Chase Utley

“Boosting” — the performance-enhancement one gets from injuring oneself

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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)

Matt Wieters is close to signing with the Washington Nationals

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 02: Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles connects on a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on October 2, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Jon Heyman reports that the Nationals are closing in on a deal with catcher Matt Wieters. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that it’s a two-year deal. UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is for two years, at $21 million. There is an opt-out for him after year one. He will get $10 million in 2017 and, if he returns in 2018, he’ll get $11 million.

Wieters was not expected to go this long without signing, but his market, which many thought would be robust, never materialized. The Nats had been rumored to be interested for months, but they were apparently waiting to swoop in late and get what one presumes will be a bargain.

Wieters, 30, finished last season hitting .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI in 464 plate appearances. The Nationals currently have Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton, so who falls where in the catcher fight in Washington is unclear, but one presumes that Wieters getting a two-year deal puts him at the top of the depth chart.

Sergio Romo experienced some difficulty in the past couple of years

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 11:  Sergio Romo #54 of the San Francisco Giants walks off the mound after allowing an RBI double in the ninth inning of Game Four of the National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs at AT&T Park on October 11, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal has an interesting story up about Sergio Romo as he begins spring training with his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

There is some fun stuff about his family, all Dodgers fans from southern California, but the more notable stuff is about Romo himself, who has dealt with a lot more than has been reported over the past couple of seasons. The loss of three of his four grandparents is a big one, as it has thrust the mantle of head of the family on Romo in ways that he was not fully prepared for. There are also allusions to personal and psychological problems Romo has experienced — there is a vague suggestion of alcohol or maybe just late nights out and perhaps depression, but he is not specific about it — which he worked on with the help of friends and teammates on the Giants and which he now has overcome.

There’s always more going on the lives of baseball players than we as fans know.