Monthly Archives: July 2009


                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas


For young pitchers (say, 13 and younger), for decades the recommendations of noted doctors have been don’t throw curveballs until you can shave or until you’re 14 or until you’ve reached puberty, etc.  Of course, anyone who turns on any game of the Little League Williamsport tournament (coming to a TV station near you in the next four weeks) will see 12-year-olds breaking them off like there’s no tomorrow (and for some of these kids, whether they (or their parents) understand it, eventually there will be no tomorrow when they’re on the operating table at 14 or 16 or 18 for Tommy John surgery).


But, apparently, there’s a new thought in town about whether the curveball is harmful or not.  Culminating last week in an article by author Mark Hyman in the New York Times (Sunday, July 26, 2009), two recent studies apparently claim that throwing a curveball is not as bad as throwing a fastball.  Aside from standing decades of research on its collective head (including research done by one of the very same doctors who now states the fastball may be more damaging), these newer studies have to be viewed very carefully (skeptically?) before you, the parent and keeper of the health of your child’s arm, should even think about allowing your youngster to start breaking off those curveballs.


In fact, it says here that parents should not allow their kids to throw curveballs until they are at least 14 years old.  Much more important, the great Dr. James Andrews, despite being involved in at least one of the recent studies, says the same thing.




Well, there are two of them.  The first was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in July of 2008.  Its authors included Dr. James Andrews and his number two man at the American Institute of Sports Medicine (ASMI), Dr. Glenn Fleisig.  After studying (only?) 29 pitchers (apparently between 9 and 14-years-old) who threw five fastballs, five curveballs and five change-ups, the researchers concluded that “in general, elbow and shoulder loads were the greatest in the fastball … .”  The clinical relevance of this is that “the curveball may not be more potentially harmful than the fastball for youth pitching.”




The second study was headed by Dr. Carl Nissen and is published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Sports Medicine (August 2009).  This study looked at (only?) 33 “adolescent” pitchers and concluded that “in general, the moments on the shoulder and elbow were less when throwing a curveball than when throwing a fastball.”  The clinical relevance is that “the findings based on the kinematic and kinetic data in this study suggest that the rising incidence of shoulder and elbow injuries in pitchers may not be caused by the curveball mechanics.”  It’s important to note that the age of the adolescent pitchers in this study range from 14-18 (i.e., past the time that Dr. Andrews and many others recommend that pitchers CAN throw curveballs).


     Yikes again!




Most of the articles that I’ve written in the past (see, especially, Rick Wolff and Steve Kallas, Is Winning More Important Than Safety?) were based, with respect to curveballs, on two studies done by Drs. Andrews and Fleisig.  The first, done in 1996, is entitled “How Many Pitches Should I Allow My Child To Throw?”  This was based more on the response of baseball “experts” rather than actual study of youth pitchers.  It concluded that “In general, a child can start throwing a fastball at age 8, a change-up at age 10, and a curveball at 14.”  This would certainly seem to conflict with the more recent studies.


As a follow-up to this, Drs. Andrews and Fleisig, in 1999, studied 476 youth pitchers aged 9-14.  These 476 pitchers pitched 3,789 games during the 1999 spring season (now, that’s a sample).  As a result of this study, and as published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2002, the authors recommended “that pitchers between the ages of 9 and 12 should limit themselves to throw only fastballs and change-ups, and NOT THROW SLIDERS AND CURVEBALLS.” (emphasis supplied).


That conclusion seems pretty clear to this youth sports parent.




Author Mark Hyman correctly points out that these new studies leave, arguably, some parents and some doctors in a quandary:  To throw or not to throw curveballs, it seems, is now the question.  Dr. Fleisig is quoted in the article as saying “I don’t think throwing curveballs at any age is the factor that is going to lead to an injury.”  Dr. Nissen, one of the authors of the latest study, is quoted as saying “I can comfortably stand up and say the curveball is not the problem.”   


But, thankfully, Dr. James Andrews, maybe a little older, maybe a little wiser, clearly sees the potential problems with the new studies (one of which his name is on). While author Hyman states that Andrews does not challenge the ASMI study (remember, Dr. Andrews is the chairman and medical director of ASMI), he nevertheless has a lot of caveats to this study.


“It may do more harm than good – quote me on that” said Andrews in the Times article.  While it’s not clear whether he’s referring to throwing curveballs or the findings of the new study, it’s clear that Andrews would say it refers to both.  Andrews told Hyman that children should not even think about throwing curves until they are 14.  Dr. Andrews states that the study has limitations such as that it was conducted in a lab.  Andrews states that things might be different in a real game on a real field.




