I know that many of the readers of our BirdsWatcher blog are not that old and, unlike me, don’t have decades of baseball seasons in their minds. But surely there are also many who have been travelling around the sun a bit longer and who can remember even 30, 40 or more years ago and what baseball was like in those days.
I would suspect that some of the older fan base have the same thought I do once in a while, “Man, it sure seems like baseball players get injured a lot more than they did in the past!” And even if you’ve been only paying attention for a handful of years, you have to wonder about why it seems there are new names to the team trainer’s active roster almost every day.
So are players softer than they used to be? Are major leaguers simply more injured than those of a generation ago? I don’t know how there could be any definitive statistics on this subject, but even if they are not more prone to injury, it is certainly true that it seems that way. Among those we are worried about in Oriole-land are Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis, Miguel Gonzalez, Taylor Teagarden, Brian Roberts, Chris Tillman … just to name a few.
Here is my take on the subject. I will state that I do not believe players are softer or more injured than in the past. In fact, players of today are more athletic and fit and muscled than ever before through year-round routines. So I would like to list what I believe are the reasons it appears injuries abound in this era.
Players played through more stuff in the past – Does this make them tougher? Probably not! It probably makes them more stupid to have done so. But in those days you did not see the wholesale changes in lineups throughout a season like we see today … nor even from year to year.
More players and tighter margins of competition expose any weakness – I am not saying that there were not great players in the past. There have been great players in all eras of the sport. But with so many more athletes now – including players from all over the world, the margin of difference between the top 10 and the top 40 players in an organization is much smaller than in the past. For example, a guy who lost 4-5 mph on his fastball in 1963 probably got away with it to a degree that a player 50 years later in 2013 cannot.
Greater caution is exercised by clubs to protect their massive investments – This needs little expansion on my part. When a club invests double-digit millions in one human body, they are going to be very cautious in overlooking any reports of aches and pains in areas known to be featured in baseball injury scenarios. And who can blame a franchise for such a concern?
Advances in sports medicine bring a greater knowledge to catching problems early – Sports medicine, sports training and physiology, and athletic therapy have advanced light years in just a handful of decades. People now know what to look for, how to diagnose presenting problems, and what time and energy to give to catching issues as close to onset as possible.
The information age immediately reports every ache and pain – I think this might be the biggest item. So am I blaming Roch Kubatko and Brittany Ghiroli for the abundance of information we have about the latest Oriole who had a bad night’s sleep on a hard pillow? Yep, but I’m not complaining. I love these guys and others who have access to such inside scoop and poop – and I read it all. But just think what it was like only 30 years ago. Without the internet and blogs (with like 6-8 articles a day on some of them), the only information that went out to the fans was an article or two in the paper the next day, and perhaps a few pre-game comments from the radio guys broadcasting the games.
Spring training injuries are pretty common – they really are. I remember this myself from my playing days and could probably, even 38 years later, take you to the exact place on the exact field in Pinellas Park, Florida where I tore a quad simply in a stretching routine. It is part of the game, but it does not make it any easier to hear about it. I think I know more about Nick Markakis’ neck than I do my own. But his is more important!
So what do you think about the injuries to modern baseball players? Are they more common?