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The Phantom of Baseball Unveiled

It’s time to bring out your medical dictionaries because this new Major League Baseball (MLB) cheating scandal requires you to have a doctorate in bullsh*t. It has been reported that players and managers across the league have been using what is known as the “phantom injury list” or “phantom IL.” Given the name “phantom” because it involves players being placed on the IL with a fake, imaginary, or “phantom” injury. 

The “phantom IL” is used by teams in order to make room on the active roster for additional players. Various rules about which players can and cannot go to the minor leagues and the risks of losing players to other teams make the use of the phantom IL even more enticing for some teams. Players can also benefit from its use. With the long baseball schedule of consistent back-to-back games, it can be very physically and mentally demanding on some players. Those who are struggling might find a break on the phantom IL to work on techniques and mechanics very rewarding. Proving that the pen is mightier than the sword, that is, when you can’t wield your sword. 

In the mid-2010s, the use of the phantom IL was rampant and spreading across baseball. MLB implemented a series of rule changes which attempted to solve the problem. However, its use in the minor leagues was still prevalent where rules about rosters and player movements are even more restricted. In order to counter part of the problem MLB instated a “development list” in the minors. This list acts as a “hold” for players who might need to work on mechanics or workload management. This list does not extend to the major leagues as it is intended for younger talents. Therefore the phantom IL continues to flourish in the majors. 

The use of the phantom IL in baseball through the years has been described as an “epidemic” which has overtaken the league. Its consistent use by players and managers alike has made it an unspoken but usable tactic in the game. Therefore when Billy Elpper was “singled out” for using the “phantom IL” and recently suspended for the 2024 season everyone was shocked. But Elpper wasn’t just faking injuries, he was concocting never-before-seen medical terms to use for the injured list. 

In 2022, MLB saw the first player put on the IL for “sinistrosmatic ostemology.” A condition which had previously evaded medical science, it was described by Eppler as an increase in the size of the bones on the left side of a person's body. Eppler used a combination of ostentatious Latin words and resplendent descriptions to conjure up radical new injuries which had appeared in no medical dictionary before. Eppler’s case is unique as he used the “phantom IL” as a playground for his imagination. It seems unlikely that this is a sign of a bigger crackdown by MLB but managers will be more hesitant to enact their bogus medical diagnosis with new inquisitive eyes watching. 

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