Tommy John surgery turns 35 years old

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Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star wrote a great article celebrating the 35th anniversary of Tommy John surgery, including how the whole thing got started:

When John’s left elbow gave out 35 years ago, he asked orthopedic surgeon Frank Jobe to help salvage his career. Jobe took on the challenge, but it was no easy task. “I was nervous because we didn’t know what we were doing,” Jobe recalled in a phone interview.



Of course, Jobe was basically inventing the surgery, so he couldn’t guarantee that it would be successful. “John talked it over with his wife and his father,” Jobe said, “and came back and said, ‘Let’s do it.'” He said, ‘This is what I want to do because I don’t want to quit pitching. I can’t earn this much money in Terre Haute, Ind.'”

Three decades later Tommy John surgery has become commonplace, with an average of 2-3 pitchers on every team having undergone the procedure, and no one is surprised when a pitcher comes back stronger than ever. However, back then no one knew what to expect and it was considered a mini-miracle that following the surgery John pitched another 13 seasons in the majors and won another 164 games while three times finishing among the top five in Cy Young balloting.
Now the list of pitchers who’ve had the surgery looks like an All-Star team (or more accurarely several All-Star teams), with Chris Carpenter providing the most recent success story following his 2008 surgery. Of course, there are also plenty of unsuccessful examples, including most recently Francisco Liriano going from the league’s best pitcher as a rookie in 2006 to a mop-up man two years after going under the knife.
In terms of overall impact Tommy John surgery is arguably one of the most important discoveries in the history of sports, and Grathoff does a nice job describing the actual surgery, laying out the rehabilitation timetable, talking to pitchers who’ve had the operation, and examining the growing number of teenagers having the procedure done. Definitely worth a read.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.