Today’s edition of My 2 Sense was written by Sal Marinello, President Athletic Development Coaching.
Was there a more embarrassing spectacle dealing with how a team handles their athletes than the New York Mets saga this season with Matt Harvey and their pitching staff? Innings limits, pitch counts, 5-man rotation or 6-man rotation, and the sense that a player-agent was calling the shots. All the elements of good farce.
Despite all of this nonsense, the Mets won their division and made the playoffs, but despite this success the Mets’ problems remain. However, the team is not alone in their futile efforts to address baseball’s problem with pitcher injuries. While the Mets may be this year’s “Poster Team” for the issue, for the better part of two decades Major League Baseball has struggled with the problems of injuries and the training and conditioning of their athletes.
More than any other sport baseball has struggled to deal with injuries and incorporate off-field training methods as part of its preparation. More than any other sport baseball has created fragile athletes in their effort to produce resilient athletes.
We all know of the havoc caused by steroid use. But less obvious, and more damaging to the players than steroids, was the inappropriate application of weight training methods to the players’ regimens. Lifting weights has caused way more problems for baseball players than steroids. We can delve into that one at another time.
Watching how baseball, and the Mets in particular, has struggled to deal with pitchers’ injuries of all kinds, in the short term, has been interesting. The argument used by the establishment against the 6-man rotation serves as a great example of how baseball struggles to adapt to current research and ignores the obvious.
The suggestions that extra rest could benefit starting pitchers were met with scorn and derision in most quarters, and not just from baseball insiders. In certain situations extra rest can undoubtedly benefit pitchers.
Regarding the Harvey situation, if all parties were aware that an innings limit was in effect from the beginning of the season, the Dark Knight should have joined the team in late April or early May rather than be part of the rotation from the first week of the season. The Mets should have learned from what the Washington Nationals went through with Steven Strasburg a few years ago.
The dirty little not-a-secret is that there is zero research to back up any of the interventions being employed by baseball, from pitch counts and inning limits to the maximum distance a pitcher should throw during rehab from Tommy John surgery. Guess work rules the day.
MLB faces another problem when it comes to pitchers, and this one is not of their doing. Over the past 15 or so years baseball has become an almost 12-month a year sport from the youth through college levels. In many cases, the wear and tear – and damage – done to young arms does not manifest itself until these arms show up in the Major Leagues attached to a 20-something year old stud pitcher.
The pitches thrown by a 13-year old in fall ball, winter lessons, spring games and summer travel team games add up and can cause as much damage as pitches thrown from a mound in Yankee Stadium. Poor coaching and poor training experienced by developing athletes magnifies, negatively, the effect that all of these pitches has on the arm.
Now these Mets pitchers with their fragile arms enter into the post-season where many of them will be asked to pitch in a 3-man rotation. Will they crash and burn, or rise to the occasion?
And that was Sal’s 2 Sense.
Photo credit: Rick Wenner for Sports Illustrated | http://www.rickwenner.com