Everyone has an opinion on the looming Stephen Strasburg shutdown. And since the shutdown is driven in part by two-year-old Tommy John surgery, why not ask Tommy John? Colin Cowherd did:
“From the time I came back until I quit in 1989, I never missed a start in 13 years. Now, we were archaic back there, but here’s my take on the thing: There’s no guarantee (if) you shut him down. The Yankees screwed Joba Chamberlain over. I mean, this poor kid has had all kind of problems, and they had Joba Rules. …It didn’t help him a bit. He still had to have Tommy John surgery. So there’s no guarantee that you’re shutting Strasburg down, that he’s going to be healthy down the road.
I don’t disagree with any of that sentiment and I think that anyone who agrees with the shutdown program needs to likewise admit that we have nothing approaching good science regarding the relationship between post-surgery workloads and future health.
That said: why are we asking Tommy John about this? I know the surgery has his name on it and stuff, but it’s not like he has some sort of unique insight on it. My dad had back surgery a couple of years ago and no one asks him about whether anyone else who gets it should go back to work.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was one of the most prominent examples of service time manipulation in recent memory. He was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball going into the 2015 season by Baseball America. He then had an incredible spring, batting .425 with a spring-high nine home runs and 15 RBI. The Cubs, however, didn’t add him to the Opening Day roster, instead keeping him in Triple-A for the first two weeks of the season, ensuring the club would get another year of control over Bryant because he wouldn’t accrue enough service time. He made his debut on April 17 and the rest was history. Bryant won the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award.
While the MLB Players Association filed a grievance on his behalf, Bryant didn’t say anything. But it was a learning moment for him. The same is true of the past offseason, which Bryant says “opened my eyes,” as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He now considers labor issues a priority, saying, “I need to study up, have my voice heard, continue to learn, because this is going to affect us for years to come. And I’d be foolish not to kind of offer myself out there.”
As Wittenmyer notes, Bryant hopes to replace Jake Arrieta as the Cubs’ player reprensentative. The players make that decision later this month. Bryant also vowed to fight for the next collective bargaining agreement. He said, “Maybe the focus was on other things rather than some of the more important things. But I think with this next one things are definitely going to change, and there’ll definitely be more fight on our side just because we’re going to get the chance to experience the effects of some of the things we agreed to. The only way to get what you want here is to fight for it. And I think you’re going to see a lot of that.”
It’s good to see Bryant motivated by recent economic developments in baseball. Hopefully more players take his lead and become more informed, arming themselves with all of the tools they need to create a better situation for themselves when the current CBA expires.