Thursday, July 23, 2015

Old Sportswriter Notes One Fact, Makes Insane Generalization

I'm sorry, I know Frank Deford is a crotchety old dude. I know the NPR just hires him for some color commentary.  I know that his segment is called "Sweetness and Light", so it's not supposed to be serious, but when he says things this stupid, I can't hold back.  Here's one of his segments from this spring: "As American Sports Skew More Arm-Centric, Throwing Injuries Rise"

Whatever happened to rotator cuffs? It seems like just yesterday that every pitcher who was injured had a problem with his rotator cuff. But baseball player injuries now invariably require something called "Tommy John surgery," which has become epidemic.

Right, this is one fact, Tommy John surgery is up. Let's see where we go here.

The difference is simple: The rotator cuff involves the shoulder while Tommy John relates to the elbow, or more precisely, the ulnar collateral ligament. The corrective surgery, by Dr. Frank Jobe, was first performed 41 years ago on Dodgers pitcher Tommy John, and for years it remained fairly uncommon. Now, it is downright commonplace.

Ok, so this is just an extension here.  So far so good. 

It is also indisputable that as more pitchers throw faster — mid-90 mph becoming routine — the more Tommy John surgeries we encounter. It doesn't require a crack detective to solve the case: The more pitchers throwing with all their might for just a few pitches, the more ulnar collateral ligaments that are failing. Pitchers' arms are becoming like football players' heads. The happy difference is that you do not need a good arm to keep on living a long normal life the way you do need an undamaged brain.

Wohoo!  Take that, football! You guys all have damaged brains! But even so far Frank is  just ambling along saying nothing interesting.  But here we go:

But let's face it: American athletics are armcentric. Not just the pitcher — everybody on a baseball team has to throw the ball. Football depends more and more on passing. "What's his arm strength?" the scouts first ask of quarterbacks. Basketball shots are propelled by strong arms, especially now with the long 3-point basket in vogue.

What?  There are so many levels of stupid here:
1. First basemen, offensive tackles, and power forwards basically never throw anything with one arm.  Nothing at all about their games is increasingly armcentric.  In fact, this whole paragraph makes the insane point that Tommy John surgeries are up, and that must be tied to the increasingly armcentric wold of sports.   It's like Frank Deford hates modernity so much that he just makes wild generalizations just to show how life is going to hell in a handbasket.

2. Were scouts in previous ages no longer primarily concerned with arm strength?  Do baseball position players throw any more now than they used to?

3.  What about the statement that "the long 3-point basket in vogue"?!  The NBA adopted the 3 in 1979.  That was 36 years ago, Frank!  Where the hell have you been?

Throwing is certainly not unnatural, but pitching a baseball overhanded is too abnormal an action for the human body. In contrast, throwing a softball underhanded is a pretty smooth motion. A cricket bowler delivers the ball to the batsman in something of a high loop, without being allowed to break the elbow.

Are Tommy John surgeries in cricket bowlers up or something?  Who cares?

It would seem that pitchers have survived, barely, these past 150 years or so, but now the added stress — especially for pitchers who started throwing too hard too young — is just enough to break down too many arms.

It would seem that Frank Deford has survived, barely, these past 150 years or so, but now the added stress - especially for bitter bloggers who started blogging too hard too young - is just enough to break down dan-bob's sanity.

Rob Manfred, is, officially, only the commissioner of professional baseball, but just like the bumbling NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, Manfred is really the steward of his game. 

Take that, football! Your sport is becoming inceasingly armcentric and your commissioner is so incompetent that even 150-year old fossils get their digs in!

Manfred should convene some sort of all-baseball conference to examine this serious issue. Until then, it appears that baseball simply feels that pitchers are fungible, that there's always another kid with a temporarily live arm who can fire it by the hitters.

"Fungible"?  Put away your thesaurus, Frank, The whole article sticks in a pretty simple diction, appropriate for a general audience on the radio, and then Frank drops a totally unnecessarily fancy word as he moves towards his close.  It's the same thing he did in my last post with "high-falutin'".

Really, we've got to do better by our best arms.

National Public Radio really has to do better by its ordinary listeners.

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