Even genius seems replaceable in sports, including baseball.
Tony Gwynn and George Brett go into the Hall of Fame, and along come Ichiro Suzuki and Miguel Cabrera. Greg Maddux retires, and up pops Clayton Kershaw. Tony La Russa steps away, and the Cardinals don't skip a beat behind Mike Matheny.
But will that be the case with sports medicine?
Science always is evolving, but will baseball players still get put back together again the way they have the last 30 years once legendary orthopedic surgeons Lewis Yocum, Frank Jobe and James Andrews are all gone?
You would think they would, but still, there's a reason agent Scott Boras calls Yocum, Jobe and Andrews "the Murderer's Row of Medicine.''
Yocum's death from liver cancer May 25 was a shock to clients around baseball. He was the Angels' team doctor, but he helped save the careers of players — especially pitchers — on all 30 teams. He repaired Stephen Strasburg's elbow in 2010 and had examined the shoulder of two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay only 10 days earlier, prescribing surgery.
Those close to him say the Chicago native battled cancer for five months, causing him to lose weight, but he kept his illness private while he continued to work.
"He still wanted to help,'' Reds Vice President Bill Bavasi told USA Today. "His attention to detail and the players' interest, understanding professional athletics and a player's shelf life, was second to none. I would put his significance to sports medicine with anybody.''
Yocum is among the notable graduates of Western Illinois University and received his medical degree from the University of Illinois. He did his residency at Northwestern University's McGaw Medical Center.
Jobe performed the first transplant of an elbow ligament on left-hander Tommy John in 1974, when the Dodgers' team orthopedist was 49. Techniques have continued to advance since then, with Jobe, Yocum and Andrews the go-to guys for pitchers facing career-threatening surgeries.
Boras says Yocum turned an inexact science into one with stunningly reliable results, batting 1.000 with his diagnoses.
"He changed the paradigm of baseball and those who played it,'' Boras said.
Commissioner Bud Selig calls Yocum "a giant in the field of medicine.'' White Sox manager Robin Ventrua says Yocum was a security blanket for players.
"He was always somebody everybody went to for one thing or another,'' Ventura said. "I don't know how they do it for Hall of Fame stuff, but if you're looking at people who affected the game, he affected the game."
The Hall of Fame issues membership only to players, executives and umpires. But it created the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award five years ago to spread official recognition.
It would be fitting if it went to the medical triumvirate of Yocum, Jobe and Andrews in 2014, when it is next presented.
Passing it on: Brett, named the Royals' interim hitting coach in a true Hail Mary move, hasn't been in uniform since he retired in 1993. He thinks he knows how to do his job, however, planning to copy the style of the late Charlie Lau, who was his hitting guru as a player.
"They just have to have someone they can trust," Brett said of the hitters who had contributed to the Royals ranking 13th in runs among AL teams. "I trusted Charley Lau with my heart and soul and, hopefully, these guys will trust me. I'm basically going to be Charlie Lau's ghost. There are going to be a lot of one-on-one conversations on airplanes just like (Lau) had with me in 1974."
Brett is taking over for the tandem of Jack Maloof and Andre David, who had replaced Kevin Seitzer after last season. It's safe to say he brings rare presence to the job.
"It's George Brett, man," third baseman Mike Moustakas said to the Kansas City Star. "We're lucky to have him with us here full time for right now."