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Are you skeptical of Albert Pujols’ fast return?

Jul 6, 2011, 11:30 AM EDT

Geovany Soto, Albert Pujols AP

Despite the fact that blogging lends itself to insta-analysis couched in sharp opinions, I think the best analysis of the most difficult topics raises more questions than it does provide easy answers.   That’s the case with Jeff Passan’s piece about Albert Pujols’ quick return to action after breaking a bone in his arm.

Which, though he and I usually disagree fairly sharply when the issue of PEDs come up, is a thoughtful take, particularly at the end where he asks himself if he’s being naive in not buying what some folks on the Internet are selling about what may have fueled Pujols’ quick return.  And he offers this apt bit of insight:

Nearly every team tunes into MLB Network before a game, and the peanut galleries sitting on clubhouse couches deal in snark. I don’t know where it was or who it was, but I guarantee that when the news about Pujols’ return flashed across the screen, another player did one of those fake coughs to muffle the letters “HGH.” He is part of the problem.

I haven’t seen mainstream writers or bloggers accusing Pujols of anything. I have seen a few comments on blogs and tweets making those sorts of insinuations. And I have no doubt that Passan is right about some players questioning it too, if only in jest.

But even if there isn’t a critical mass of people looking askance at Pujols’ quick return, I find it rather depressing that we’re at a point where anyone thinks that is the most likely answer.

  1. timstl - Jul 6, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    I don’t think PEDs has anything to do with it, but one thought did cross my mind: Gamesmanship by the Cardinals? Maybe the bone was never actually broken.

    In all likelihood he’s just a freak of nature, though.

    • klbader - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:04 PM

      I don’t know that it is ever more likely that someone is a freak of nature rather. I think the bone may not have been as badly broken as originally though. I don’t know that Pujols has taken HGH, and I will withhold judgment until there is some proof.

    • 18thstreet - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:38 PM

      “Freak of nature” is not a satisfactory explanation for me.

    • dirkified - Jul 6, 2011 at 3:27 PM

      I have used Hygentropin GH for several years. It repairs muscle, increases collagen factor, and heals your body at an unreal rate. I could go on for 5 pages about all the positive things it does. This stuff should be legalized, as it is a miracle drug. Obviously, like anything, when abused it can have bad effects like head growth “Bond’s”, increase cancer cell growth etc.. You take to many vitamins, like B3, which is legal, it will shut your liver down.. LEGALIZE IT!!!!!!!!!!! TAX IT!!!!!!!! CONTROL IT!!!!!!!!!!!

    • nudeman - Jul 6, 2011 at 3:53 PM

      I don’t know who the Cardinals would be “gaming”. How does them overstating his absence (as you’re suggesting) then bringing hom back early “game” anyone?

      And Craig, sorry you’re depressed about the skepticism, but you can count me as someone whose mind went right to HGH as the reason for Pujols’ early return.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 6, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    Can HGH really heal a broken bone?

    • kopy - Jul 6, 2011 at 11:49 AM

      One of the things it does is increase bone growth, and since broken bones heal as fast as they grow to fuse the fracture together, yes.

      • Ralph - Jul 6, 2011 at 11:52 AM

        {Citation needed}

      • kopy - Jul 6, 2011 at 11:59 AM

        http://edrv.endojournals.org/content/19/1/55.full

      • paperlions - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:43 PM

        From that source: “At present, it is not possible to evaluate whether GH treatment has any role in human fracture healing because only a few clinical trials and experiments in higher animals have been performed. “

      • kopy - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:58 PM

        That sentence you cherry-picked simply states that they can’t reach a conclusion, but the 4 paragraphs above it describe the actual trials, and in every single one they did get bone growth in different animals, including this gem:

        “In dogs, GH administration augments callus formation in bone defects, and in human trials GH treatment stimulates healing of fractures and pseudoarthroses, when evaluated by radiographs and clinical examination”

      • paperlions - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:04 PM

        Yes, I was just providing the concluding statement, which isn’t cherry picking, as I wasn’t advancing any argument, just providing the conclusion of the article with regards to this issue. The article didn’t provide the necessary details to determine how or in whom those benefits manifest. Where the trials on healthy young adults, on those with HGH deficiencies, on the elderly (who have lower natural HGH levels)? If the trials were not on young adults with normal HGH levels, they have no bearing on the Pujols situation.

      • kopy - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:05 PM

        I’m not saying Pujols took HGH, or that it would even be a bad thing. My only argument is that HGH has been shown to increase bone growth, and therefore decreases the recovery time from a bone fracture.

      • kopy - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        Sorry, I was typing a reply to myself before you posted.

        It doesn’t say the condition of the humans that were tested. If you feel the need to investigate this further, go ahead. I’m satisfied with the results.

      • paperlions - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:26 PM

        The thing is that the benefits of HGH are context dependent, and without study specifics it is not possible to judge the generalizations you cite. For example, one could say that wearing a helmet while working significantly increases the career length and long-term health of humans…which is probably true if the study subjects are football players or construction workers….that doesn’t mean you generalize it to office workers, nurses, teachers, lawyers, etc.

