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In the future, more players will be in the best shape of their lives

Oct 10, 2011, 11:33 AM EDT


Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a story about how the Pirates are going to emphasize offseason conditioning for their players this year.  In linking it, Buster Olney makes a good point that, while probably obvious, isn’t something we hear too much about over the winter:

You’ll be hearing this kind of thing more and more; teams are becoming increasingly active in insisting and ensuring that their players show up to spring training in shape, to improve the chances that they get proper return for their financial investment.

Good point. The very fact that we have “best shape of his life stories” are because it’s not necessarily the case that guys actually, you know, keep in shape over the winter.  Most do, but based on the kinds of stories you hear about heading into spring training, one gets the sense that there is room for improvement and that those who do improve will realize some small advantage because of it.

  1. Old Gator - Oct 10, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    Good luck building a workout clause into Prince Fielder’s new contract.

    • philliesblow - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:14 PM

      CC Sabathia just tweeted that Prince is already in great shape and doesn’t need to work out.

  2. halladaysbiceps - Oct 10, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    I’ve stated this before, but will state it once again. I think a lot of these players today do too much working out in the offseason, which is leading into the greater amount of injuries we have seen in the past few years than we have ever seen before. It one thing to watch your weight in the offseason. This is important. But, if you are doing these intensive workouts in the offseason, this can put undue strain on ligaments and such. I would rather a player use spring training as a way to get into shape. That’s what spring training always was for. Ask any retired ballplayer and they will tell you the same thing.

    • dailyrev - Oct 10, 2011 at 11:56 AM

      The big problem, I suspect (as an outsider, I always throw in that qualifier), is not that players muscle up, but that they don’t know how to prepare themselves and their muscular innards for activity, whether workouts or games. That is, they don’t know how to stretch.

      The biggest current example is the oblique injury, which I believe has had an impact on both LCS’s already and has reached a sort of endemic proportion throughout the game. Preparing such a muscle for action involves a kind of prep that most ballplayers would consider New Age touchy-feely girly hoohah. It is called yoga. specifically, hathayoga. I am fairly certain, though that if MLB trainers made it law that players do several asanas such as cobra, bow, and sun salute before every workout and every game, you’d see the problem of the oblique injury virtually disappear.

      Working and building muscles is as good for baseball players as it is for anyone else, but you have to know how to treat them, how to stretch them, how to prepare them for action. Muscles, especially developed ones, that are prepared will break down under stress. The ancients understood that.

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:00 PM

        Your probably right. It just seems to me that a lot of these so-called “gym rats” that you hear about working out vigorously in the off-season are the same ones getting hurt. You never saw this years ago to the degree you are seeing now. Spring Training is the right time to get in shape. That’s why they meet in the middle of Feb., work out for 2 weeks, and play 30 games. It’s not only used for getting game ready, but to get into shape. That’s how I always saw it.

      • b7p19 - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:27 PM

        “You are probably right.”

        Probably should have stopped there. Because after saying “You are probably right” you went on to ignore the argument that “dailyrev” made and instead repeated your point from before. I would just once like to hear you say (or see you write, i guess) “thats a great a point, maybe I should rethink my position.”

        I’m with dailyrev on this one. I don’t think players need to work out less, I think they need to work out better. I don’t know anything about Yoga, so I won’t pretend to, but stretching before/during/after workouts and throughout the day is very important to physical fitness.

      • 24missed - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:29 PM

        Maybe some players already practice yoga. Or stretch.

        I practice Ashtanga and think ballplayers would benefit from finding the type of stretching that suits them best. Ashtanga yoga is such a fast-paced, strong practice, it actually can replace cardio and weightlifting altogether. The guys that practice locally are totally jacked.

        I’m not saying Ashtanga is the way to go, it just seems like a practice that would challenge a competitive athlete.

        I do think some guys are open to the ideas of new ways (to them) of stretching, getting into better shape, and being stronger in areas that will help them prepare the best.