Well, it leaves you, hopefully, on the side of intelligence and caution.  It’s hard to believe that you now have some authority to back you up if you think it’s no big deal to have your 12-year-old breaking off curveballs at an alarming rate (and yes, if you’re at all involved, you know that there are parents, and especially coaches, who think it’s no big deal – just win, baby).


But, despite all of these findings, Dr. Andrews tells Mark Hyman of the 12-year-old (yes, 12) who he had just operated on.  The kid “tore his ulnar collateral ligament in two.  His travel ball coach called 30-something curveballs in a row.  He became fatigued.  Then he threw one that snapped his elbow.”


You, the parent, should be very careful.  There are more of these horror stories coming down the pike now that a coach can wave a study at the parent and say “look, these are the doctors talking, not me.  It’s all right here in the latest study.”




Just this month (July 2009), in Sports Health [A Multi-Disciplinary Approach], Drs. Fleisig and Andrews, among others, wrote an article entitled, “Baseball Pitching Biomechanics in Relation to Injury Risk and Performance.” That article concluded that, “to enhance performance and reduce injury risk, pitchers need to learn proper fastball mechanics at an early age.  A changeup is recommended as a safe secondary pitch to complement the fastball; the curveball can be added after fastball and changeup mechanics are mastered.”


Even the new Nissen study states that “further evaluation of adolescent and adult baseball pitchers is warranted to help determine and subsequently reduce the risk of injury.”  And, again, the subjects in this study were already “of age” (14-18) for throwing curveballs.  They weren’t in the 11-13-year-old range that’s been discussed for years.


A March/April 2008 article entitled “Prevention of Arm Injury in Youth Baseball Pitchers” in the Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society (pp. 97-100), which includes Drs. Andrews and Fleisig among its authors, cites the 2002 study with approval and notes that the USA Baseball and Medical Advisory Committee recommends to young pitchers “Do not throw breaking pitches (curveballs, sliders) until puberty (about age 13).  Instead, a youth pitcher should focus on a fastball and change-up, and also pitch control.”


The caveats, set forth above by Dr. Andrews himself, to the recent Andrews/Fleisig study should give any parent pause before they allow their young kid to throw curveballs.




The author of this article has written for years on this topic.  I interviewed Drs. Andrews and Fleisig separately about two years ago and felt that Dr. Andrews clearly understood the problems that were coming down the pike with this new view.  As you know, Dr. Andrews, the foremost youth pitching authority on the planet, still has serious misgivings about curveballs and, despite the recent studies, still recommends that kids not throw curveballs until they are 14.


While the author of this article is not a doctor, I did pitch a lot at Power Memorial Academy in New York City (in the tough New York City Catholic league, the CHSAA) and a little at Division I New York University (in addition to Brooklyn’s famed Parade Grounds League).  I would say the following, as a pitcher whose curveball was far and away his best pitch:  if they ever do a study where the realities of pitching are considered (a virtually impossible thing to do in a lab) or where a pitcher, for study, throws 30 fastballs in a row and then 30 curveballs in a row (or vice-versa), a lot more pitchers will wind up on Dr. Andrews operating table from throwing excessive, consecutive curveballs, like the example he gave in the New York Times article, than from throwing plenty of fastballs in a row.  You may have to be a fatigued pitcher to understand that, but I think it’s pretty clear.


Parents, beware:  I wouldn’t let my son throw curveballs at a young age and nothing in these new studies changes my mind.  What about you?      


© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.


                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas


Hank Aaron (thankfully) has brought the Pete Rose issue back into focus.  Rose isn’t a good guy, he gambled on baseball (but only on his team to win, a huge difference – see below), he made a buck by writing a book confessing to gambling (after writing a book years ago stating he didn’t do it) and on and on and on.


But even the Rose naysayers should admit that next month, the 20th anniversary of his lifetime ban, should be more than enough of a punishment for the all-time hits leader.  No, he didn’t go to jail.  But banning him from baseball and Hall of Fame eligibility is the equivalent of jail for a baseball lifer like Rose.  Many murderers do far less than 20 years.  Baseball druggies, banned “for life” many times (see Howe, Steve, among others), could apply for reinstatement after one year and were often reinstated after one year.