        Most (if not all) studies on the effects of HGH treatment on normal, healthy, young adults have shown no consistent or significant benefits, whereas studies on those with HGH deficiencies, especially the elderly, show dramatic benefits. In other words, in MLB-aged people with normal HGH levels, the normal hormone level seems to confer about all the benefits HGH is capable of, additional dosages don’t really do much, and most of what HGH augmentations do in such individuals is not positive.

      • Jonny 5 - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:43 PM

        The fact is PL, HGH has been studied as you requested and it has been proven to improve performance. Add a little testosterone, and those benefits doubled. I’ve already pointed this out to you, I’m pretty sure of it. But here it is again.

        http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/03/science/la-sci-growth-hormone-20100504

    • Jonny 5 - Jul 6, 2011 at 11:49 AM

      Yes it can speed up the process, and If I’m not mistaken, rather well when it comes to bones.

      • diamondduq - Jul 7, 2011 at 7:39 AM

        What’s really concerning is that if HGH is the answer to his stunning recovery, 2 weeks’ use wouldn’t have made difference, it most certainly would be something he already was using and was already in his body to have such a significant effect. Let’s just say someone were to “accidentally” step on his hand when sliding into a base and collect a blood sample, I think we’d have another episode similar to A-Rod’s fall from grace! Other than that, I’m afraid we’ll continue to believe this farce for the foreseeable future since PED’s are miles ahead of PED tests and always will be.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      Well, in the words of Johnny…”I did not know that!!!!” That’s why I come to HBT to learn useless stuff that I would have otherwise never known. Now if someone can explain to me why Joe West and Angel Hernandez are not only still umpiring, but are ON THE SAME CREW….

      • umrguy42 - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:45 PM

        Maybe they’re on the same crew as a sympathy to the teams – yeah, that series you’ve got ‘em will suck, but you don’t have to see EITHER of them for a while, as opposed to possibly having to deal with them (individually) in separate series, possibly even back-to-back, and get really screwed :p

  3. Jonny 5 - Jul 6, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Yes! I am! But my only thought was that he really wasn’t all that hurt to begin with.

  4. cintiphil - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    No one knows except his doctors. Perhaps the bone was just cracked or just a stress fracture. That can heal in less time. Anyway, NO broken bone can heal in two weeks no matter what meds one takes, if it is broken all the way through as we think of a “broken” bone. Doctors have different descriptions of a broken bone. I suspect this was just a stress fracture, and TLR played us for all it was worth. he is too clever by half.

    • scottp9 - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:43 PM

      I’m no authority, but I thought stress fractures were caused by repetitive actions or injury to an area of the bone. Obviously that’s not what happened to Albert.

      • cintiphil - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:55 PM

        You can get a stress fracture just the way Albert was injured. I had one long ago, and it was just because I jammed my wrist against an unmovable object. I was told I had a stress fracture. It did heal fast, but not quite two weeks. Notice that Albert still has a hard wrap or cast on the wrist. I saw this on T-V last night as the Cards took it to the weak hitting (all of a sudden) Reds.

  5. spudchukar - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    “Cynics are simply thwarted romantics”-Stanley Morgenstern, “The Princess Bride”

  6. deathmonkey41 - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    I believe that Albert’s wrist was submerged in a bowl of Tony La Russa’s tears and that alone is what healed it.

  7. Kevin S. - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    I’ve yet to have anybody satisfactorily explain to me why, if HGH did in fact speed Pujols’ recovery process, this is a bad thing. Yeah, taking it without a prescription is against the rules, yada yada yada. But if there was a legitimate medical usage, then the rule is flawed, and needs to be changed.

    • paperlions - Jul 6, 2011 at 12:48 PM

      Agreed. There are plenty of therapies that are “legal” whose primary performance enhancing benefit is to get the player back on the field. This would be the primary benefit (if any) of HGH.

      Tommy John surgery is legal, because there you just take a ligament from elsewhere in the body and create a frankenelbow….yeah, that’s totally legit and way more fair than using something whose primary benefit is to speed healing to get a player back on the field sooner (as opposed to TJ surgery, which gets a player back on the field much much faster than never).

      • deathmonkey41 - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:06 PM

        In order to help you heal, it also helps to build muscle and can help you increase your batspeed when you’re in your mid-30’s, let’s say. I think that’s why it is banned by most major sports.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:42 PM

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but has it been proven to work in healthy adults yet? Most of the studies people link only show growth/improvement in injured individuals.

      • Jonny 5 - Jul 6, 2011 at 2:08 PM

        http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/03/science/la-sci-growth-hormone-20100504

      • tpxdmd - Jul 7, 2011 at 12:17 AM

        Second time that LA Times article has popped up. I am a doctor, so I’ll tell you that a summary of an article in the LA Times does not qualify for scientific evidence. Furthermore, evidence-based medicine requires multiple studies in multiple sites, with large numbers of participants. After that point, all studies are combined in a meta-analysis. Then, and only then, does medicine move to a real conclusion. Isolated studies can, and often do, produce results that are aberrations.

