This doesn’t come from the world of baseball. It actually comes from paralympics. And while it is something people in that world have known about and dealt with for some time, it’s news to me:
Elite athletes are often told to work through their pain… it may be more than merely stoic advice. Some athletes with disabilities have discovered injuring themselves enhances their performance. It works so well, it’s against the rules. The International Paralympic Committee has banned the practice. but that hasn’t stopped some athletes to continue to seek out the competitive edge.
Breaking toes, sticking themselves with pins, filling their bladders and any number of other things to give themselves momentary bursts of adrenaline or elevated heart rates. One guy explains via audio embedded on the linked article what it feels like to get electric shocks and how it helps him in rock climbing.
Obviously there are limits to comparisons between paralympic athletes and baseball players in that some of the “boosts” paralympians might give themselves could be specific to dealing with their disabilities. But I am fascinated by the body hack aspects to all of this.
On some level all athletes have done this forever. Rituals they use to pump themselves up, foods they eat, clothes they wear under their uniform and so on could give them mental edges and perhaps physical edges as well. But I bet there are a lot of other things baseball players could do that they haven’t even thought of to help them out in terms of adrenaline and heart rate boosting. I wonder how much of it goes on we don’t know about. And whether, if we did know more about it, people would consider it unfair or call for bans on the practice.
(Thanks to John Measor for the heads up)
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.