The Arm, by Jeff Passan, is a well-researched and chronicled look at the abundance of UCL tears and Tommy John surgeries in recent years. Passan provides a wide array of possible causes with no clear, decisive thesis of why the injury is so widespread. Overuse? Year round showcases like Perfect Game? High Pitch counts? Bad mechanics? After 342 pages, he does not offer a concrete answer for the epidemic because, at this point, no one really knows.
February is right around the corner. Winter is almost on its way out, and pitchers and catchers start to report to spring training in just 2 weeks. The MLB landscape, though, is far from set.
Since its creation, baseball has always served as a metaphor for our country. In the 20th Century, artists like Norman Rockwell and the creators of the film Field of Dreams used the game to contrast modern, urban obsessions with America’s simple, rural, and more grounded roots. Contemporary America is a long way from those values – and the national pastime is too. Today, baseball is more about power, data, recruiting overseas talent, and total revenue earned than playing the game the old, “right way”. These changes reflect the newer America: an appetite for speed and immediacy, emphasis on increasing power/production, utilizing immigrant labor, and profit maximization. A majority of fans may be happy with the majestic home runs and electrifying strikeouts they witnessed in the 2017 World Series. But, there are some who believe that it is baseball that has lost something fundamental about its essence.
On August 19, after a brutal 8-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, the New York Mets, defending champions of the National League, were 60-62. Their playoff odds were 6.7%, per Fangraphs. 6.7%! It wasn’t quite the home stretch to the 2016 season the Mets had visualized when they entered the year looking to defend their pennant and complete the path to redemption in the World Series. When they re-signed Yoenis Cespedes on January 26, they looked poised to do it, with a rotation that was being hailed as potentially one of the greatest of all time, and a mostly-intact offense from last season’s number one NL offensive team in the second half. Baseball wouldn’t have it that way.
Fresh off of his 2015 National League MVP season, including a league leading 9.9 WAR, Bryce Harper is one of the most exciting and talented young players in baseball. At the tender age of 23, Harper’s best years likely lie ahead of him, though his contract with the Washington Nationals will keep him off the free agent market until after the 2018 season. With 2016 right around the corner, and considering the outfielder’s potential, it’s certainly not too early to start conjecturing about the possibilities that surround his future and, perhaps, the first $400 million contract in professional sports.
The New York Mets are coming off of a very pleasantly surprising season in 2015, making a thrilling run to the World Series after not previously making the playoffs since 2006. They also have plenty of cause for optimism in the future, with a young and still improving pitching rotation that could already be considered the best in baseball. However, some of the moves (and non-moves) they’ve made this offseason have the fanbase scratching their heads and even calling for the owners to sell the team. Why?
It’s been quite a week for both the New York Mets and Washington Nationals, though the two teams have seen very different results. The Mets, currently riding a five-game win streak that included a sweep of the Nats, are back in first place in the National League East for the first time since early June, despite the returns for the Nationals of injured starters Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. Many factors allowed the Mets to sweep the Nats this weekend, including their fireballing young trio of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard, the overall – and sudden – ineptitude of the Nats’ offense (see figure below, courtesy of ESPN, for an overview), the addition of two-time Home Run Derby champion and 4.2 WAR outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a suddenly-deep Mets lineup, and the magma-hot bat of Mets first baseman Lucas Duda, who had an incredible run that saw nine home runs hit in an eight-game span, and was awarded co-National League Player of the Week for his efforts.