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The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,237 ratings  ·  242 reviews

Every year, Major League Baseball spends more than $1.5 billion on pitchers—five times the salary of all NFL quarterbacks combined. Pitchers are the lifeblood of the sport, the ones who win championships, but today they face an epidemic unlike any baseball has ever seen. 

One tiny ligament in the elbow keeps snapping and sending teenagers and major
Hardcover, 376 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Harper
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4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,237 ratings  ·  242 reviews

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Will Byrnes
For 130 years, pitchers have thrown a baseball overhand, and for 130 years, doing so has hurt them. Starter or reliever, left-handed or right-handed, short or tall, skinny or fat, soft-tossing or hard-throwing, old or young—it matters not who you are, what color your skin is, what country you’re from. The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) , a stretchy, triangular band in the elbow that holds together the upper and lower arms, plays no favorites. If you throw a baseball, it can ruin you. When the
♥ Sandi ❣
Sep 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2-want, non-fiction
This book - written by a sports journalist - was one large stage to drop names. Names of professional players, names of expected teenage players, names of coaches, names of trainers, names of agents, names of every man woman or child that has ever been anybody in the corporate game of baseball. Very confusing and as the book goes on very unappealing.
I did read and learn many things I was unaware of in the game of baseball. Especially about the injury called UCL - ulnar collateral ligament - and
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-books-2016
An excellent book about the game of baseball in general and its most valued commodity in particular. I do have a personal interest in the subject but even without that I believe I would have found this a most enjoyable book. It does focus on just one current aspect of this game but it is an aspect central to so much that concerns who wins and who loses--both the players and management and primarily where the money goes and why. Ask any fan who the most important player on any team is and the sta ...more
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The funny thing about this book is that I knew there was an epidemic of elbow injuries around pitchers, but I really didn't have the idea that young teen pitchers had failing arms because of things like overuse and or parents/coaches pushing them too hard. I really enjoyed the parts of this about baseball Japan, and Jeff Passan really does a good job including extra history along with following along the main pitchers in the book, Todd Coffey and Daniel Hudson. Multiple times I had to stop mysel ...more
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Loved it! To my way of thinking it's sorta the counterpart to Mark Fainaru-Wada 's book LEAGUE OF DENIAL. All fans of baseball and/or good nonfiction should check it out.
Chris Jaffe
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball, sports
This was a very good book. It covers one of the biggest issues in baseball - how the hell do you keep a pitcher's arm healthy?

As a hook, Passan focuses on two pitchers trying to make it back from Tommy John surgery: Daniel Hudson and Todd Coffey. By the end, Hudson is back with the Diamondbacks, while Coffey is trying to restart his career in the Mexican League. The stories of those two pitchers and their ups-and-downs provide the human element - what it's like to be a pitcher with all the unce
Glen Krisch
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Intriguing analysis of the problem of "the arm" in baseball. The most valuable commodity in the sport is also its most fragile. The most shocking thing I learned is that MRIs cost $70 in Japan, compared to $1000 in the U.S.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports, audiobook
A bit too much Trevor Bauer for me but otherwise really great! I learned a lot.
May 25, 2016 rated it liked it
This book gives some of the history of Tommy John surgery, the common elbow surgery often performed on pro baseball pitchers. It describes the history of the surgery itself, how pitching (and baseball) has changed over time -- especially how it has changed relative to the training, maintenance, use, and recovery of pitchers. Passan gives some more personal stories of doctors, trainers, and pitchers: retired, current, and hopeful.

