The name is not scary anymore. Pitchers used to hear Tommy John and regard it as an epithet. Tommy John never wanted to be the Angel of Death for pitchers, and yet for years the surgery named after him because he was the first person brave enough to try it made pitchers quiver. Tommy John surgery meant a torn ulnar collateral ligament, a blown-up elbow, a career in jeopardy.
Until recently. As pitchers' elbows failed more and more, as surgeons became more and more adept at fixing them, something curious happened: Tommy John wasn't all that scary anymore. It practically became a rite of passage.
"Tommy John now," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, "is almost like a root canal."