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Kumar Rocker will reportedly undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2023 and impacting his 2024 as well. The Rangers’ pitching prospect famously wasn’t signed by the Mets after they drafted him due to concerns with his physical and his long-term health, which kicked off a series of events that led to owner Steve Cohen tweeting a little too much about it and having those tweets used against the defense in Senne v. MLB (a class action suit that MLB lost).
Some folks came out of the woodwork on Tuesday to say it turns out the Mets were right to leave Rocker unsigned, and that his need for Tommy John proves it. That’s kind of a silly way to think of things, though, both generally and when you consider how MLB treats its pitchers in general. Pitchers are seen as disposable and replaceable, their injuries inevitable, and that treatment only intensifies over time as max-effort pitches do. Rocker is undergoing Tommy John surgery, but there’s no extra reason attached to his case to make one believe he’s not going to come back from it and still be a promising pitching prospect with a bright future ahead of him, or that he’s guaranteed to have a second TJ procedure or anything of the sort. He’s a pitcher; pitchers get hurt. The Mets thought the chances of him getting hurt in a meaningful way were too high for them to bother signing him to a significant bonus, so they walked away. The Rangers signing him didn’t necessarily refute the Mets’ claim, or stand in opposition to it, as much as signal that they were more willing to shoulder the risk. Risk that every pitcher carries with them, clean bill of health or no.
As MLB Trade Rumors noted, Rocker was striking out a ton of batters and generating loads of grounders, and had just been added to MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list. Baseball Prospectus included Rocker in a Minor League Update a little over a week before the news, which said, “At long last a pro, Rocker seems every bit dominant enough for the low minors. His performance only compounds the success of the Rangers organization with their pitching staff this year thus far,” a report which followed six innings of one-hit ball where he didn’t allow a run, struck out eight, and walked just a pair. Rocker was pitching well, and before his final start of the year, which is the one that probably sent him to get his elbow checked out, he was sporting a 2.70 ERA and a sub-500 opponent OPS.
It’s unfortunate that Rocker is hurt and will lose another year of development in the pros, especially since he already lost one when the Mets didn’t sign him and he was forced to head to independent ball while awaiting the next MLB draft. This injury isn’t a sign that the Mets were “right” to let him walk, though, or that the Rangers were wrong to draft and sign him when given the chance a year later. Pitchers get hurt! Rocker is a pitcher. We’ll see how he does when he returns in 202, when he’ll be 24 years old.
The Writers Guild of America* has been on strike of late, shutting down the production of television and film across the industry. Every strike matters, given they’re a battle between management and the workers who produce whatever it is that makes management their money, but this one feels particularly notable considering what’s at stake. The film and television industries want to make writers less vital to the process, paid worse, around less which cuts into their eligibility for health insurance, and so on, and artificial intelligence is at the heart of everything: studios would love to have the smallest writer rooms possible, paid at the lowest rates possible, and have them exist mostly to clean up whatever some AI program scrapes off the floor so that it can be force-fed to the masses.
With that in mind, it’s good to see that the WGA is receiving support from some other high-profile unions. The MLB Players Association, along with a bunch of other sports unions, tweeted out a statement on Wednesday morning that says:
The MLBPA, MLSPA, NBPA, NFLPA, NHLPA, NWLSPA, USWNTPA and WNBPA stand in solidarity with WGA members in their fight for a fair deal that reflects the immense value they create for the television and film industries.
Writers deserve a contract that provides the work conditions necessary for their creativity to thrive.
As we’ve discussed a million times before in this space, sure, Bryce Harper makes enough money to buy a solid gold vehicle that he can use to drive to the bank to deposit his very large checks which are also made of gold thanks to some shrewd negotiating by his agent, but that’s just not how things work for most baseball players, never mind athletes in general. They know what it’s like to be part of a major financial juggernaut that sees you as disposable, that does its best to not pay you for your labor or the value you create within said juggernaut. That’s why the MLBPA fought so hard to raise the league minimums for the current CBA, to ensure that pre-arb players were making more money than they had in the past, and so on. These other unions, many of which are for leagues that aren’t producing the kind of cash MLB is, understand this as well. And it’s no different than what’s going on with the WGA, where a whole bunch of studio executives make more in a year than every writer in the union does combined.
*Just so no one tries any kind of “gotcha!” with me, I’m a former WGA East member, which was under the WGA umbrella and focused on media rather than in film or TV. I don’t need to have a former association with the WGA in any form to tell you that this strike matters, though!
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