotting problems or he could have simply had an undetected blood disorder. But that’s neither here nor there, is it? He was on the table because young kids believe that they have to throw a baseball through a brick wall to get to the big leagues.

    Now the new mantra is “spin rate.” The amount of spin a pitcher can put on a baseball and still have control is affected by the amount of force he can exert on the ball with his fingers. Hence the crackdown on foreign substances this season with random inspections from the umpires. Whereas old school pitchers like Gaylord Perry wanted slickness from Vaseline, the new breed wants grip.

    We know that how you use your fingers on the ball can  reverberate all the way back to the elbow and even to the shoulder. Many MLB organizations will not allow their farm hands to throw the split finger fastball popularized in the 80’s by then-Giants Manager Roger Craig. It is devastatingly effective and pitchers fall in love with it, overuse it and then develop injuries. But they are still measuring spin rate and obsessing over it. Interestingly, the king of spin, Kyle Boddy was recently let go by the Reds.

    Injuries have been through the roof this season compared to the last 162-game schedule played in 2019. Everyone is blaming the pandemic. I’m not totally convinced.

     

     

    • #4
  5. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    Here’s why baseball is so boring:

    Batter steps up to the plate….Pitcher checks runner at first….Batter steps out of the box…..spits…..scratches……takes a few warm-up swings………Batter steps back into the box……takes several practice swings……..Pitcher waits……catcher gives signal…….Pitcher nods head…….pitcher throws to first to keep base-runner on his toes…….does the same thing again……and again……..Manager gives signs to runner by tapping his shoulders, head, thighs, and elbows…….Catcher gives sign again to  remind pitcher………Batter calls time-out…….pounds bat on the ground a few times……spits again…….few more practice swings………..steps back into the box…….Joe Buck mentions that he found a really great pastry shop  in Philly……..Pitcher finally delivers ball low and outside……..Batter motionless…….Ump declares BALL ONE!………then the whole process starts over again.

    • #5
  6. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    Here’s why baseball is so boring:

    Batter steps up to the plate….Pitcher checks runner at first….Batter steps out of the box…..spits…..scratches……takes a few warm-up swings………Batter steps back into the box……takes several practice swings……..Pitcher waits……catcher gives signal…….Pitcher nods head…….pitcher throws to first to keep base-runner on his toes…….does the same thing again……and again……..Manager gives signs to runner by tapping his shoulders, head, thighs, and elbows…….Catcher gives sign again to remind pitcher………Batter calls time-out…….pounds bat on the ground a few times……spits again…….few more practice swings………..steps back into the box…….Joe Buck mentions that he found a really great pastry shop in Philly……..Pitcher finally delivers ball low and outside……..Batter motionless…….Ump declares BALL ONE!………then the whole process starts over again.

    Exactly why I gave up watching. I’d rather watch the grass grow.

    • #6
  7. HeavyWater Inactive
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    As a tennis fan, it’s interesting reading a column about how baseball is losing popularity.  People in tennis often talk about what would make more people interested in tennis.  Recently a 25 second “serve clock” was introduced.  The player serving has 25 seconds between points to serve.  But in reality it turns out to be more than that. 

    Like baseball, you have your tennis traditionalists and tennis modernizers.  

    One point of contention is on-court coaching.  It’s generally not allowed.  This means that a tennis player’s coach is allowed to shout word of encouragement to the player, but no instructions, no hand signals.  Oh, brother.  So many coaches use all kinds of signals and they rarely get punished for it.  

    I was a big baseball fan when I was in my early teens, back when I lived in Southern California and the Los Angeles Dodgers played the New York Yankees in the world series 2 years in a row.  I was a Dodgers fan and was dismayed when the Dodgers lost in 1977 and 1978.  I haven’t been interested in baseball in quite a while.  

    I’m not sure if it’s possible to re-invent the game of baseball to make it more watchable for more fans anymore than it is possible to re-invent the game of tennis to make it more watchable.  

    Now, soccer doesn’t need any more popularity, except in the United States.  But if we want soccer to get more popular in the United States, you have to find a way to make scoring more frequent.  Widen the goal posts.  Something.  No 90 minute games where no one scores a goal and then the game ends in penalty kicks.  But, hey, the rest of the world likes it.  What the heck do I know?

