You’re just a few pitches into your rookie season and the opposing team is down by a couple of runs. Your heart drops as you look at the boards. You make a mental note to place a few bucks down on the game. You feel great about your chances of making the majors next season. Maybe you’ll even get a ring by the time you’re 25. By the time you’re 30, you’re thinking about life after baseball. You’ve got your family, your friends, your health; you’ve done your time. You’re ready for the next step. Then, the unthinkable happens. Your star pitcher gets hit in the neck by a line drive and goes down in a heap. You look around and no one is coming to his or her aid. After a couple minutes, the mound is cleared and the medical team rushes out towards the injured starter. You begin to feel numb. You stand there dumbfounded as they take your pitcher out on a stretcher. Everyone in the crowd seems to be staring at you. You feel like a total piece of crap.
What happened? Why didn’t you put your money down on the game? Why did no one come to your defense? You were the one good thing that happened that season. Everyone was counting on you to keep the team in the game. You let down the fans, the coaching staff, and worst of all, yourself. What gives?
You’re not alone in this feeling of remorse. Ask any MLB pitcher what their worst nightmare is and they’ll tell you it’s fear of injury. In 2015, there were 551 injuries to major league players, the most in a single season since 1991. Pitchers are the most likely to be injured in baseball and it’s not just because they’re on the field more. When a pitcher sustains a significant injury during a game, it can severely cripple their career. Since 2014, there have been 16 pitchers who have suffered a significant injury that has prevented them from continuing their professional baseball career. Fourteen of these players have since retired, while the other two are currently rehabbing and trying to make it back. This makes it abundantly clear that baseball players are scared shitless of getting hurt.
While some injuries are unavoidable, like getting hit by a pitch or slipping on a banana peel, others are completely preventable. Every day, major league players are risking injury through negligence. It’s a sad state of affairs when our greatest game is hindered by injuries caused by poor execution or simple bad luck. In 2014, the New York Times wrote an entire article explaining the many dangers that plague modern day baseball. One of the main complaints was that pitchers fear getting injured more than they do throwing a perfect game. This underscores the point that while some injuries are unavoidable, others are entirely preventable through proper execution and due diligence. If you’re a baseball player, you should be at least somewhat terrified of injury because it happens so frequently. This is why every year there’s a fear of injury that shakes the game. In fact, outside of major injuries, there were 648 minor injuries that occurred last year in the major leagues. Most notably, former MVP and Cy Young winner Aaron Judge sustained a concussion last season after being hit by a pitch. The pitch was described as being “off the plate and in.” As you can imagine, Judge had some difficulty returning to the field after the injury. He eventually decided to take a year off and is currently undergoing rehabilitation. This makes it abundantly clear that every year, baseball is harmed by fear of injury and lack of preparedness. Hopefully, with the help of technology and science, we can continue to minimize these risks and ensure the continued growth of our favorite pastime.