John Smoltz becomes first pitcher to make Hall of Fame after TJ surgery
John Smoltz was elected into the Hall of Fame earlier this week. He will be the first pitcher in Cooperstown to have undergone Tommy John surgery.
On Tuesday the Baseball Writers Association of America announced this year's four-player Hall of Fame class, which includes Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio and John Smoltz. The actual induction ceremony will be held in July.
While all four players were obviously all-time greats well-deserving of being elected into the Hall of Fame, Smoltz deserves some special recognition. Why? Because he is the first pitcher to make the Hall of Fame after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Now, there is a catch here. Smoltz is not the first player in the Hall to Fame to have Tommy John surgery. Paul Molitor had the procedure as well, but he is a position player. Smoltz is the first pitcher in the Hall of Fame to have had Tommy John surgery.
Smoltz had his elbow rebuilt back in 2000, right smack in the prime of his career. Tommy John surgery forced him to miss his age 33 season, and when he did return, he did so initially as a reliever. Had he been healthy and remained a starter from 2000-04, Smoltz might have topped 300 wins instead of finishing with 213.
I am of the belief that both Tommy John and the late Dr. Frank Jobe should be in the Hall of Fame for their roles in developing the career-saving procedure. Back in the day, a torn elbow ligament ended careers. Just think about all the young pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery recently -- Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, etc. -- those guys would have been done already. John and Jobe deserve to be enshrined for their impact on the game.
Approximately one-third of current MLB pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery at some point, and that seems to be increasing with each passing year. Smoltz is the first of what will surely be many more pitchers elected into the Hall of Fame after having their elbows rebuilt.
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