    • #7
  8. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Now, soccer doesn’t need any more popularity, except in the United States. But if we want soccer to get more popular in the United States, you have to find a way to make scoring more frequent. Widen the goal posts. Something. No 90 minute games where no one scores a goal and then the game ends in penalty kicks. But, hey, the rest of the world likes it. What the heck do I know?

    One of the most exciting sporting events I ever attended was a professional indoor soccer league game about 35 years ago.  The field was considerably shorter than professional outdoor fields (maybe half the size?)  There were solid walls along the boundaries as in a hockey arena, which contributed to a pinball-like affair of the ball constantly bouncing off them and into play.  The scoring went up into the 20-point range for both sides.  There was constant wild scrambling back and forth on the shortened field, and never a dull moment.

    • #8
  9. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Now, soccer doesn’t need any more popularity, except in the United States. But if we want soccer to get more popular in the United States, you have to find a way to make scoring more frequent. Widen the goal posts. Something. No 90 minute games where no one scores a goal and then the game ends in penalty kicks. But, hey, the rest of the world likes it. What the heck do I know?

    One of the most exciting sporting events I ever attended was a professional indoor soccer league game about 35 years ago. The field was considerably shorter than professional outdoor fields (maybe half the size?) There were solid walls along the boundaries as in a hockey arena, which contributed to a pinball-like affair of the ball constantly bouncing off them and into play. The scoring went up into the 20-point range for both sides. There was constant wild scrambling back and forth on the shortened field, and never a dull moment.

    Fabulous with child soccer players, too.

    • #9
  10. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    EJHill (View Comment):

    I don’t think the autopsy results have been made public but social media was filled with reports of Baek’s death being attributed to a pulmonary embolism. If true that immediately made me wonder about his Covid/vaccination status. Either can cause clotting problems or he could have simply had an undetected blood disorder. But that’s neither here nor there, is it? He was on the table because young kids believe that they have to throw a baseball through a brick wall to get to the big leagues.

     

     

     

    Your point is a good one, EJ.  This reminds us that there is no truly safe surgery.  Any time you put someone under anesthesia, position them, incise the skin, muck around inside, alter physiology, close, extubate, awaken, give analgesics and recuperate, there is untold potential for harm.

    Pulmonary embolism, malignant hyperthermia, drug allergy, hemorrhage…who knows what happened to this poor kid.  Bob Kasper, the best surgeon I ever knew, once said to me that “doing surgery is like working with an alligator behind you, you are inevitably going to take a bite in the ass”.

    I thank God that in 38 years as a surgeon, I caused no deaths.  Came damn close twice, though, both patients having unexpected drug allergies leading to anaphylaxis.  You haven’t lived until you see your lily-white lady turn the color of the “comment” box below as her blood pressure becomes unmeasurable.  Thank the Lord for skillful anesthesiologists.

    Joan Rivers and Andy Warhol were not available for comment.

    • #10
  11. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    If you want an interesting read on this topic, read “The Arm” by Jeff Passan.  He writes about the epidemic of arm injuries and how baseball organizations both professional and amateur still don’t know how to prevent injury despite the billions of dollars on pitching. Nobody knows if kids today are throwing too much or not enough. In Japan kids throw a lot more than Americans. Both have about the same rate of injury. It’s a vexing problem with no obvious solution. I personally think they need to get rid of the mound and have pitchers throw from a flat surface. Throwing from a mound puts too much torque on the elbow. Maybe the human elbow wasn’t designed to throw a baseball. Who knows?

    • #11
  12. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    It would have been nice to tell us what Tommy john surgery is.

    So I had to look it up.  Oh, it’s a surgery to a ligament in the elbow joint after it gets injured, presumably from throwing balls.

    So what is the problem? Kid dies in surgery.  Okay, that’s terrible, but people die in surgery many times, it’s a fluke.

    What’s your beef?  People shouldn’t be allowed to have surgery?  People shouldn’t play baseball?  

    Or maybe people should mind their own business and let people live the lives they want to live.  

    What you’ve done is take an unusual incident and use it to malign an entire sport.  Shameful.

    • #12
  13. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Skyler (View Comment):

    It would have been nice to tell us what Tommy john surgery is.

    So I had to look it up. Oh, it’s a surgery to a ligament in the elbow joint after it gets injured, presumably from throwing balls.

