Mac Engel: Pitching legend Greg Maddux on solution to MLB's Tommy John crisis not encouraging

Mac Engel, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Baseball

FORT WORTH, Texas — The next time you attend a Major League Baseball game and hear a sound that sounds like a clap, the better chance is that it’s the pitcher on the mound whose elbow just popped.

Blame not the pitch clock, but the pitch count. Once baseball people started to track, and emphasize, pitch counts, it’s led pitchers down a road of power, money and surgeries.

While the NFL invents rules to prevent injuries to its highest-paid players, MLB cannot figure out a way to stop its best pitchers from injuring their elbows in the primes of their careers.

This month, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, Atlanta’s Spencer Strider and Miami’s Eury Pérez were all lost for the season with torn ulnar collateral ligaments in their pitching elbow. According to a report in USA Today, in the last 13 months, 38 major league pitchers have suffered this injury, which mostly requires the now-common Tommy John surgery.

This is after MLB stars Shohei Ohtani, Sandy Alcantara, Shane McClanahan, Felix Bautista and Jacon deGrom were all hit with the same injury last year.

This figure does not cover the college, or high school, levels where this injury has been on the rise for the last decade.


How does baseball reverse what is becoming its latest out-loud crisis?

“Who knows? It depends on who your coach is. Change the mentality to all of it,” said Baseball Hall of Famer, pitcher Greg Maddux, in a phone interview.

Maddux is one of the greatest pitchers ever. He pitched from 1986 to 2008, and the statistics he amassed look impossible today. From 1998 to 2001, he averaged more than 200 innings each season.

Maddux is in town to play the 2024 Invited Celebrity Classic, the three-day PGA Tour Champions event combined with a load of retired athletes who are also good golfers. This includes his former teammates with the Atlanta Braves, pitchers John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, both Hall of Famers.


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