This is fun. And by “fun” I mean it has all of the makings of a hilarious ethical battle in professional sports at some point.
It’s from Outside Magazine, and describes a new technique that could dramatically enhance athletic performance. It’s called transcranial direct current stimulation, and it’s basically giving your brain a little shock in an effort to bypass the central regulator which most researchers believe we all have. Once that central regulator is down, your brain won’t shut your body down when you’re fatigued. You’ll just keep going.
Here’s how it works:
tDCS is disarmingly—almost disturbingly—simple: you connect a voltage source (a 9-volt battery will do) to two electrodes placed on opposite sides of your head. The precise placement of the electrodes determines which regions of your brain the current flows through. As it passes, the current changes the excitability of the neurons in the affected region, making them slightly easier to trigger (or harder, depending on which direction the current flows). Edwards and Putrino’s primary interest in tDCS is to help patients recover from brain and spinal cord injuries—but “rehab and high-intensity training are not as different as people believe,” Putrino says. “Whether you’re a high-end athlete or a patient fighting locked-in syndrome, you’re dealing with the same limitations of muscle fatigue.”
The ethical part of all of this will be fun. As the article notes, it tDCS doesn’t give you more power or performance, really. It just unlocks what you’re capable of doing already, breaking down a barrier. Much in the same way a good trainer can train you to fight through pain and fatigue to get that extra bit of oomph. But because it’s new and weird, I assume people will fall into the old PED arguments rather than actually look at the science of it all and see if it works and what the pros and cons are.
(thanks to Will Carroll for the heads up)
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.