Better, faster, stronger and much, much better equipped

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I’m not usually a fan of TED talks — and this one from David Epstein doesn’t mention baseball once — but I found it fascinating and quite relevant to some of the things we talk about around here from time to time.

Specifically, the arguments about eras and comparing players across them. And, by extension, a lot of the arguments which get made about performance-enhancement and the notion that one can look at the accomplishments of Player X at age Y in year Z, compare it to what Player A did at age B in year C and claim — somehow — that one of those players is unnatural or some such thing.

But the fact is that changing technology, changing gene pools and the changing mindset of athletes make what the athletes of today accomplish fundamentally different than that which the athletes of yesterday accomplished. It’s apples and oranges, dudes, and your claim that what a guy did decades ago is somehow better than what a guy has done today is up against some pretty hard evidence.

Now, of course, you can normalize, or at least attempt to, across eras. Epstein does this with track and field records and shows that Usain Bolt is, actually, much closer in skill and speed to Jesse Owens than the stopwatch alone would lead us to believe. But it’s much more difficult to do with multi-variable pursuits than it is when it’s basically man vs. clock.

Anyway, some illuminating facts here about the human body and athletic achievement. And about how much the human body and athletic achievement have been aided by what one could generically call “performance enhancement” over the years.

Video: Jaime Garcia hits a 399-foot grand slam

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Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.

The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.

Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.

As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:

Ryon Healy exits game after taking a ground ball to the face

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Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.

Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.

Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.