06/02/2002 5:53 pm ET
Sarah's take: Kevin Brown
By Sarah Morris / Dodgers.Com
Many Dodger fans believe they are the only ones who are frustrated when Kevin
Brown had to go on the disabled list this past Monday.
This is not true at all. Kevin Brown is the most frustrated person in the whole
process. He does not like feeling helpless as he watches his teammates trying to
compete for a playoff berth.
Since the beginning of last season, Brown has been on the disabled list five
times. Many people in the media and many Dodger fans are criticizing the Dodgers
for signing Brown.
Wait just a minute. Before last season, Brown was a durable starter for the
Dodgers in the 1999 and 2000. Yes, Brown was older when he became a Dodger, but
he did not have a history of arm problems. Criticizing the Dodgers for signing
Brown now is stupid and unfair to Brown. Hindsight is always correct, but
foresight is not perfect.
A great pitcher takes time to develop. At first, most pitchers are throwers, and
they have no idea how to baffle a hitter. Relying on his God given ability
doesn't make a pitcher great. Regardless of how fast a pitcher throws the ball
or how good his control is, every pitcher must learn to fool the hitter and this
When the Dodgers signed Brown, they wanted an ace. An inexperienced pitcher
would not have filled the role. Kevin Malone, who signed Brown, hoped his fierce
competitiveness would rub off on other pitchers, and it has.
The Dodgers probably could have gotten Brown for a shorter contract, but he was
looking for some stability. I know it is scary to think the Dodgers owe Brown
$45 million for the next three years, but they are paying him and we are not.
Brown's contract is not the only reason that the Dodgers have no payroll
Brown likes to compete. If he is able to pitch, he will. Sometimes he must be
watched or he will pitch when he should not. When he takes the mound, he wants
to pitch a complete game. This is a rarity nowadays when every team has
To me, when a pitcher throws nasty pitches, the pitcher is more likely to injure
his arm. No pitcher throws nastier pitches than Brown does, except for Dreifort.
Brown throws a 95 plus MPH sinker, a slider, and a split-finger fastball. When I
was young, I heard a slider was extremely difficult on the elbow. Currently many
people believe that a split-finger fastball damages the elbow. Not many pitchers
can throw a power sinker that darts as Brown's does.
Brown will not change what he throws.
As many pitchers, Brown would have been forced to retire when he tore the flexor
tendon in his right elbow without the advances in sports medicine. If Sandy
Koufax and Don Drysdale were pitching currently, their careers probably would
have been prolonged with today's medical techniques.
I remember when Dr. Frank Jobe performed a radical procedure of transplanting a
tendon from one arm into the elbow on Tommy John. Back then, no one believed
Tommy John would ever pitch again, but John had a long successful career after
the surgery. Now Tommy John surgery is commonplace, and everyone believes a
pitcher will return to the mound within eighteen months after having the
surgery. Currently the Dodgers have Odalis Perez and Eric Gagne who have had the
Tommy John surgery, and Darren Dreifort is on the way back from his second Tommy
Last year Brown tried to pitch with a torn muscle in his right elbow. Though it
was painful, he did not complain and did well considering the circumstances.
Most pitchers would have had the surgery as soon as the tear was diagnosed and
then started rehabbing their elbow. This is not what Brown did because he wanted
to help the Dodgers to go to the playoffs. After his diagnosis in July, he tried
to rest the elbow and come back in September. Brown waited until the Dodgers
were eliminated from the playoffs to have the surgery. I am not saying that
Brown made the right decision, but I am saying that Brown's competitiveness is
Brown was lucky last September when he underwent the surgery. The muscle had not
torn completely away from the bone, so he did not need to have Tommy John
surgery making his recovery time a lot shorter. This enabled Brown to start
pitching competitively in spring training.
Though it took Andy Ashby much longer to recover from a similar surgery, Brown
is stronger and tougher. Looking at the two men, a person can tell that Brown is
stronger than Ashby. Before last season, Brown pitched 230 or more innings a
year since 1996 whereas Ashby pitched two hundred innings three times during the
The last game of the 1999 season Brown was unfairly criticized for not pitching.
If it was up to Brown, he would have pitched, but he had already pitched 250
innings. Though the game was important to the Houston Astros, it was meaningless
to the Dodgers.
Davey Johnson was worried about the future health of Brown's arm, and he was
right to be concerned about Brown.
Many people are asking if the Dodgers rushed Brown into returning. This is
irrelevant because the Dodgers cannot change their actions now. During spring
training, the Dodgers were careful with him, and Brown never felt discomfort.
Though the Dodgers were not sure that Brown would be ready to pitch on opening
day, Brown was determined and insisted that he was ready.
Because Brown is such a fierce competitor, he has pitched with pain. Playing
with pain is a part of being a major leaguer. Thus, when he felt stiffness in
his right elbow while warming up before last Sunday's game, Brown did not think
much of it. He did alert the Dodger training staff, but they did not conclude
that he could not pitch. Everyone expected the stiffness would disappear as the
This did not happen. When Brown had to come out of the game in the first inning
last Sunday, I, as many people did, thought Brown was heading for Tommy John
Luckily, Brown did not suffer any structural damage. He has a posterior sprain
in his right elbow. According to Dr. Jobe, the injury is not related to the
surgery, and that was good news. Dr. Jobe believes that Brown is likely to
return to the active roster after fifteen days.
I have watched many pitchers returning from surgery. It usually takes a year
before a pitcher regains his form. Though Brown has been on the disabled list
twice this year, it is not uncommon, especially when the pitcher has scar
tissue. After Brown returns, he probably will not have the dominating pitches
this year that he usually does, and he may never regain his dominance.
However, I do not have any doubt that Brown will finish his contract
satisfactorily. Brown deserves our support and patience and not our criticism.
We as fans need to forget what Brown makes and focus on what he does.
Good luck, Mr. Brown!
Sarah Morris is the editor of Dodger
Place. She lives in Anderson, Texas.