The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports

The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports

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by Jeff Passan
     
 

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Every year, Major League Baseball spends more than $1.5 billion on pitchers—five times the salary of all NFL quarterbacks combined. Pitchers are the lifeblood of the sport, the ones who win championships, but today they face an epidemic unlike any baseball has ever seen. 

One tiny ligament in the elbow keeps snapping

Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Every year, Major League Baseball spends more than $1.5 billion on pitchers—five times the salary of all NFL quarterbacks combined. Pitchers are the lifeblood of the sport, the ones who win championships, but today they face an epidemic unlike any baseball has ever seen. 

One tiny ligament in the elbow keeps snapping and sending teenagers and major leaguers alike to undergo surgery, an issue the baseball establishment ignored for decades. For three years, Jeff Passan, the lead baseball columnist for Yahoo Sports, has traveled the world to better understand the mechanics of the arm and its place in the sport’s past, present, and future. He got the inside story of how the Chicago Cubs decided to spend $155 million on one pitcher. He sat down for a rare interview with Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, whose career ended at 30 because of an arm injury. He went to Japan to understand how another baseball-obsessed nation deals with this crisis. And he followed two major league pitchers as they returned from Tommy John surgery, the revolutionary procedure named for the former All-Star who first underwent it more than 40 years ago. 

Passan discovered a culture that struggles to prevent arm injuries and lacks the support for the changes necessary to do so. He explains that without a drastic shift in how baseball thinks about its talent, another generation of pitchers will fall prey to the same problem that vexes the current one. 

Equal parts medical thriller and cautionary tale, The Arm is a searing exploration of baseball’s most valuable commodity and the redemption that can be found in one fragile and mysterious limb.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - John Swansburg
Passan varies his approach to his subject like an ace mixing his speeds, leaving the reader happily guessing at what's coming next…Passan makes a convincing case that the success of [Tommy John] surgery has prevented teams from seeking out the combination of mechanics, training and rest that might spare players the surgeon's knife.
Publishers Weekly
★ 04/11/2016
Sportswriter Passan (Death to the BSC: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series) delivers one of the more important books on baseball of the decade, a superbly researched and detailed look at the current "epidemic" of arm injuries in the sport. Passan expertly describes the main problem, the torn ligament in the elbows of baseball pitchers that requires what is commonly known as Tommy John surgery—using a tendon in the wrist to rebuild the elbow. Passan's focus on the people affected by the injury makes the book successful history as well as compelling reading. He presents fascinating accounts of those most responsible for the success of the Tommy John surgery, notably Dr. Frank Jobe, a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge whose experimental surgery remains the best of its kind over 40 years later. Passan also follows the careers of two major-league pitchers, Daniel Hudson and Todd Coffey, as they try to return to the game after surgery. Passan argues passionately that unless Major League Baseball confronts a situation in which "more than 50 percent of pitchers end up on the disabled list"—as do increasing numbers of young pitchers in the American and Japanese youth leagues—and figures out how to keep them from blowing out their elbows, "the current generation of pitchers is lost, their arms ticking time bombs." (Apr.)
Boston Globe
“The best baseball book of the year… Jeff Passan spent several years in clubhouses and operating rooms to report The Arm. It’s a close, exceptionally well-written look into the game’s epidemic of ruptured elbow ligaments, and the hard fact that medical science still has no real answers for it.”
BookPage Magazine
“Jeff Passan’s The Arm is the real deal-a book that’s both readable as hell and that has something meaningful to say about the way the game works...This human element lends the book its propulsive quality, but every part is fascinating. The Arm is a must-read.”
Entertainment Weekly
“ . . .A must-read for any sports dad or anxious Mets fan. A rating.”
Booklist
‘Give[s] readers an insider’s perspective on the threat hanging over every player who takes the mound.”
Jane Leavy
“The Arm makes it official—Jeff Passan is the best young baseball writer in America. This searing, meticulously reported account of the orthopedic revolution that began with Tommy John is must reading for every manager, general manager, pitcher and, most especially, every parent whose child has 100 mph dreams.”
Bob Costas
“A timely and comprehensive look at all aspects of a baseball problem that in recent years appears to approach a crisis.”
Ken Burns
“This is a stunning exposé of the hidden story behind the most frequent operation performed on the most important players in this most important game in our country.”
John Smoltz
“This is the most important baseball book in years, not just for major league pitchers like me who had Tommy John surgery but for every parent who wants a child with a healthy arm. This is an epidemic that can be fixed, and The Arm is a great first step.”
Library Journal
05/01/2016
Yahoo Sports baseball columnist Passan spent three years investigating the epidemic of broken and torn ulnar collateral ligaments (UCL), and the pervasiveness of its fix: Tommy John surgery. Failure of the UCL, located in the elbow, is an accumulation injury, although the specifics of its cause remain a puzzle. In 1974, Frank Jobe performed the first surgery on Dodgers pitcher Tommy John, who continued to throw in the majors until he was 46. The procedure that now bears his name has been performed on approximately 25 percent of current major league pitchers. Passan brilliantly combines an array of facts and information with dozens of personal accounts, giving special attention to the grueling post-surgery experiences of Daniel Hudson and Todd Coffey, which contribute to the book a common thread and emotional richness. Passan also explores the "youth baseball-industrial complex" (57 percent of Tommy John surgeries are performed on teens), the arm-care business and its host of both legitimate scientists and charlatans seeking explanations and vying for solutions, and the need for a cultural shift that leads to increased research dollars and better sharing of information. VERDICT Highly recommended for baseball fans, parents of young players, and those interested in sports medicine.—Brian Sullivan, Alfred Univ. Lib., NY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062400369
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/05/2016
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
12,874
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Passan is a baseball columnist at Yahoo Sports, where he has worked for the past decade. He is the coauthor of the critically acclaimed Death to the BCS. He lives in Kansas with his wife and sons.

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The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Well written and informative. ~*~LEB~*~