Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next week, beginning the marathon called "the baseball season." Most teams will be disappointed in October, as they sit on their couches watching the playoffs and World Series. However, right now, optimism is in abundance.
Baseball has become an endurance contest. The team that wins the World Series isn't necessarily the best team at the beginning of the season. Instead, it is the team that survived the rigors of playing 162 games. It's not right, but that's the way it is.
Baseball requires many sudden starts and stops that are difficult on the body. It seems if a player doesn't spend time on the disabled list at some point during the season, he is very lucky. The pitching motion isn't natural, so it isn't surprising many pitchers will at some point need serious surgery. Baseball has been studying the situation surrounding the Tommy John elbow surgeries for many years, but has yet to find the solution.
Every baseball fan understands injuries are a part of the game, and we always feel bad when a player goes on the disabled list. Every year, teams are decimated by injuries, adversely affecting their playoff chances. With the number of injuries ever year, fans should appreciate the achievements of Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr., who played more than 2,000 consecutive games, a feat we probably will never see again.
Trainers are the most unrecognized heroes in baseball. Not many fans can name their team's training staff, but they are the ones who keep the players on the diamond. Most of the time, trainers arrive at the stadium before the manager and coaching staff, and they stay longer than anyone else, too. They don't get days off. Even while crossing the country, they are providing various treatments for injured players.
Managers need to have good communication with trainers to learn which player needs a rest because of a nagging injury. Sometimes the manager must sacrifice a game by resting over half of his everyday lineup on a certain day to have his team finish the season healthy. When a manager does that, he is frequently criticized by fans and media. Protecting players from serious injury is the toughest responsibility for a manager.
Players should be honest with their team's medical staff and their manager about how they are feeling. Trying to suppress the competitive drive that brought them to the Major Leagues and recognize they need care for an injury is difficult but necessary to have prolonged careers.
To help keep players healthy, I'd like to see several changes:
• Decrease the length of the season from 162 to 154 games.
• Any team that flies across the country should be required to have an off-day.
• Teams that play on Sunday night should have the next day off.
• All teams should have an off-day every two weeks.
• All starting pitchers should be limited to 185 innings during the regular season.
• Any player who gets hit in the head should be required to leave the game immediately.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.