    So what is the problem? Kid dies in surgery. Okay, that’s terrible, but people die in surgery many times, it’s a fluke.

    What’s your beef? People shouldn’t be allowed to have surgery? People shouldn’t play baseball?

    Or maybe people should mind their own business and let people live the lives they want to live.

    What you’ve done is take an unusual incident and use it to malign an entire sport. Shameful.

    Skyler, I respectfully disagree.  Jacob asks us if something is wrong with baseball’s training culture as evidenced by the fact that Mr. Baek had to undergo this surgery, the fatal outcome of which was entirely unexpected.  It’s a fair question.

    Another interesting possibility is raised by the covid blog dot com, which postulates that Mr. Baek    died of a covid vaccine-induced clot. If one knew that he had recently been vaccinated, that would make as much sense as any other theory.

    • #13
  14. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    It would have been nice to tell us what Tommy john surgery is.

    So I had to look it up. Oh, it’s a surgery to a ligament in the elbow joint after it gets injured, presumably from throwing balls.

    So what is the problem? Kid dies in surgery. Okay, that’s terrible, but people die in surgery many times, it’s a fluke.

    What’s your beef? People shouldn’t be allowed to have surgery? People shouldn’t play baseball?

    Or maybe people should mind their own business and let people live the lives they want to live.

    What you’ve done is take an unusual incident and use it to malign an entire sport. Shameful.

    Skyler, I respectfully disagree. Jacob asks us if something is wrong with baseball’s training culture as evidenced by the fact that Mr. Baek had to undergo this surgery, the fatal outcome of which was entirely unexpected. It’s a fair question.

    Another interesting possibility is raised by the covid blog dot com, which postulates that Mr. Baek died of a covid vaccine-induced clot. If one knew that he had recently been vaccinated, that would make as much sense as any other theory.

    Covid causes clots, vaccines don’t cause clots.  

    If you or I get a vaccine is our business.  If you or I wear a mask, it should be our business.  If you or I hurt our arm from training too hard at baseball, it should be our business.  

    • #14
  15. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

     

    Another interesting possibility is raised by the covid blog dot com, which postulates that Mr. Baek died of a covid vaccine-induced clot. If one knew that he had recently been vaccinated, that would make as much sense as any other theory.

    Covid causes clots, vaccines don’t cause clots.

    If you or I get a vaccine is our business. If you or I wear a mask, it should be our business. If you or I hurt our arm from training too hard at baseball, it should be our business.

    Skyler, it is well recognized that the Jansen vaccine, the one that I took 8 months after surviving a moderately severe case of WuFlu, is associated, rarely, with abnormal clotting.  This can be lethal.  https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/coronavirus-vaccine-blood-clots

    The blog post I read showed that Mr Baek’s school requires vaccination; if so, taking the shot was not just his business.

    One of the things I like about Ricochet is that we are tolerant and accepting.  If a writer wants to cite another blog site, even without endorsing it, that’s fine.  As you might write, that is his business.

    If you want to be grumpy and dismissive about everything, that is your business.

    • #15
  16. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    The blog post I read showed that Mr Baek’s school requires vaccination; if so, taking the shot was not just his business.

    I think the critical word in my post was “should” be their own business.

    Your insults were inappropriate, as well.  Please apologize.

    • #16
  17. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    Here’s why baseball is so boring:

    Batter steps up to the plate….Pitcher checks runner at first….Batter steps out of the box…..spits…..scratches……takes a few warm-up swings………Batter steps back into the box……takes several practice swings……..Pitcher waits……catcher gives signal…….Pitcher nods head…….pitcher throws to first to keep base-runner on his toes…….does the same thing again……and again……..Manager gives signs to runner by tapping his shoulders, head, thighs, and elbows…….Catcher gives sign again to remind pitcher………Batter calls time-out…….pounds bat on the ground a few times……spits again…….few more practice swings………..steps back into the box…….Joe Buck mentions that he found a really great pastry shop in Philly……..Pitcher finally delivers ball low and outside……..Batter motionless…….Ump declares BALL ONE!………then the whole process starts over again.

    Exactly why I gave up watching. I’d rather watch the grass grow.

    It’s fun to play, though.  We don’t do that enough anymore.

    • #17