August 17, 2010
Under The Knife
On Monday, I wrote about the conflict of interest between Liberty Media owning a supplement company that sells substances on MLB's banned list and owning the Atlanta Braves. I want to clarify a couple things. First, Liberty Media is a giant conglomerate of assets, of which both Bodybuilding.com and the Atlanta Braves are just a small part. It's not "wrong" to sell supplements, just a conflict of interest if you also happen to own a baseball team. Also, I want to be very clear that I'm not removing the responsibility for taking the banned substance from those players that have tested positive. MLB provides a list of products and Jack3d, Oxy Elite Pro, and "any product that contains Methlyhexaneamine, DMAA, dimethylpentylamine, geranamine, Geranium oil, or extract" are specifically noted. Agents were warned as well in a memo sent out from the MLBPA with specific warning about "Jack3d" after a series of recent positive tests. MLB teams have athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and more resources available for athletes to check substances before taking them and putting themselves at risk.
Then again, what is it about this substance that puts it on the list at all? Jay Gordon, one of my Twitter pals, offered up his first-hand opinion of his usage of the product and how it fits into his workouts:
"Before we get to into this, let me briefly give you a run down on myself. I am a 31-year-old healthy male who lost about 130 pounds over the course of 16 months. This was done through diet and exercise. I am not an expert on anything except how my own body and mind have responded to the process of getting into the best shape possible.
"I became a hobby bodybuilder after a lot of my weight loss and spend nearly 18 hours a week training these days. I educated myself on how to improve my nutrition and fitness from reading information in forums on the internet. One of the more difficult parts of staying capable of long workouts with strength training is the fatigue you may run into. Coffee can help of course because of the caffeine, but in all honesty sometimes I just didn't feel like it was enough. I began scouring the forums on sites like BodyBuilding.com and found a few products that people said really gave them the "go" they were looking for.
"I am a frequent user of USPLabs "Jack3d" and BSN "No-Xplode" and find them to be great products for what they are. While they claim to produce better more focused workouts and "better pumps," realistically they are just proprietary blends of creatine and caffeine. When I first started using No-Xplode I would literally go into jitters after taking it because of the level of caffeine, but it helped. I felt that extra push that maybe athletes on a professional level might be looking for.
"We all want more from our supplements. If you watch Christopher Bell's documentary "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" you come to realize that most of the time these companies want you to think you are buying a product that will have a steroid-like effect. They want you to believe in the myth of the magic powder that will increase your muscle size or make you recover faster. Almost none of these over the counter products are going to stimulate testosterone production like an anabolic steroid is, they simply provide you with amino acids which in some cases can be beneficial but mostly sell you the idea of improvement.
"I'd like to imagine that the daily dose of "Jack3d" I take prior to my workout is going to increase my muscle size and create a more vascular physique, but I got to be honest ... I know it won't. What it's really doing is providing me with a legally available stimulant to help me get up and able to perform over the course of the workout. That's it ... high grade Red Bull. I am probably just another sucker to the billion dollar supplement industry, but it gets me moving."
Interesting take. Thanks, Jay. Now, let's get to the injuries:
Francisco Rodriguez (sprained thumb, ERD 10/4)
It appears that Rodriguez is headed for surgery on a torn ligament in his thumb. All indications are that he injured it during the altercation with his girlfriend's father. He did pitch on Saturday, but apparently the injury was known, though the severity wasn't clear. I'll leave the contractual complexities to Jeff Euston and the sermonizing to many others, but the injury part is mine. It's very unclear what the mechanism of the thumb injury is. We can assume it was pulled back somehow. Maybe he had bad fist form, which is common in some boxers, or perhaps it was pulled back in the melee. For a pitcher, having a healthy thumb is essential, but it's not really a big part of any pitch aside from the changeup. Rodriguez developed a two-seam change in 2008 and has made increasing use of the pitch while with the Mets. Surgery should be able to fix the ligament damage and have Rodriguez back to normal next season. If there's any lingering issue, it will be seen in the change. We'll know more after the surgery, once we know which ligament was damaged and how it was fixed. There's no great comparable here, but thumb injuries are more common in NFL quarterbacks, who have much different demands and stresses, yet usually come back from similar injuries.
Ryan Howard (sprained ankle, ERD 8/20)
It's not going to be a minimum stay on the DL for Howard, but it's not going to be much longer either. Howard was scheduled to do some running on Sunday, but conditions held that back. All signs are that with Chase Utley coming back tonight, Howard will be heading out for a quick rehab in the next few days and be back by the weekend. What's the hold up for Howard? Sources tell me that Howard wasn't the best guy in rehab. He's never had a serious injury before and seemed thrown off by the injury more than most. It wasn't so much a work ethic issue as much as it was a confidence one. That's largely the reason the team is going to send him out for a couple games, so that he's sure of the ankle and isn't compensating for it. Don't expect much more of a delay, but do expect Howard to be back to normal once he does return. The Phillies have hung on through all their injuries this year, which is as much a testament to their organization as a couple pennants.
