Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Elbow Ligament Curse

Over the last several weeks, injuries have continue to mount for the Atlanta Braves. First, it was Kris Medlen. Shortly after being labeled an ace by a couple of writers, Meds went down and would need a second Tommy John. It was only a few days later when Brandon Beachy followed suit. By the end of spring training, Cory Gearrin was next in Dr. James Andrews’ waiting room. What the hell is going on?

Only last year, other players went down with similar ailments. Jonny Venters missed the season, Eric O’Flaherty was hurt early in the year, and Cristhian Martinez’s shoulder was so wonky that no one even knows what happened to him.

What brings this rash of injuries to Braves pitchers?  Is it the pitching program? Perhaps, a return to Leo Mazzone’s program would fix all the problems Atlanta is suffering from. Or was it a problem inherent with the rehabilitation program for pitchers? Maybe the Braves are rushing players back before their arm strength can handle it.

Perhaps the fault is not with the Braves, but with baseball in general. A third of major league pitchers last year had experienced at least one Tommy John surgery and that number is rapidly rising. In the time it took me to type that last sentence, three pitchers suffered ligament damage to their elbow. That stat is in no way made up.

Could it be the problem can’t be solved by professional teams? Pitchers throw more and more than ever. A young girl named AmandaWhurlizer’s arm was worked so hard in little league, that she dated Michael Jackson, married John McEnroe, and was arrested for buying crack in Manhattan. MANHATTAN! This epidemic has gone too far when Manhattan residents are forced to buy crack, clearly to quell the pain that pitching brought upon them.

Before Tommy John created his own surgery, and humbly named it after himself, elbow ligament damage was a death sentence. People’s elbow would snap off and fall to the ground while people would perish from blood loss. True story.

In that way, these pitchers are lucky, but that does not explain how the Braves got to this point. You have to go back. Way back. All the way back to…

June 19th, 2012.

The Braves officially released Livan Hernandez. It was a perfectly reasonable move with a reliever who sported an ERA approaching 5.00 with five homers given up in 31 innings. Signed at the end of spring training to provide a veteran presence out of the pen capable of being a long man, Hernandez’s brief time with the Braves provided few memorable moments and many did not shed a tear for the Cuban-born right-hander. In fact, many were still confused how Hernandez was on the team considering his biggest moment came during the 1997 playoffs when a pitch that was about ten feet outside was called a strike to Fred McGriff.

In truth, the warning signs came before the 19th. Hernandez had been designated for assignment on June 15th. The next day, Beachy left a game with an elbow injury. On the 18th, as Hernandez sat in limbo, awaiting his fate, Beachy was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL and would need Tommy John. The surgery, not the man.

Since Hernandez was officially cast off, the injuries have continued to pile up and not all have been normal. Gearrin was demoted last year and completely shut down. Tim Hudson’s ankle was shattered – SHATTERED! – into a million pieces and to add insult to injury, he was kicked across the country to San Francisco. Martinez’s face is on milk cartons. Medlen’s avatar was actually changed to Tommy John on twitter because Medlen is in the midst of a personality crisis as his name is never mentioned without Tommy John.

The curse has spread and Peter Moylan, a former Brave, needs another surgery. Simply growing up a Braves fan was enough to force Indians pitcher Blake Wood to need Tommy John surgery. Chipper Jones recently had to put a deer down at his ranch because it too was suffering from elbow ligament damage.

But it all starts with Livan Hernandez. Cuban-born, Hernandez learned the dark magic of voodoo before coming to America. Leaving a team is always difficult, but being told to get out and don’t let the doorknob hit ya where the good Lord split ya was too much for Livan. He needed his revenge. He needed his pound of flesh.

He got it and more. Meanwhile, the Braves are starting Aaron Harang’s cadaver. Livan…you win.  We yield. Please lift this curse and we will celebrate your name by forgetting all about your cheap strikeout of the Crime Dog. Just stop this madness!