...this is no mere catalog of pitchers who went under the knife. The author tells vivid stories through the eyes of players, doctors, researchers and even faith healers. At times, The Arm reads like a quest, as Mr. Passan scours the country in search of answers for an epidemic that has felled everyone from 10-year-old Japanese pitchers to major-league aces ... Mr. Passan makes you care deeply about pitching arms and the boys and men attached to them. In doing so, he transforms medical jargon and inside-baseball minutiae back into flesh and blood.
...a close, exceptionally well-written look into the game’s epidemic of ruptured elbow ligaments, and the hard fact that medical science still has no real answers for it ... Passan dispels a few myths, offering proof, for example, that the overhand throwing motion is not inherently unnatural for human beings. 'What’s unnatural,' he writes, 'is throwing a five-and-a-quarter-ounce sphere ninety-plus miles per hour one hundred times every five days.'
The Arm should be required reading for youth baseball coaches and parents with a child who appears to have a gift to throw a baseball. It also should be on the list for fans who want to understand why some of most expensive athletes in sports, pitchers, are such a fragile commodity.
Passan varies his approach to his subject like an ace mixing his speeds, leaving the reader happily guessing at what’s coming next...Clearly, Tommy John represents an improvement over those benighted times. But Passan makes a convincing case that the success of the surgery has prevented teams from seeking out the combination of mechanics, training and rest that might spare players the surgeon’s knife.
If I have one criticism of Passan’s book, it is that he scrimps on the history of pitchers’ arms. More historical context, pre-UCL, would have been not only helpful but surely interesting, too ... By so throughly presenting a serious study of the arm — or more precisely, the elbow — Passan has written an important book. For arms, if there is Tommy John surgery, maybe we now also have Jeff Passan education.
Passan spent three years researching every aspect of the epidemic, from the horrors of youth baseball to the doctors who perfected the dreaded Tommy John surgery to two big leaguers facing a future after their golden arms go bust. It’s a tad 'inside baseball,' but it’s a must-read for any sports dad or anxious Mets fan.
I approached [The Arm with modest expectations and was captivated by the wealth of information that author Jeff Passan presents, all entertainingly. It took him more than three years to research and write this book and he spent his time well. It's fascinating.