Carlos Delgado (hip strain, ERD 8/20)
Hearing that Delgado is going to miss the rest of the week with a hip and back strain isn't good news. The early reports all seem to be of the "oh, it's on the other side" variety, which is true—Delgadois having the trouble on the opposite side from his surgical repairs, but that's hardly a good sign. As readers of this column know, cascade and compensation injuries are often the toughest to deal with. Delgado is the one "failure" out there that throws off the hip surgery bandwagon, so it's very tough to get any read on this. Delgado hasn't shown much in his brief stay at Pawtucket, but having been out of baseball for as long as he has, and at his age, it's really tough to differentiate what effect the hip has on things. More games equals more information, so we'll have to wait until he gets back on the field again. That's expected to come this weekend and any delay would be a big negative.
Jason Berken (strained shoulder, ERD 10/4)
If you remember the interview with Dr. Neal ElAttrache about shoulder injuries, you'll remember that the key is the health of the rotator cuff. While it's bad to have a tear or even fraying in the labrum, it's much worse to have any involvement of the rotator cuff. Berken has that cuff involvement. At this stage, Berken is going to try the rehab route, which will likely end his 2010 season. The tough part here is that guessing "wrong"—with wrong being a failed rehab that requires surgery—will cost him 2011 as well due to timing. This is kind of following the pattern of Jeff Francis a few years back, though the Orioles hope they can succeed where the Rockies didn't. Berken's shift to the bullpen has been a successful one, but it's another piece of evidence that the multiplier between relief and starting innings is higher than most would expect.
Nelson Cruz (strained hamstring, ERD 9/2)
The Rangers may have had a tough loss in their opening game of a three-game series against the Rays last night, but they've got a big lead in the American League West and are acting accordingly. Nelson Cruz's recurrent hamstring issue isn't that serious—nothing really changed from Sunday and the imaging did come back in what some reports called "clean." The situation in total allowed them to make the decision to push him over. The combo of Brandon Boggs and Joaquin Arias will cover some slots while Cruz and Rich Harden rest for the stretch. The Rangers might have too many options right now and are effectively using a 27-man or 28-man roster with a shuttle to Oklahoma City. Cruz will take the rest of August for rest and treatment, all with the hope that he'll be healthy for September... and October.
Jason Heyward (bruised knee, ERD 8/17)
Braves fans are used to fragile stars. Chipper Jones, who is recovering well from knee surgery, has spent the twilight of his career on and off the bench and the DL with any variety of small injuries that kept him from being one of the dominant players of the era and instead just one of the really good ones. The next one for the Braves appears to be Heyward, but like Jones, he's got some early career knee issues that he's dealing with. It's nothing like the serious ACL tear that Jones had in 1994, but over the longer term, Heyward's knee issues are something that we're going to have to watch. Knee problems at a young age can augur a positional shift—his bat would play at first base—or they can be something that comes up down the line, the way we've seen with a player like Lance Berkman this season. At this stage, it's a management issue, but remember that little things now will have some consequences later. Heyward was back in the lineup yesterday, so in the short term, he's fine, just as the Braves need him to be right now.
Jose Valverde (abdominal strain)
Valverde returned last night after missing the weekend with what was described as an abdominal strain. There were a couple reports that had the strain moving around, like some sort of Alien, to his oblique and lower back. If it was more than the minor injury that the Tigers described, I doubt that Jim Leyland would have brought him on in the eighth inning yesterday for a four-out save opportunity. Then again, Valverde did his best to convince everyone that something was still off. He gave up one hit and four walks in the roller-coaster outing, getting a double play when he needed it for the save. Was this rust or a sign that the abdominal strain is still affecting his pitching? My guess is the former, though you might want to keep the Maalox handy, Tigers fans.
Quick Cuts: Yeah, I'm a bit worried about Tim Lincecum's performance lately too, but he's proven he can pitch rather than just throw this year. ... Utley played a doubleheader yesterday, in the field for the first game and DHing the second. He'll return to Philly tonight and could be activated immediately. ... Alex Rodriguez (calf) and Nick Swisher (forearm) left yesterday's game for the Yankees. Neither injury is considered serious. ... Martin Prado is ready to start a short rehab assignment at nearby Gwinnett. He'll be back this week if all goes well. ... Carlos Pena returned for the Rays. Tough draw against Cliff Lee. ... Andrew Bailey told reporters that he "dominated" his bullpen session. I have no idea what that means, but it does sound like he'll be back in the Athletics pen this weekend. ... Conor Jackson came off the DL and promptly broke up a no-hitter with a home run. I guess his leg's OK. ... Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune had a classic tweet regarding Derrek Lee: "D-Lee says he'll only miss a couple days with bulging disc, and is eager to try the caviar: 'I think I might. I've never had caviar.'"