It would seem that the 20-year mark has awakened many Hall of Famers.  They say that enough is enough is enough.  It’s a simple way of saying “When does the punishment fit the crime?”  Aaron, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith and other Hall of Famers all see the obvious:  Pete Rose has more than paid the price and should be eligible to the Hall of Fame.




It all goes back to the 1919 Black Sox scandal.  In the wake of the White Sox throwing the 1919 World Series, baseball banned gambling (prior to 1919, some players and managers would routinely gamble on games).  When Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis (who is in the Hall of Fame despite keeping African-Americans out of the game for over 25 years – who hurt baseball more, Rose or Landis?) “cleaned up” baseball, an anti-gambling rule was instituted.


Major League Rule 21(d) states, in pertinent part:  “Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.”  The rule also states that if you bet on a game in which you have no duty to perform, the suspension is one year.


The rule is stupid on its face.  By betting “any sum whatsoever,” you can have the absurd situation of friends passing each other on the field before the game and one says to the other, “I’ll bet you fifty bucks that we beat you tonight.”  If the other guy says OK, in theory you could have two lifetime bans over a $50 bet.  Is that absurd?  Of course it is.


Nor is there any differentiation between betting on your team to win and betting on your team to lose.  Clearly if Pete Rose had bet on his team to lose, ban him for life and throw away the key.  But that’s not what happened.  Understanding the personality of Pete Rose, even his enemies would understand that Rose would only bet on his team to win.


And if that’s true, how can the punishment for betting on your team to win be the same as betting on your team to lose?




So, we would all agree that, if you bet on your team to lose, you should be banned forever.  If you bet on a game that you’re not involved in, you should be banned for a year.  BUT THERE SHOULD BE A MIDDLE GROUND IF YOU BET ON YOUR TEAM TO WIN.  And that middle ground (you pick the number) should be two or five or even ten years.  But under no set of facts should it be twenty years.  And that’s what it is next month for Pete Rose.


So, when does that great American legal principle, that the punishment should fit the crime, come into play?  Never?  That’s absurd.




Fay Vincent, over the years and this week, talked about the deterrent effect of the gambling lifetime ban and how Bud Selig would be making a mistake by reinstating Rose.  But Vincent himself, back in June of 2008 on WFAN radio in New York City, admitted that, had Rose “come clean” earlier, he probably would have been reinstated after a few years.  So the notion of “deterrence” disappears by Fay Vincent’s own words.  That’s not too hard to understand, is it?




Still the greatest example of hypocrisy in the Hall of Fame, Perry wrote a book entitled “Me and the Spitter” (seriously).  In it, he explained how he threw a spitter, then changed to a Vaseline ball, etc.  While stating in the book that he had stopped, Gaylord Perry went on to pitch TEN MORE YEARS in the major leagues.  He’s in and Pete Rose is out?  Come on.  Who hurt baseball more, Gaylord Perry or Pete Rose?  It’s not even a conversation.




Well, the latest reports are that Selig isn’t seriously considering reinstating Rose.  But the pressure has begun to mount on him and, when Henry Aaron speaks, Bud Selig listens.  Maybe with a rush of support from numerous living members of the Hall of Fame, enough pressure will be brought to bear on Selig so that he will see the obvious – that Pete Rose has more than served his time, has admitted his guilt (better late than never) and should have a chance to enter the Hall of Fame.


And, after Rose is reinstated, we can start talking about Shoeless Joe Jackson.


© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.


                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas


It wasn’t really anything earth-shattering when the New York Post reported on Monday that Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau stated that “We’ve always taken the position that he’s [Plaxico Burress] going to have to go to jail, whether by trial or by plea.”  As with Mayor Bloomberg’s “prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law” comments, however, the timing of it all is a little strange.  But when you look at the recent history of the now-tougher New York gun laws, nothing in here is surprising at all.




Readers of this column (see Kallas Remarks, 11/30/08) have read this before, but the main and simple charge against Plaxico is criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.  That law states:


“A person is guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree when

          … (3) such person possesses any loaded firearm.”


 There’s an exception for possession at your home or business that doesn’t apply to Burress, who carried a loaded firearm into a New York City nightclub and shot himself during Thanksgiving weekend last November. 


The problem, of course, unbeknown to Plaxico and most people at the time, is that, with a big push from Mayor Bloomberg, the gun laws were changed in 2006 to make the above law a Class C felony.  Previously, the exact same behavior was deemed a Class D felony and could often be pleaded down to a misdemeanor and little or no jail time.  To specifically stop that from happening, it was made a Class C felony (with a mandatory minimum three-and-a-half year jail sentence) with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office having a general policy that if it did allow a defendant to plead down, it would be to a Class D felony (with a mandatory minimum of two years jail time) and not to a misdemeanor.


