An alarming arm prblem
Stephen Strasburg was named to the annual Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team on Monday.
Honors were expected of the righty -- especially after he struck out 14 in his major league debut -- but the way Strasburg finished his rookie season was not what most of us had in mind.
The 22-year-old was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts and was averaging 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings -- all with a woeful, losing team -- and was on his way to being the National League Rookie of the Year.
Then his season ended when Strasburg tore a ligament in his right elbow and underwent Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in September.
He likely won't see a major league field again until 2012.
So now baseball sits and waits for one of its newest and biggest young stars to return after missing an entire season of play, wondering whether he will heal well enough to regain his form.
Meanwhile, nothing has changed. There will be others like Strasburg -- more young star pitchers sidelined by performing the very act they are paid to do -- and nobody really knows why this seems to be happening at such an alarming rate.
With the injury to such a high-profile young star, baseball has an opportunity to study and come to some sort of conclusion about why the impression exists that today's young pitchers are far more fragile than the generations that came before them.
The perception, much of it anecdotal, is that the game has a serious pitching problem with its young hurlers. Just look at Washington's staff. Its two top pitchers -- Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman -- will have undergone Tommy John surgery in consecutive seasons.
These young pitchers are too important a commodity to the game simply to let this continue or to come to conclusions without significant study.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig should consider forming one of those blue-ribbon panels he puts together from time to time made up of medical experts, players, baseball executives and coaches from colleges, high schools and youth baseball to come up with an in-depth study as to whether pitchers really are not as durable as their predecessors. And if not, why not? And what can be done to address it?
This is a debate that is already going on inside the game. Observers are watching what Nolan Ryan is doing as president of the Texas Rangers -- de-emphasizing pitch counts in favor of mechanics, conditioning and a heavier workload to build arm strength. But this is a problem that Selig should declare worthy of an industry-wide study.
When the Nationals signed Strasburg, I joked that they should just have the Tommy John surgery and get it over with.
This is too serious a problem, though, to be just a punch line.