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Say hey, baseball: These Tommy John surgeries aren't going away

Tuesday morning's baseball includes the TJ epidemic, more on Kris Bryant and service time manipulation, and Cliff Lee's decision. Subscribe for your daily Say Hey!

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Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Listen, we know it's tough to catch up on everything happening in the baseball world each morning. There are all kinds of stories, rumors, game coverage, and Vines of dudes getting hit in the beans every day. Trying to find all of it while on your way to work or sitting at your desk just isn't easy. It's okay, though, we're going to do the heavy lifting for you each morning, and find the things you need to see from within the SB Nation baseball network as well as from elsewhere. Please hold your applause until the end, or at least until after you subscribe to the newsletter.


You can call it an epidemic. Tommy John surgery seems to be in the news every few days, with pitchers either undergoing the procedure or finding out they need to or worrying that it might be in their future. This spring, we've already seen Yu Darvish and Zack Wheeler go down, and pitchers like Masahiro Tanaka narrowly avoided the same fate with rest and rehab. There will be more arms going under the knife in the future, too, because the entire system is designed to bring us to this point.

Jonah Keri spoke with Dr. Glenn Fleisig and published that conversation last week at Grantland, and you probably won't like what he learned. This isn't some coincidence or phase for Baseball, but is instead the new reality. Single-sport specialization at the youth level has meant more and more young pitchers throwing more and more often, because they end up playing baseball basically year round. These pitchers get "little, undetected injuries" over the course of their prolific amateur careers, and by the time they show up in the pros, their elbow is already torn, or on the way to tearing.

MLB is buying used cars, and paying for them and driving them like they're new. They don't have much choice, either, as there just aren't that many pristine models released each year -- as Keri and Dr. Fleisig suggest, MLB teams need to find that natural talent from Vermont who doesn't play year round and hasn't developed the same kind of injuries if they want to beat the system. Guess how many of those there are each summer? MLB has tried to slow this trend, but that's mostly a PR campaign, not something they can actually influence unless they stop drafting the kids who decided to become baseball lifers at age 10. That's not going to happen, at least not to the degree required for change to occur. Especially not when teams need more pitchers to protect themselves against all those pitchers they drafted.

So, for now, this is reality. Sorry to ruin your morning like that.