        At current time, there is no conclusive evidence that HGH produces any beneficial results to athletes, and likewise there is no conclusive evidence that HGH is some miracle healing wonder. If that evidence existed, why wouldn’t we treat all broken bones with HGH? HGH is not an illegal drug, and can be easily prescribed by a physician.

        Almost everything revolving around HGH at this point is hysteria and misunderstandings.

      • tpxdmd - Jul 7, 2011 at 12:22 AM

        And furthermore, the WADA funded the study. WADA is a private organization, unsanctioned by any league or government, out to make money on testing athletes. Of COURSE their study will say HGH boosts performance and therefore needs to be banned and tested for (with imaginary tests that don’t exist). I would LOVE to read what the protocols were for that study, because I’ll bet anything that they’re laughable, from an objective, scientific point of view.

        This is like Nintendo funding a study that concludes video games make you smarter.

        Skepticism is the best trait of a good scientific mind. And anyone who reads newspaper articles. And anyone who reads anything related to WADA.

  8. marshmallowsnake - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    Even though I do not want to believe it…to say that he never used anything is naive. He came up before testing…and was smaller then he is now…however, that could be from weight training, and proves nothing but speculation. However, if I had to make a bet on it, I would bet that he did use at some point in his past, because of the overall prevalence of using in the sport.

    Remember, not too long ago, people thought that A-Rod was the golden boy that never used…and it came out that he used. Now, I am not saying that Pujols used, I am just saying that anything is possible. Part of me hopes that he is clean and legit…and the other part of me knows that the chance of that being the case, with what we have seen over the past 10 years, is pretty slim.

    • spudchukar - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:47 PM

      He came up when he was 20. I don’t know about you but my body at 32 was considerably different than it was at 20. To suggest something nefarious, due to “filling out” lacks any credence.

      • marshmallowsnake - Jul 6, 2011 at 3:15 PM

        I did not say I was writing a scientific journal. I was stating my thoughts. You can call it “filling out” if you like…but that is muscle. My main point was that he came up before testing, and it is possible that he used at some point. But thanks for picking out the “filling out” part.

    • marshmallowsnake - Jul 6, 2011 at 3:22 PM

      And I also noted that the size increase could be from the workout routine that he does.

  9. dirtyharry1971 - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    yet another stupid article, nobody here is a doctor or talks to pujols so how would you know? case close

  10. deathmonkey41 - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    Excuse me, but I play a doctor on blogs- so go scratch!

  11. drmonkeyarmy - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    I don’t care whether he took HGH for his wrist or not. What I do know is that if I am an opposing pitcher, I am busting him inside repeatedly.

  12. umrguy42 - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    I’m more skeptical of him being at or very close to 100% this fast, more than I am of any PED usage. (But, I’m admittedly a Cards homer.)

    • ccraig232 - Jul 6, 2011 at 3:27 PM

      Pujols being cleared does not at all mean that he is 100% or even close to 100%. It just means he is healthy enough to play. He has already proven he has a high pain tolerance. The guy plays injured basically every year. This might be an instance where he has fooled doctors into clearing him when in reality he isn’t quite ready. Its not very different from what football players do in the NFL with concussions. More often than not they come back to soon. It more than likely is the case with Pujols in this particular situation.

  13. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 6, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    My guess would be that it was not as bad a break as originally thought, he won’t do any further damage by normal baseball activities, and the Cards realize that 65-70% of Pujols is probably better than John Jay, so they are lettering him play through it. They are probably not going to be discussing any details, because telling opposing pitchers that Pujols is 70% does not help the Cards.

    That, or the LaRussa tears thing mentioned above. I can’t find fault with either theory

  14. riverace19 - Jul 6, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Possible explanations:

    1. He was never that badly hurt, but due to his reaction on the field the Cardinals had to cover his…
    2. It’s a small fracture in a non-stressful place in his wrist which allows for a full swing
    3. He is a freak of nature and has recovered ahead of schedule on previous injuries
    4. Mark McGwire is in the dugout with botanical aides

    • mox19380 - Jul 7, 2011 at 2:43 PM

      #2 is the truest explanation

  15. mox19380 - Jul 7, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    I don’t know how many people have actually fractured a bone. but I fell 13 stories (i know it sounds like bs but it’s 100% true) from a balcony and fractured every bone south of my waist. I was schocked when a week and a half after the surgery my doctor walked in and said. “OK, get up” now take a step.

    Fact is bones fuse back together within a week. how sturdy the bone is can take longer but in APu’s case this was only a minor fracture, essentially just larger than a chip in his non-throwing wrist. It does sound like a miracle turnaround but I can guarantee from experience there is no need for PED’s when it comes from bone healing. Electronic bone growth stimulators and calcium heal bones faster than any PED

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