Clubs can analyze a player’s performance to the nth degree, crunch numbers until the sun goes down and build rosters accordingly, but it’s all for naught if a key guy pulls a hammy, strains an oblique or snaps a ligament in his elbow. To that end, the business of keeping guys healthy is incredibly and increasingly important.
To that end, clubs are looking for new ways to not only patch hurt guys up but to keep them from getting hurt in the first place. Today Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes about the Cardinals’ efforts in this regard. Which he calls “sabermedicals.”
You can tell any organization’s priorities by how it’s organizational structure is set up. Not just sports teams, mind you. If a company has its security chief answering to the head janitor, it tells you what they think of security. By the same token, when a team like the Cardinals — like some other clubs — puts the folks analyzing medical data and working on prevention on equal footing with its actual medical staff, you can tell that it’s a priority.
It’s fascinating stuff. It used to be “rub some dirt on it and get back out there.” Then it was “let that ligament heal and get back out there.” Now it’s “let’s see how we can keep you out there the whole time, shall we?”
We’re used to seeing balls going into the stands at baseball games. Bats fly into the crowd sometimes too, but they are a bit less common. One went flying into the stands at the Braves-Pirates game over the weekend at the Braves’ Disney complex and nearly smacked a boy in the face.
He was saved by the adult next to him who shot his arm out just in time to deflect it. The moment was captured perfectly by photographer Christopher Horner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Note that in the second picture the bat has done a complete 180-degree turn, less than a second later. That suggests it was helicoptering in pretty darn quickly. It also suggests that our hero on the left of the frame has a big, big bruise on his forearm today.
I’m sure he’ll take it, though, given that he saved that boy from some far worse injuries:
I’ve spent the morning living in the past. It’s my brother’s 45th birthday today so I woke up thinking about him a lot. How he got so old while I’ve stayed so young and vibrant is a mystery but I’ll call him later to taunt him about that.
Then, thanks to that Facebook memories, and the fact that I’m usually at spring training in early March, I was reminded of a ton of past spring training happenings. Six years ago today I witnessed a Mets fan berating a hotel clerk in Port St. Lucie. Four years ago today I saw Yu Darvish‘s debut, during which a credentialed cameraman dropped his camera and dove for a foul ball. It happened the morning after I met a guy in a bar with a head wound who thought that women getting the right to vote was the worst thing ever. I wonder what happened to that guy. I assume he’s running Trump’s Arizona operation but I can’t be sure. I’m flying to Phoenix on Thursday so I’ll try to catch up with him.
An event more relevant to the 2016 season has me looking backwards too. It’s this story about Braves outfielder Nick Markakis from Mark Bowman at MLB.com. It’s an encouraging story about how he is feeling 100% this year and how, unlike last year, after a short spring training due to his recovery from neck surgery, he is swinging free and easy, has power and is relieved to be able to engage in his entire, usual spring training routine. What a nightmare last year was! How good that is in the past!
But then I remembered last year Markakis, as most players coming off of injuries or surgeries do, claimed he was totally fine. Indeed, he claimed it exactly one year ago today, telling Bowman “I’ll be fine with a week’s worth of at-bats” and suggesting that the neck surgery was no issue at all. Guess not.
Which, fine. Markakis is an athlete. Athletes, by necessity, spend a lot of time convincing themselves they can do the impossible and convincing themselves that obstacles in front of them are not as big as they seem. Most, I suspect, do not allow themselves to acknowledge long odds until the absolute last moment they have to, preferring instead to engage in positive thinking. They’re wired differently than you and me.
But it does mean that whenever you hear a player talking super positively about his recovery from surgery or injury you should take his claims with a grain of salt. Or at least bookmark it and check back in a year for some more candid comments about where he was at the time he offered said comments.