Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus, in Slate, details the horrors of a torn labrum, which he calls “baseball’s most fearsome injury.” The article is from 2004, but I don’t think much has changed from a medical standpoint. This is simply the worst injury a pitcher can endure.
Here’s the money sentence: “The leading minds in baseball medicine are flummoxed by the labrum. Doctors can’t agree on how to detect a tear, don’t know the best way to fix one, and aren’t sure why, almost without fail, a torn labrum will destroy a pitcher’s career.”
Carroll goes on to single out the Mariners as a leading labrum victim: The Seattle Mariners, perhaps more than any other team, have suffered on account of the labrum. When Seattle drafted 6-foot-10 Ryan Anderson in 1997, it seemed preordained that the titanic lefty would be the next Randy Johnson. Then Anderson had labrum surgery. He missed the entire 2002 season–and every season since. The Mariners’ 25-year-old right-hander Gil Meche has already missed two full years on account of labrum-related ailments. Meche returned to the majors in 2003, but faded badly in the second half.
Meche, of course, eventually came back healthy enough to earn himself a $55 million contract from the Royals. So there’s hope for Bedard. But after reading this article, and this one, it looks like he need a lot of work, and a lot of luck, to make it back as the dominating pitcher he was. Or at all.
(THANK YOU TO READER KEVIN PELTON, WHO SENDS ALONG THIS MORE OPTIMISTIC ARTICLE FROM JUNE OF THIS YEAR ABOUT THE PROSPECTS OF BRANDON WEBB, WHO ALSO HAD A TORN LABRUM. WILL CARROLL SAYS iIN THE ARTICLE THAT TORN LABRUMS AREN’T AS DIRE FOR PITCHERS AS THEY USED TO BE; THE SURGICAL PROCEDURES ARE BETTER:
“Technologically has advanced,” Carroll told the Arizona Republic. “They’ve had so much more practice that they’ve gotten better.”