The fact that ballplayers are using a spray made from ground up deer antlers as some sort of performance enhancer a la HGH is not news. We wrote about it back in January. What’s new, per Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated, is that Major League Baseball sent a warning to players last week that they shouldn’t use a particular brand of the deer antler spray because it could lead to positive drug test results due to contamination of some kind.
As I noted back in January, the funniest thing about the deer antler spray business is not that it’s, you know, deer antler spray. It’s that players are taking it — and the league is at least starting to get a bit worried about it — despite the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever that it actually enhances athletic performance in any way. Yes, the active ingredient — a substance called IGF-1 — is one of the main proteins in human growth hormone, but they haven’t linked HGH to any performance enhancement either.
I predict that eventually we’ll have outraged interviews with WADA officials about how baseball has no test for deer antlers and thus doesn’t take PEDs seriously and all of that attendant baloney.
And that’s before PETA gets involved.
NOTE: The pic comes from the cartoon that I thought was, bar-none, the funniest thing I ever saw when I was a kid. To this day, my brother and I repeat the “yeah, he had antlers like this!” line.
The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.
Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.
Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.
James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.
The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.