What’s the big deal about Bartolo Colon’s stem cell injections?

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There was some moderate-to-serious hand-wringing the other day when it was revealed that Bartolo Colon received an injection of his own stem cells to help repair ligaments.  As David Epstein notes in a very informative article over at SI, however, the hand-wringing is unwarranted.  Colon’s procedure is fairly commonplace and, in its general effect, is no different than microfracture surgery, which no one thinks is a problem.

He likens the response to Colon’s procedure to another procedure — platelet rich plasma therapy — that caused people to freak out a little bit in recent years. In both cases, however, the therapy itself is noncontroversial. The source of the controversy was the doctor at the center of the particular case: Anthony Galea in PRP and Joseph R. Purita in the case of Colon’s stem cell thing.  Galea remains in legal trouble over his alleged use, purchase and transport of HGH. Purita because he admitted that in his non-athlete patients he uses HGH in the stem cell therapy.

Given the level of misinformation and ignorance floating around sports media and among fans when it comes to things like PEDs, it’s not surprising that new-to-us medical procedures lead to raised eyebrows.  But we should all understand that, for the vast majority of us, when we talk about medicine, we really don’t know what the hell we’re talking about.

Victor Martinez played his final major league game on Saturday

Victor Martinez
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After 16 years in the majors, longtime Tigers DH Victor Martinez capped his career with one final start at Comerica Park. Although there are seven games remaining in the club’s regular season schedule, Martinez said he felt he owed it to the fans to record his final at-bat at home. He’ll still cheer the rest of the team on from the dugout when they hit the road for their last six-game stretch on Monday, though he’s not expected to slot into the lineup at any point during their back-to-back away series against the Twins and Brewers.

In order to commemorate the occasion, the Tigers arranged a pregame ceremony to celebrate the veteran infielder’s seven years with the team, during which they presented him with Topps baseball cards, a recliner, a pair of boots, and a saddle, among other honors. Martinez also put in a special request to play first base, a position he hadn’t manned in over two years.

The 39-year-old didn’t waste a single minute of his final start in the majors. He deftly handled an inning-ending out in the top of the first, then laced a rare infield single to short in his first and final at-bat of the afternoon, beating the throw to first and advancing Nicholas Castellanos to second base in order to set up the Tigers’ first run: a two-out RBI single from Niko Goodrum that brought Castellanos home to score.

“I think that at-bat was the perfect at-bat to describe my career,” Martinez told reporters after the Tigers wrapped a 5-4 win over the Royals. “I had to sweat it out. I had to sweat it out the whole way. I had to grind it. That was my whole career.”

Following the hit — and the standing ovation that greeted it — the switch-hitter was promptly replaced by pinch-runner Ronny Rodriguez, who subbed in at second base in the top of the second while Goodrum shifted from second to first base. Taking Saturday’s performance into account, Martinez polished off his big league career with a lifetime .295/.359/.455 batting line, 423 doubles, 246 home runs, 1,178 RBI, and 28.4 fWAR across 1,973 games and three separate stints for the Indians, Red Sox, and Tigers. His accomplishments at the plate have been decorated with five All-Star nominations, two Silver Slugger Awards, and the designated hitter-exclusive Edgar Martinez Award following a career-best campaign in 2014.