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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,754 ratings  ·  285 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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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  2,754 ratings  ·  285 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 t
Joy D
In writing this book, Jeff Passan set out to answer two questions: “I sat in laboratories, saw doctors tend to bodies living and dead, went halfway across the globe to a place where the problem is even greater, read medical studies, and scavenged through data, all to answer two vital questions: How did baseball fail the pitching arm, and what can be done to save it?”

He calls attention to an important issue that impacts not only major league pitchers, but children that aspire to become a baseball
♥ Sandi ❣
Sep 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2-want
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
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
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.
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.
Tomer Langer
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
For baseball fans, a must-read. But it’s great even for those who just love a story about the human spirit and it’s desire to solve problems — even if an exact solution is currently unattainable. A truly wonderful book.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, sports
A bit too much Trevor Bauer for me but otherwise really great! I learned a lot.
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
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
Martin Vickers
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
The thing about non fiction is that you can't make up an ideal ending and this book is a great example. I was really hoping for a definitive conclusion on why pitchers arms break so often and maybe more personally why Mark Prior who I watched at Wrigley field in complete awe never fully recovered from his arm injury. Was he overpitched as a kid and/or in the majors, were his mechanics not sound or was it bad luck or a combination of all of these things.

As Jeff Pasan concludes there are no comple
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
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: nonfiction, baseball
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
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Jeff Passan's book is a gift for baseball fans. It is informative, entertaining, honest and extremely well written. He takes us on a journey to answer a question that has puzzled many who love there national pastime: why do so many pitchers break down? The follow up question is equally important. Is there anything anyone can do the stop the continuous stream of injured arms throughout baseball? The journey takes us back into history to examine the world before pitch counts when starter threw com ...more
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
keikii Eats Books
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf
DNF at 59%. My library loan ran out and I'm not going to bother taking it out again.

It was a very interesting topic, all on Tommy John surgery and how we're screwing with pitcher's arms by making them doing things their arm wasn't meant to do.
My problem was that it repeated itself. And repeated itself. And repeated itself. I found that I lost interest about midway through because it just wasn't saying anything it hadn't said already. I'm not convinced my audiobook didn't get stuck on a loop, to
Kevin Mcpherson
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I started this book last spring but had to stop as the demands of teaching took over. I returned to the book today and finished before 11 p.m. Passan's mixture of storytelling and information synthesis works well for those who are more than passing fans of baseball. His ability to create an understandable assessment of a very, very complex problem makes this book very worthwhile. Now, I must simply wait on when the 2020 season will begin ... if ever.
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.
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
Peter Cimino
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for pitchers of all ages parents and coaches. For those that put winning at all costs above the welfare of a young pitcher here is your rude awakening. This book in my opinion is just the beginning of what I have been saying for years “the obsessions of: throwing 100mph regardless of arm safety; 100 mph is your ticket to a long safe pitching career in the MLB; ride out young pitchers for as long as you can just to win” will evolve back to what I call “the art of pitching whic ...more
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51 likes · 24 comments
“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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