I’m not so much of a PED-guy defender that I believe PEDs have zero effects. I’m sure they do. They likely allow for players to recover from workouts quicker, thus allowing them to work out more. Some build strength and muscle mass, obviously. All of these effects likely lead to a situation where players can throw harder and hit the ball farther or, for hitters, wait on a ball longer before uncoiling on it. I say “likely” because I am no expert in any of this, but I am as sure as any lay person who hasn’t immersed himself in the research of the matter can be that, yes, many banned PEDs do, in fact, enhance performance.
But I have long believed that the effects on offense are overstated. Again, I don’t have exact empirical evidence of this, but I have found in life that highly-pitched hysteria about anything is likely evidence that someone’s case is being overstated. I’ll grant that there were communists in the U.S. government in the 1940s and 50s. I won’t buy crazy claims that they were systematically working to topple democracy and were one alcoholic senator from Wisconsin away from succeeding. Life just doesn’t work like that, usually. There are a lot of factors in play in almost any complicated system and people who point to one thing as a singular, efficacious factor in any phenomenon are usually trying to sell you a bill of goods or have another agenda altogether. And when some other factor emerges that makes the “threat” seem less threatening — like, say, large-scale expansion and a spate of cozy, home run-friendly ballparks coming online in the 1990s — those factors tend to be ignored.
Today David Schoenfield rounds up some past research on the matter from Joe Sheehan and David Cameron which demonstrates that there was a lot more going on in the 90s and early 2000s besides PEDs inflating offense and that there is a lot more going on now besides drug testing and players’ changing attitudes about PEDs that is deflating it. It’s well worth your time. And note: Schoenfield is not some crazy, unhinged PED-apologist. He’s just an analyst looking at data and showing that maybe, just maybe, the folks who think that PEDs ruined or distorted baseball are full of beans.
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.
According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.
It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.
Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.
Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.
Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.
The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.