Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Reader Mail

Periodically I get reader mail, and although I read everything, I couldn't possible respond to all of it. So, C1Alis and ViAGrrra, I didn't ignore your questions regarding Wood and his lasting power, I have just been busy. But one of the questions I commonly receive concerns the health of the Cubs. Given the importance of health to the Cubs this year, let's go to the mailbag and see what we see:


What really irks me about baseball is the fragility of players. It just seems that baseball players get injured a lot more frequently than athletes in other sports which I can’t understand because the sport is not as “intense” as football or basketball or hockey. Is it that they do not train adequately? Furthermore, it seems that when a baseball player is injured, he spends more time out than athletes in other sports. In fact, many athletes in other sports continue to play even when injured.

I can understand a pitcher being injured because of the stress a pitcher’s body is under. But, there is no excuse for any other position player to strain hamstrings, tear their groins, etc. These people are athletes and should be in shape. Hell, I go out and run and lift weights and play sports informally and I don’t constantly injure myself. I just can’t understand it. It seems like everyday a player becomes injured. It drives me wild and it seems to have gotten worse over the last few years (although I have no evidence to back up that assertion). These people are being paid to take care of themselves and they simply don’t.

What do you think?


Alright, Joe, let's break it down. After all, you came to me to access my wealth of knowledge, and access you will. So let's get accessing.

Do I think that baseball players are more fragile than players in other sports? Probably. After all, hockey and basketball are pretty tough sports and there are less injuries in basketball and hockey. The NHL has had exactly zero injuries so far this year and the Pacers were the only team to have significant injuries this year in the NBA (or so it seemed, at least). For this study were just going to look at the NBA and ignore the NHL because, as we all know, hockey is dumb.

Googling "injury reserve list" and "NBA", I pulled up an injury transaction report from 2001. Nice work google! (speaking of google, did you notice the google ads? I don't think I'm allowed to encourage you to randomly click on them, but I've heard that if you do, candy comes out of the computer screen. I'm just saying...) What this injury report revealed to me was that, on a given day, each team had between 1 and 5 players on the injured reserve list and between 0.5 and 2.5 of those players were actually injured. This crop of injured players consisted of between 8.3-41.7% of the NBA roster. Clearly this is a large number of players, thus demonstrating that NBA players are pretty much weenies.

But the question was really about baseball players. Does it really take nothing more than a hangnail to send a baseball player crying to the bench? And why are they always tweaking their muscles (hamstrings, mostly)? And what is a hamstring? Mmmm...ham. Sorry, I'm getting sidetracked. Where was I? Ah yes, the eternal question: why are baseball players always getting injured when they rarely move more than 4-8 feet at a time?

I have many theories, and all are steeped in science, so you are not permitted to argue with them (you can't dispute science). My first theory has to do with the flow of the game. Baseball players spend 95% of the game standing around and re-adjusting their cups (at least that's what I think they're doing) and 4.5% of their time trying not to get caught picking their collective noses. The other half a percent of their time involves running at full speed (or if they are really scrappy, at 110% of their top speed). Muscles aren't meant to go from rest to full speed without a proper warm-up and stretching (and, if possible, pilates). The players do stretch before the games but, as I can attest to as an elite athelete, the muscles quickly retract back into little muscle-wads. NBA players don't have quite the same problem as they tend to keep moving throughout the game and their muscles stay warm (no wads for them). I would say this is almost certainly the reason for the majority of little strains and tears that are so common...that and steriods.

Another thing to consider is the way baseball players are selected. Baseball scouts look at a players athletic ability as only a part of their "make-up." Other factors include their swing, hand-eye coordination, and their "make-up." NBA players are only drafted if they are excellent athletes (or 7'6") while baseball has drafted John Kruk, Cecil Fielder and his son, and Hector Villanueva (we aren't selling jeans here, people). Hand-eye coordinating is the most important thing in hitting and throwing hard is the most important thing in pitching and none of these require the ability to touch one's toes (or see one's toes, for that matter). So, yes, the caliber of athlete is probably lower in MLB than the NBA and that could lead to more injuries.

A final reason why players could be injured more often in baseball than in the NBA is the consistency of the baseball season. Rarely does a player get a day off (unless that player is managed by Dusty Baker) simply because there are very few off-days in baseball. The NBA rarely has two games in a row. Muscles generally require 48 hours to recover after physical activity, but in baseball you don't get that sort of time to recover. It is a grind. And in the course of a grind, one is bound to get tweaked on occasion. That's just the nature of a grind (or at least any grind I know).

And so, Joe, there is the exhaustingly researched answer to your question. To summarize: most baseball players are not actually girls. Just Jim Edmonds.

and they are all on steriods. except Jim Edmonds. He's on estrogen (horse estrogen, but estrogen nonetheless).

Thanks for the e-mail, Joe, and to all the readers out there: I'm always here to answer your questions on baseball and life. I have all the answers you seek. Go Cubs (please).

I'll be at the game tonight. So in true scientific fashion I'll put your theories to the strictest observation and field testing. I fogot my binoculars though, and I'll be way up there in the upper deck. but I have my lab coat and glasses, therefore the results will be accurate.
What about the NFL?
What about the NFL? Hmmm...I guess I should have read your question more carefully.

The NFL is clearly a bunch of weenies. They only play once a week and are always getting injured. How lame.

Honestly, though, I don't think there is any way to compare the NFL to any other sport. The game is so violent and the season so short that it is apples to baseball's oranges. And football has tons of injuries as would be expected. I mean, it's football for Chrissakes.
I do think that football is sort of like baseball in that it is a very "start-stop" sort of game. I will agree though that the two are hard to comapre. However, very often you see football players playing with significant injuries such as broken bones. I'm just tired of these weenie "athletes" and it turns me off from the game
What can I say? Atheletes are most certainly not injured more often than before. More likely is that teams are shutting players down as soon as they diagnose a problem to protect their investment. One thing to remmeber is that most of the injuries now were career ending injuries 30, maybe even 20, years ago. 30 years ago there was no Tommy John surgery and any other surgery would require a long recovery because it was before arthroscopic techniques. So many of the players that are playing now have already been severly broken once before and are more likely to be broken again.

Football players are hardcore and I don't understand how they don't just die right there on the field. Players today are absolutely enormous and incredibly fast and that makes for some hard hits.
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