And therein lies the jail time problem for Burress.




Well, despite all the legal wrangling, it pretty much leaves him where he’s been all along: staring at a minimum of two years in jail.  As was also recently discussed in this column (Kallas Remarks, 6/20/09), Plaxico’s Plan B was probably to try and play one more year for a big payday by putting off his trial until early next year.  But the big hurdle, what NFL commissioner Goodell would do in terms of a suspension, seems to have cooled that plan (as previously discussed in the prior column, it seems hard to believe that the NFL would let Plaxico play with this thing hanging over his head).


While that may be unfair (is Burress innocent until proven guilty or vice-versa?), it seems very unlikely that Burress will be allowed to play this season.  With apparently no offers yet (the silence from NFL teams speaks volumes), you have to think that the word is out that the NFL won’t let him play this year.  But we’ll see what happens on that front.




Well, you have to think that’s coming down the pike.  It’s relatively easy to indict someone and this is a pretty simple case (remember, no intent to hurt someone or anything like that is needed under this law – you commit the crime by simply possessing a loaded firearm).  It seems possible that top lawyer Ben Brafman was doing his best to resolve the case for Plaxico with a minimum amount of jail time – maybe one year or less.  But, again, due to the change in the law, it’s always seemed that Burress would have to do two years – the mandatory minimum if one pleads to a Class D felony (one step down from what he’s charged with).




Pierce, if he testifies truthfully in the grand jury about what he knew and saw (at some point, obviously, Pierce knew that Burress had a loaded firearm), would be off the hook for any potential (New York) charges.  While DA Morgenthau played it coy with the Post (“I’m not going to get into that” when the Post asked him whether Burress alone would face gun charges), this would seem to be the classic case of a person with much lesser involvement testifying as to what he knew and saw thus getting immunity (if he testifies truthfully). 


It’s hard to believe that Antonio Pierce would potentially hurt his own career and not tell the truth, especially now that Plaxico is no longer a Giant.




It’s great that Ben Brafman is quoted in the Post as saying “Now that they [the DA’s office] have drawn a line in the sand, this is going to be a battle.”  But, right now, the battle appears to be one-sided.  While Brafman, at trial, will only have to convince one juror that Plaxico didn’t do the crime, that may be very difficult to accomplish.  But Burress does have the lawyer who got P Diddy off against all odds in his gun possession trial.  So maybe lightning can strike twice.


But it says here that’s a real longshot.       


© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved. 


                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas


It’s one of the reasons that baseball is the most fascinating game.  You can watch ten thousand of them and, one day, some small thing happens that you rarely, if ever, see.  It costs one team a potential win – and often times it goes unnoticed.


So it was on Tuesday night, July 21st, Orioles-Yankees.  Bottom of the third, Baltimore winning 2-1 and, with one out, Cody Ransom walks.  Derek Jeter steps to the plate and, with the count 2-1, Ransom breaks for second.  Oriole second basemen Brian Roberts breaks to cover second and, inexplicably, shortstop Cesar Izturis also takes at least one step (maybe two) towards second.  Jeter hits a ground ball to short right to the spot just vacated by Izturis who can’t recover to make the play.  Thus, Jeter singles to left and Ransom moves to third.




Excellent question.  At first, one of the TV announcers said that Izturis was breaking to cover second.  But upon further review, The Yes Network’s Ken Singleton stated, “Not only was the second baseman covering but the shortstop has to come over and try to back it up in case there’s a throw.”




Clearly, on replay, Brian Roberts was covering second with the right-handed Jeter batting against lefty Rich Hill.  Clearly, Cesar Izturis made a huge mistake by taking one or two steps towards second base.  Under no set of circumstances can a middle infielder break before a ball is hit to BACK UP a base.  If they all did that, you’d have two middle infielders near second base and about 75 feet of open ground between the middle infielders and the corner infielders.  Clearly, Derek Jeter hit a ground ball to short that became a single.


Had Izturis not mistakenly moved towards second, the only question would then be could the Orioles turn two (tough but possible) or just get one (definitely).




Well, you had the feeling after watching the replay that something good would happen to the Yankees and something bad would happen to the Orioles.  The next batter, Johnny Damon, flies out to short center for the second out.  But then Mark Teixeira walks and A-Rod hits a two-run single to left (giving the Yankees the lead) before Jorge Posada strikes out to end the inning.


