Opening Day 2011 will be the 50th Opening Day in Mets history. To honor that, around here we’ll be counting down the top 50 Mets in team history, one every weekday from now until we’ve done ‘em all. Today, #31, Craig Swan:
Craig Swan claims to be the first pitcher to come back from a torn rotator cuff; this may or may not be true. I believe he is the first pitcher to ever come back from a diagnosis of a torn rotator cuff, but I also believe it’s possible an Old Hoss type came back from a tear — probably diagnosed as a “dead arm” — without knowing that he did so. That said, when Swan injured his arm in 1980, pitchers simply did not come back from rotator cuff injuries. Rotator cuff surgery was an automatic end to a career, meaning rest and hope were the only options available, options that usually failed. Nevertheless, Swan made a successful return to the mound. His secret? Rolfing.
Yes, Rolfing. This is not “rolling on the floor laughing,” which is rofling, nor does it have anything to do with the Muppets’ piano playing dog, which would be Rowlf-ing. So what is rolfing? Let’s turn to Swan’s website:
Rolfing, or Structural Integration, was created by Dr. Ida Rolf in the 20s and 30s. Dr. Rolf called it structural integration (later to be named Rolfing) because it basically describes the essence of the work. Structural integration simply means to have these sections of the human body: head, neck, shoulders, rib cage, pelvis, knees, ankles and feet, in their optimal alignment. Any misalignments in our bodies with the gravitational forces of nature will require more muscle effort and result in compression. Dr. Rolf also believed that compression was responsible for most of the chronic pain that we humans suffer from.
This website is excellent, by the way, particularly the FAQ section which answers questions such as “How often should I be Rolfed?” and “What should I wear to a Rolfing session?” I always wondered as much.
Anyway, those who Rolf — Rolfers, presumably — manually manipulate the tissues that surround muscles in order to lengthen the tendons. Or something like that. Swan credits Rolfing for his return after the tear; he came back from the injury to win 13 games with a 3.35 ERA for the 1982 Mets.
After his playing career ended, Swan decided to spread the gospel of Rolf, training at the Rolf Institute in Colorado. In 1987 he began operating a Rolfing practice in Greenwich, Connecticut, and he is still an avid Rolfer today, working at the practice with his son Mark. Meanwhile, the technique of Rolfing has gone on to be used by the Minnesota Vikings — Randy Moss was a fan — and has been featured on the Dr. Oz show.
Swan is higher on this list than the starters before him because he had two very good seasons, 1978 and 1979, one good season in 1982, and a couple other acceptable years; most of the other pitchers had just one or two good years. This list values very good years highly. The value of Swan’s career may have been obscured by him being bad when the Mets were good, and then being good when the Mets were bad.
Swan and the next eleven players on this list are extremely close in value; there isn’t much separation again until we get into the top 15. If you think #27 should really be #18, I probably won’t argue with you.