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

by Jeff Passan


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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.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062400369
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/05/2016
Pages: 376
Sales rank: 614,488
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About 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.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Chapter 1 A Dead Man's Tendon 5

Chapter 2 Dummyball 25

Chapter 3 The Men Who Changed Baseball History 43

Chapter 4 Chimps, Quacks, and Freaks 57

Chapter 5 Young Guns 69

Chapter 6 Overuse, Underuse, and No Use 95

Chapter 7 Pay the Man 113

Chapter 8 The Second Time Around 137

Chapter 9 Rehab Hell 157

Chapter 10 Fear, Loathing, and Rotten Meat 175

Chapter 11 Land of the Rising Arm Injury Rate 195

Chapter 12 Changeup 225

Chapter 13 The Swamp of Possible Solutions 245

Chapter 14 Dog Days 275

Chapter 15 The New Frontier 293

Chapter 16 Spring 325

Epilogue 343

Acknowledgments 354

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The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Overall very good, a little dense at times and I could have used the diagram of the elbow at the beginning of the book, not the end in the e-book. But I enjoyed it and it’s an important look at a topic baseball needs to face head on.
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
Those who follow the game of baseball have notices that lately the workloads of pitchers have decreased, but the number and severity of injuries suffered by pitchers has increased. Through it all, the amount of money spent on pitchers has increased to more than a billion dollars. This excellent book by Jeff Passan explores the business of pitching through several different lenses. doesn't just seem so, but research by Bill James and others backs that up. Starting with the question of why there are so many pitching injuries, Passan looks into some reasons. From his research and interviews, the primary reason seems to be velocity. Pitchers these days throw harder than ever before, and velocity does correlate with injury rates. Passan doesn’t just stop with this conclusion – he backs it up with stories about young players getting raves for hitting speeds over 95 miles an hour on the radar gun. This “need for speed” is illustrated by his writing about youth baseball tourneys, traveling teams, and the Japanese baseball culture of big workloads for pitchers, no matter the age. The popular surgical procedure of repairing the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), also known as “Tommy John surgery”, is explained in detail. The book starts off like a medical record as it describes this operation on Todd Coffey. This is the second time Coffey, a major league relief pitcher, has undergone the surgery. His rehab and struggles to get back into the major leagues is the main thrust of the book, along with a similar following of another pitcher trying to make it back after the surgery, Daniel Hudson. Their stories, not just in rehab or on the field but also the toll it takes on their families, makes for fascinating reading. . Despite all of these setbacks and questions, major league teams still spend a lot of money on top free agent pitchers. The wooing of free agent pitcher Jon Lester in the off-season of 2014-15 is chronicled, mainly from Lester’s point of view. The maneuverings of the teams in order to convince Lester to sign a contract with the team is also completing reading and one will shake his or her head to realize the lengths go to acquire top pitching talent. The book is highly recommended for all baseball fans as it will address many different issues affecting the most important position in the game and how it turned into a billion-dollar industry. Between the outstanding writing and the thorough research, this is one to add to every baseball bookshelf.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and informative. ~*~LEB~*~