Since 2008, Joe Girardi has served as the ideal leader of the New York Yankees. For five seasons, Girardi served as the Bronx Bomber’s trusty catcher–providing leadership and wisdom behind the plate. During his stint with the club, Girardi contributed to classic Yankee moments that include catching Dwight Gooden’s no-hitter in 1996 and winning the World Series later that season.
Throughout his entire life, Girardi has been a consummate leader and professional.
After graduating from Northwestern University in 1986 with a degree in industrial engineering, Girardi joined the Cubs farm system before making his first big league appearance in 1989. In 1992, the expansion Colorado Rockies selected Girardi as an unprotected player for its inaugural season. In 1995, New York City began discovered its appreciation for him when the Yankees traded Mike DeJean for the catcher. After five incredible seasons behind the plate at Yankee Stadium, he would return to the Cubs for the last major stretch of his career. In 2000, he would earn his only All-Star team appearance as a player with his home state club.
During his career, Girardi batted .267 with 422 RBIs.
After retiring, Girardi would spend two stints as a broadcaster for the YES Network. While he excelled at his new position, the game he loved proved too tempting to walk away from entirely. Girardi joined the Florida Marlins as its manager for the 2006 season. Guiding the club to a 78-84 record, Girardi earned several Manager of the Year honors before he and the club would go their separate ways at season’s end.
In 2007, Girardi returned to the Yankees as its new Manager. He opted to wear the number 27 to demonstrate his desire to bring a 27th championship to the Bronx. That proved to true in 2009 after the Bombers took down the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies.
As Girardi and the Yankees pursue pennant 28, New York knows that Joe has its back.
When a pitcher makes their usual throwing motion, it puts valgus stress on the arm–meaning their elbow bends in a direction the body isn’t intended to go. With the velocity and force that a major league pitcher has behind each of their pitches, that stress on the body rises to levels where the forearm wants to detach from the body. The reason it doesn’t is because of a small connection of ligaments. Once those ligaments snap after years of stress, they require reconstructive surgery that entails a lengthy rehabilitation stint.
In short, that is Tommy John surgery, the growing surgery of choice in Major League Baseball since the 1970s.
That is just one interesting fact into Tommy John surgery conducted by ESPN for its extensive May report. Another stunning fact is the amount of literal pressure a pitcher has on them with each pitch. If someone faced that pressure for a full minute, they would likely die.
But what might be most surprising is that the ulnar collateral ligament damage that necessitates Tommy John surgery occurs most during ages 6 to 17. As the sport has grown over the years, athletes were handed increased schedules that now often include multiple leagues that run across most of the year, summer camps and showcases. In short, it’s an issue of overuse at increasingly early ages. Famed physicians Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Glenn Fleisig are just two of several leading authorities in the field to advocate for revised pitching calendars for youth athletes. In recent years, reports of teenagers as young as 14 undergoing the reconstructive surgery have surfaced at an alarming rate.
No longer is the issue just about holding off teaching a child to throw a curveball–a rule often tossed aside by coaches and parents. Now, physicians urge for “6 months on, 6 months off” types of strategies that ensure ample rest for the athlete during the offseason. This may prevent the prospect from attending every summer camp and tryout, but it is highly likely that this will preserve their arm for the long haul. It is a risk that the player and their family must decide. When a potentially lucrative contract could be in grasp, how do you turn that down? How can you tell a budding prospect to tone down the force behind their pitches? That’s why some are willing to overuse their arm, or force the issue early and get Tommy John at a younger age.
Yankee pitcher Ivan Nova also had Tommy John surgery in 2014.
On the Major League level, the trend is rising as well. The Hardball Times writer Jon Roegele tracked the trend over the years and noted that 31 major leaguers accounted for the 101 professionals in the sport to undergo the surgery last year. Surprisingly, that is 50 percent more than 2013’s totals. This season alone has seen pitchers Yu Darvish, Zach Wheeler and Dodgers first round pick Walker Buehler go under the knife. With a few months left in the season, more could be added to list.
While the ESPN article pondered if we have just gotten better at diagnosing the issue, MLB is taking proactive steps to minimize the injury on all levels. As sports become increasingly modernized with technology, we are able to get better insight into what might cause this trend. The Tampa Bay Rays gained some attention when they announced plans to implement Kinatrax motion capture system to gauge a player’s biometrics–potentially identifying the exact movements to avoid causing crucial injuries. This is just another step for an organization that prides itself on cutting edge player health measures.
But MLB isn’t only focusing on the current stars of the game. They are focusing on the future. In a partnership with USA Baseball, the Pitch Smart campaign launched to educate adults on the age appropriate steps their athletes should be taking. One leading participant is Dr. Fleisig. The hope is that this helps form proper mechanics and habits that not only boosts health, but also proficiency on the mound.
While the issue has a ways to go, these steps should prove fruitful in the coming years if surgery rates decline.
via USA Today
This year’s Gillette Home Run Derby came to Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark with a revised format. Under fears that the reformed competition would be a rain out, some worried the All-Star Game would be without one of its signature events. Thankfully, the weather held out enough to see veteran Reds third baseman Todd Frazier hoist the title in front the hometown faithful. Frazier fought back to beat Prince Fielder and Josh Donaldson in the prior rounds before defeating Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson with a buzzer beater home run to claim the title.
You heard that right. A buzzer beater home run.
The new timed elimination format appears to be a hit with fans. With hopes of reducing game time while accelerating play, the format had some thinking that we’d see a lack of home runs. Those concerns were quelled quickly and often when a total of 159 homers sailed over the fences during the competition–a significantly higher figure than 2014’s 78 home runs. Many league experts credit the new system for instilling a higher sense of competition while others credited a field of hitters that included some of the most impressive batters the league has seen in recent years.
Pujols and Champ Pederson share a moment as brother Joc watches on. (via SportsCenter Instagram)
While Frazier’s hometown victory seems like an impossible moment to top, there was one that transcended the game altogether. Angels’ slugger Albert Pujols combined with Joc Pederson for an incredible battle of the bats. However, the true touching moment came between Pujols and Pederson’s older brother, Champ–who has special needs, met on the field. Their moment together demonstrated the true power of the game and the players that make it possible.
To cap All-Star festivities off, the AL took home the big game and now hold home field advantage during the World Series. Here’s to an excellent second half of the season!