        I cringe as I write this, but Beckett actually spoke last Spring Training about Pilates and developing his core muscles. He came to Spring Training in great shape and minus the sprained ankle (won’t comment) he wasn’t on the DL. I won’t get into the rest of his story, but, just trying to say that some guys are open to different ways of stretching.

      • Bryz - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:41 PM

        Kevin Garnett started doing it, and I got the feeling that if KG thought it was okay, it would be okay for me as well.

  3. hermitfool - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    Hasn’t a connection been established between the oblique strain epidemic and the current favorite PED?

  4. badmamainphilliesjamas - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    Wasn’t it John Kruk who said “fat don’t break”

    • goawaydog - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:13 PM

      Love it, and if that is true, then Fileder, Sandoval and Sabbathia, should have looooong injury free careers.

    • halladaysbiceps - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:14 PM

      Yeah. He did say that. Kruk and his teammates also use to sit around the clubhouse after a game drinking beers and talking about baseball until the early hours of the morning. I appreciated that aspect of the 93′ Phillies.

      • rollinghighwayblues - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:39 PM

        That and those quintessential mullets.

  5. Walk - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    I know the army changed its pt program. We almost completely stopped stretching in favor of warm up exercises. The studies we kept seeing were agreeing that stretching helped flexibility but did not prevent injury. We still stretch but most of the time allocated to that is now in the cool down phase. It does not make sense to me but i did not seen any difference injury wise before i left so maybe it is right. I also know the new pt programs my unit had been picked to try has now been implemented force wide.

  6. steveohho - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    “I ain’t an athlete, lady, I’m a baseball player” John Kruk

  7. stlouis1baseball - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    What’s funny is seeing everyone jump on the “Prince is very fat” bandwagon. Do the research Gentlemen. As I posted on another thread…you will find Prince has missed something like TWO games in the last 3 Years. Further, you will find that he LEADS MLB in games played over the last 6 years. While (over time) this will probably not hold up (much like his knees….joking…joking). But I still find it impressive.

    • Old Gator - Oct 10, 2011 at 6:10 PM

      That’s correct – it won’t hold up. More sobering: Fielder is now listed as weighing in at 285 pounds on a 5′-11″ frame. The US Health Department gives the ideal weight for a male with a large frame at that height as from 168-184pounds. He’s more than 100 pounds over that weight. What’s more, just a few years ago his weight was around 260 pounds – which means he’s put on 25 more pounds, vegetarian or not. If you look at photos of him over the last five years or so, he has obviously put on significant bulk around the middle, so you can’t argue it’s muscle weight. His trend is to gain as he gets older. Like it or not, he’s already in trouble health wise – even if the effects won’t show for years, though at the rate he’s going I doubt if it will take that long.

  8. Old Gator - Oct 10, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    By the way, on the flip side of the same page as the 98-pound-weakling ad above, you could order Playful Sea Monkeys! for a couple of bucks….

  9. foreverchipper10 - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    Kudos on that picture Craig.

  10. alexb64 - Oct 10, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    I think a lot of players are confused over the difference between showing up to spring training “in shape” & showing up to spring training after losing the weight they put on over the winter. I know they consider that their “free time” to not have to worry about baseball, but there is a problem with the guys who only work on their conditioning from April – September, when they’re “on the clock” so to speak. I don’t want to say that they shouldn’t relax, have fun & dedicate themselves to baseball all year, but I liken it to my job. There is nothing in my employee handbook preventing me from spending Saturday & Sunday drunk out of my skull & barely sleeping, but doing that does effect my job performance when work does start again Monday morning. For the money I’m getting I really shouldn’t care that much about it, but if I were making even league minimum its enough that I should be focused on being in the best condition possible.

    Like I said, its a slippery slope because contracts & unions make requiring any kind of training during the offseason a costly or fight provoking thing. It is certainly better than NFL where every July you’ll see a story about some player having a surgery he knew he needed as far back as December but chose to postpone it until his offseason was over, usually under the excuse of “I tried to see if I could treat it on my own with rest & therapy”.

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