If you’re an Orioles fan, you count four or five outs that inning.  And that’s a recipe for disaster.




Another great question the answer to which (of course) we’ll never know.  But what you do know is that there would have been a great chance for the Yankees to be held without a run in the third inning.  With the Orioles maintaining the lead (2-1) rather than giving it up to the Yankees (3-2), the game easily could have changed.


This play would be especially important if it remained a close game.


                    Final score:  Yankees 6, Baltimore 4.




Well, yes and no.  After thinking that Izturis was covering and then explaining that the shortstop was going to back up second, The Yes Network’s Michael Kay did say later that Izturis should have stayed “anchored” at short.  Absolutely correct.  But no newspaper article or news report discussed the play, arguably the “Turning Point of the Game.”


It’s not that a play like this should be the lead story of the game.  But that it was virtually ignored by almost everyone is proof positive that often, in modern-day baseball, people miss the nuances, miss the so-called “little things,” the things that are often the difference between winning and losing a baseball game.


A shortstop mistakenly takes a step towards second and completely changes the complexion of the game.  Is it too strong to say that he lost the game?  Maybe.  But it’s just another reason to watch baseball at the second level to understand what’s really going on.    


© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.


                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas


By now you have seen or heard about the play.  Bottom of the first, nobody out, Blue Jays – Yankees at the Stadium in the final game of a four-game series.  Derek Jeter walks, goes to second on a Randy Romero balk and then, inexplicably, with the count 2-1 on second batter Nick Swisher, Jeter tries to steal third.  The throw from catcher Rod Barajas easily beats Jeter to third.  But Jeter makes a nifty move with his hands on his head-first slide and Jays’ third baseman Scott Rolen misses the tag.  Nevertheless, third-base umpire Marty Foster calls Jeter out.    


Jeter correctly argues that he wasn’t tagged and, according to Jeter, umpire Foster inexplicably told Jeter that since the ball beat him to the base, he was out.  That’s pretty funny, because if you’ve played a lot of baseball or even watched a lot of baseball, you know that happens, especially at the lower levels.    


But that in no way takes away from the stupidity of the play itself.




Again, if you played or watched baseball and have any knowledge of the game, you understand why you can never make the first out at third.  You’re already in scoring position.  The plus you get by getting to third is minimal versus the huge minus you get by getting thrown out.  That was particularly true in this case, when the Yankees had Swisher, Teixeira and A-Rod coming up, two-three-four in the order.    


It’s not that you can never steal third with nobody out.  It’s that you have to make it easily, you have to make it virtually standing up.  There can be no doubt as to whether you are out or safe.    


And that’s where Jeter misses the boat.  While he was safe, the issue on this play is not whether you are out or safe.  The issue is whether you can make it to third EASILY.  Anything short of that is a huge base running mistake (in other words, even if Jeter was called safe, it was a dumb play).  




Well, Girardi did the right thing in going out to protect his captain.  Everybody who watches the Yankees knows that Jeter rarely argues that kind of call.  Girardi didn’t have to get thrown out (the pointing finger at the ump was the clincher).  But Girardi also knew that this was a base running blunder.    


After the game, he called it a “base running error.”  Jeter acknowledged that but, according to, Jeter said, “In that situation, you try to be aggressive.”  Well, Jeter mostly gets a pass for this mistake from the media but, “in that situation” (man on second, nobody out), you absolutely do NOT have to be aggressive.  You have to be smart, you have to understand the situation, you have to be confident in your teammates, you have to think that the two-three-four hitters of the New York Yankees can get you two more bases so you can score.    


It’s hard to believe, given the same situation tomorrow, that Derek Jeter would make that big of a mistake again.




After Nick Swisher followed Jeter’s out with a single, one announcer said, “now that looms larger, getting thrown out at third.”  Well, not exactly.  It was a big mistake whether the next three guys struck out or the next three guys hit homers.  The game is completely different if Jeter stays at second.  For just one example, Randy Romero would have worked from the stretch if Jeter’s on second.  With him in the dugout, Romero used the full wind-up to pitch to Swisher.    


That’s just one of many different variables that can never be duplicated.  We’ll never know what would have happened if Derek Jeter stayed at second




Well, again, that was a dumb play no matter what the later batters did in the inning.  But it would become really important if it turned out to be a close game.    


Final score:  Toronto 7, Yankees 6.    


You get the point.           


© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.