Passan does a good job of telling the history of the surgery and gi
Danny Cerullo
Apr 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's rare that this level of journalism occurs in the sports world (or anywhere else really) so it's refreshing to see Jeff Passan turn a truthful and angry eye towards the neglect on the part of Major League Baseball and organized youth baseball organizations regarding pitching arms. One of the key takeaways of this book is how little we still know about the elbow. The epidemic of Tommy John surgeries throughout professional baseball is well known if you're into such things, but kids as young a ...more
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-christina
Jeff Passan has written an in-depth look at one of the biggest failures in baseball: the pitcher's arm. He follows personal stories of several who have had Tommy John surgeries (which is an epidemic in itself), chides youth elite baseball for damaging arms as early as year 9 and 10, and scouts all over the world to see if anyone is close to solving this problem. While he finds some solutions, the beauty in this book is the realization that not everything can be fixed. Most interesting in this bo ...more
Alexis Corini
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was a great analysis of the problem with young pitchers blowing out their arms. Daniel Hudson and Todd Coffey were two major league pitchers who had two Tommy John surgeries... and while Hudson handled his injury well and I enjoyed following his story, I couldn't help but hate Coffey. A former MLB pitcher who cheated on his wife and taped it on his phone, who did nothing but whine about not being signed when clearly there were younger pitchers who were much better than him (but he was ...more
Rob Neyer
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
THE ARM will stand as one of the few essential baseball books of this year; in fact, it might wind up being the only one. If you want to know why so many pitchers, especially young ones, are missing whole seasons because of elbow injuries, and what's being done to heal them, or to keep them from getting hurt in the first place, this is simply something you must read. If I have a serious quibble, it's that - as it turns out - maybe following the rehab process of a pitcher after Tommy John surgery ...more
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
This is an extremely well researched look into the history of Tommy John surgery and the injury epidemic that is currently ravaging MLB pitchers. Jeff Passan blends personal stories from the major leagues and little league, and even dives into Japanese baseball. He develops a close relationship with Todd Coffey and Daniel Hudson, two MLB pitchers attempting to return from devastating elbow surgery. He chronicles their feelings, their struggles, and really takes you into the mind of a pitcher who ...more
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Audio - this consideration of the travails of a ligament just a couple of inches long is an interesting peek into the stresses - physical and emotional - of baseball pitchers. I enjoyed the author's use of personal stories to illustrate the process from injury to rehabilitation to eventual recovery (or not).

I was surprised to learn how slow Major League Baseball has been to launch investigations into causes and remedies for the arms of their most valuable commodity. It is reminiscent of how the
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
I have been a huge baseball fan for almost 30 years and have come to accept Tommy John surgery as a commonplace part of the game. Over the years, though, the odds of a pitcher coming back from this surgery have gone from slim to favorable. Techniques in the surgery itself have improved and rehab programs have as well. But after all these years the question of WHY some pitchers blow out their elbows and others do not remains a mystery.

In this book, author and Yahoo Sports columnist Jeff Passan e
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball, nonfiction
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in advance of the publication date in order to review it on the baseball blog that I run. You can read my thoughts on it for that audience here:

A blurb on the cover of The Arm from Baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz describes it as, "The most important baseball book in years." If you read a lot of books about any topic you're probably numb to cover blurbs; even underwhelming ones can be dressed up to sound i
Dana Kraft
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I love baseball, but this book was meh. The chapters about Japan were interesting because I know nothing about their culture of baseball, other than its popularity. I also enjoyed some of the Driveline stuff, although it was notable that he sort of paints Trevor Bauer as an odd genius, but then adds in the epilogue that he had control problems in 2015. I guess my conclusion is that a healthy arm is just table stakes for a pitcher, which seems obvious but it also made the book less interesting. T ...more
A.J. Richard
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A must read for parents of baseball players, baseball players, youth coaches, anyone involved in youth baseball especially. We can stop the cycle of abuse of pitching arms and injuries.
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
An outstanding analysis of how baseball pitchers arms are being misused in all levels of baseball in the US. Excellent discussion of the 'Tommy John' elbow surgery.
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: baseball-nf
This book is a long series of articles interspersed with a bit too much Todd Coffey and Daniel Hudson, and doesn't live up to it's subtitle. Let me explain.

Many chapters are along the lines of articles from a journal - popular mechanics for instance. These are often interesting, though they draw few conclusions. For an article, that's fine, but I found it a bit frustrating as a chapter.

In this book, we learn about kids that require surgery, over and under use among kids and adults, and a histor
This book is a good read by a writer who did his homework.

I enjoyed this look into one of the most common and expensive of all sports injuries, costing MLB teams millions of dollars every year: the torn ulnar collateral ligament. When the UCL tears or breaks off the bone—or pulls off and takes a bit of bone with it, as it does in younger players whose bones are softer—the only proven solution is “reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament using the palmaris longus tendon.” This is how Dr.
Simply a must read for every baseball fan, every baseball player, and--perhaps most importantly--every young baseball player's parent. To be honest, there wasn't a lot here medically that I didn't already know, although I did not know that 40% of people do not have a palmaris longis. (I have two excellent-looking ones, and after reading this book, I know exactly what I want done with them when I die. My long time dream of pitching in the major leagues is not yet dead). But the faces and stories ...more
May 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
This book is pretty fascinating. Pitching in baseball always looks unnatural so me (completely opposite to cricket bowling, for example) although Jeff Passan tells me that it actually isn't. I wouldn't know enough to argue.

I like the structure of this book following two pitchers through Tommy John surgery and what happens after (the news is a lot better for one than the other) as well as a wee bit of following Jon Lester (a "paragon of durability") through free-agency. I think it's cool that To
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of surgeries to replace Ulnar Collateral Ligaments in major league baseball pitchers. What may be less well known is the startling increase in the number of the surgeries (commonly called Tommy John surgery) in children. Jeff Passan explores the phenomenon through interviews with doctors, players, former players, and team executives. Along the way, Jeff follows the attempted comebacks from Tommy John surgery of two former MLB playe ...more
Michael Grace
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The arm is a book of passion. It seeks to solve an unsolvable problem, one that is the most expensive in professional sports.

The main context of the book follows Todd Coffey and Daniel Hudson, and subsequently their families. Each man is attempting to come back from a second Tommy John surgery, a procedure that repairs the UCL in the elbow by replacing the tendon entirely.

The Arm uses insight, interviews, and boundless research to tell the history of the procedure and why it is more common today
A fascinating look at the epidemic of elbow injuries that currently plagues MLB. Passan followed Daniel Hudson and Todd Coffey as they attempted to come back from second Tommy John surgeries, and talks with so called arm gurus along the way. Coffey is the classic example of the athlete who doesn't know when it's time to walk away, but I never felt bad for him because he comes off as completely unlikable. Hudson on the other hand is a much more sympathetic as you follow his struggles to make it b ...more
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Cool book. I consider myself a reasonably attentive baseball fan, but I hadn't noticed the rash of elbow injuries as a trend. The science of the surgery mixed with the highly personal rehab stories mixed with the investigations into baseball culture worked well.
Syd Polk
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An honest appraisal at one of sports' biggest mysteries.

The author tracks two pitchers with horrible arm injuries as they attempt to get back to the major leagues. He takes us into the sordid world of youth travel ball, Japanese youth baseball, the operating room during a Tommy John surgery, and many other places. He mentioned one of my favorite baseball books, The Diamond Appraised (Wright/House), the seminal work in discussing pitcher injuries. I am admittedly a total baseball geek, but I was
Jun 19, 2016 rated it liked it
For diehard baseball fans, this book is worth reading. If nothing else, the chapter recounting how the Cubs landed Jon Lester makes for a fun story. However, I did find the medical details that permeate the book laborious to wade through. Also, the two main case studies--Coffey and Hudson--were sometimes compelling and other times a slough. A tighter narrative would have helped. Overall, though, the author does a good job of exploring a very important problem in baseball and in youth sports. In ...more
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The Baseball Book...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Discussion of "The Arm" 9 19 Nov 20, 2016 04:03PM  
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“And it’s not like he could walk into Gibson’s office and share his pain. At one point during his rehab, Hudson was summoned by Gibson, who told him he couldn’t wait for Hudson to return to a pitching staff that lacked the toughness the manager expected. “Everyone in here is a bunch of cunts,” Gibson said.” 1 likes
“Saint Thomas Aquinas, a private school in Lenexa, Kansas,” 0 likes
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