Sunday, February 13, 2011

Is DV Anorexic?

Yeah, when my mom reads this post, she'll freak out. Whatever.

But I was just reading around this weekend and I read that John Lackey lost fifteen pounds over the winter. I mean, you hear stuff about this every spring about all these guys showing up and losing a bunch of weight, or hear stuff about certain guys showing up completely out of shape. The Rico Petrocelli book I read about the 1967 Red Sox talked about guys throwing up when doing really basic wind sprints. Guys show up fat. Recently we've heard about Johnny Damon, Josh Beckett, and Daisuke Matsuzaka coming to camp in awful shape and using spring training to lose the winter hibernation pounds.

This really never struck a nerve with me until last year, when my injury forced me to go several months without exercising. During this period, I ate minimally because it was important to not gain a bunch of weight, as I compete in a sport where every nonessential pound is dead weight. I was pretty much Tobey Maguire in the movie Seabiscuit. And it sucked. A lot. But this is because I wanted to be as efficient as possible when I returned to training. It's better to be out of shape than to be fat AND out of shape.

But I cannot even fathom showing up to spring training so unprepared that you outweigh your normal/ideal weight by a good 7%. I would have probably gained 10% if I had not starved myself last spring. But I had an excuse. What's these guys' excuses? If you are a professional athlete, don't you take your job seriously enough to not eat so much In-N-Out Burger (that's a Giambi joke) that you show up to camp with a gut? Do you exercise in the offseason to prepare for your competitive and extremely-lucrative profession? As you saw with Damon, Beckett, and Matsuzaka, the years they showed up fat, they sucked for at least the first half of the season. But isn't it supposed to be the nature of these guys to make sure none of their competition gets an edge over them over the offseason?

I guess for some guys it's important. The guys chilling out in Arizona all care about this. And those are the guys who have good years. Carl Crawford cares about that, apparently. And apparently this year Lackey cares about it. But what about last year? Did Lackey decided to sign his contract and go Rocky III on everyone? Was the American League in 2010 his Clubber Lang?

I understand the concept of resting your body. But are you really resting your body from October to January or February so you show up looking like Big Pun? That's ridiculous. Even if you're going to avoid the gym, you gotta at least be cognizant of what you're eating. Check the scale. Avoid In-N-Out. That's what I did.

Well, except for that weekend in Vegas for Jason's bachelor party.

And while I understand that I take everything to a certain extreme when it comes to athletics (and I have to), how could someone like John Lackey FINISH the 2010 season and THEN lose fifteen pounds between then and now? How can you expect to compete at a high level when you're fat and out of shape? Take some freaking pride in your job. Try to get a legal edge over clowns on the other teams. No wonder he sucked last year.

I'd love to get an alternative opinion here from the basketball guys. Say Columbus Day comes around, Bandi's been in the gym all summer and fall, and Pat's been eating burgers and drinking beer? Would Pat even allow that to be the case?

Because apparently there are some years (and thank goodness that's apparently not the case for Lackey, Beckett, or Matsuzaka) that the highly-paid major league baseball players DO allow that to be the case. And it's 2011, not 1965. You can't get away with it anymore.


Ross Kaplan said...

Apparently CC dropped 25 lbs during the off season, this can only mean he will go 28-3 with 15 complete game shutouts. Of course no one really knows what effect weight loss or gain has on baseball players other than inspiring accusations of steroid use, but that probably won't stop the media from obsessing about it.

Anonymous said...

Terrific stuff. A couple of stupid remarks first:

-Does your mom read the blog?

-Has anyone seen the Asahi Dice commerical when he chugs a beer, then throws a fastball at the camera? High comedy. I suppose if it is on youtube I'll ink it tomorrow. But it does lose the appeal when the Round Mound of the Pitcher's Mound shows up to throw 91 pitch, 8 mile per hour (or is it reversed?) at bats that end in a walk.

-When it comes to a Japanese brew, Kirin Ichiban first, second, and third, then Sapporo. Asahi sucks. The funny thing is 'Ichiban' means first in the language so you are all on your way to a bilingual pun after a brew.

OK. Get a drink, I am going off here.

First, again, a terrific post. I think what you are upset about is the incentive system that dictates human behavior. In your post, you use the word 'compete' interchangeably with regard to running and pitching. I do not agree with this because you, as a runner, compete with other runners while Lackey, as a pitcher, does not compete with other pitchers. Why not? His contract, the incentive, is locked and loaded. I, too, would vacation if I signed such a deal. His career is not on the line every time he pitches once he signs so his preparation does not have the same urgency. Enter 10 pounds.

It is a real challenge for teams to find a balance with incentives and performance. If you have a manager, as we have discussed in January, that plays a pure meritocracy, guys will fear for jobs and compete with each other. This will help the incentive system a bit. Look at some college teams- if no one drank, being the big party guy would take its toll on performance and relegate you to the bench. Otherwise, why not do as everyone else does, since everyone ends back up at square one? Maybe I should have gone the opposite of this route given my total competitive time at Colby equaled Usain Bolt's total competitive sprinting time at the Beijing games.

Anyway, can't get away with it? Right. They just did, since they are coming back. And all it takes is one owner with a checkbook to keep it that way.


Patrick said...

good post dv.

timc makes a very good point about incentive. as fans we want to believe these guys do the things dv is asking for in the post, take pride in their work, etc. but unfortunately multi-millionaires aren't always going to do that because they are multi-millionaires. it's a highly individual, self-motivate thing. which goes back to our jeter conversation from two weeks ago. and by the way, joel sherman is reporting that he (and posada) are in "prove-themselves, chip-on-the-shoulder mode after unpleasant offseasons." that's what dv and i were talking about. all guys aren't in this mode every year, even the really motivated ones. so where does that leave the less motivated? probably where some of these guys dv is talking about have been production wise at various points in their career.

for the guys that do care, it's about finding a balance in the offseason. the offseason used to be for rest, and spring training used to be for getting in shape. now the offseason isn't just for staying in shape, it's for getting in better shape, making strides physically/athletically, and spring training is about fine-tuning to be ready to go at maximum output from day 1 of the season. if you don't do that, you're behind relative to your competition, both in competing for spots on your team and against the teams and players you'll be playing. but, the flip side of that is as training has become year round, you have guys going the opposite direction from the "rest all winter, get ready in spring training" philosophy of yesteryear. now the guys who are self-motivated, do care, do take pride in their job, you have to worry about them going too hard in their training and burning out. baseball is a long season, and if you're not giving your body enough time to recover, and constantly pushing, you increase the chances of burning out. especially as you get older. for the yankees, guys like rodriguez in teixeira, who are well-known for working out like crazy even on game days in an effort to give themselves the best chance to succeed, were actually doing so to their detriment despite obviously good intentions. they had to take a less is more approach. so you have the guys not working out and coming in out of shape, and you have the guys doing too much year round. since the goal in baseball is to produce the best in-game statistics and not purely be in the best shape (the latter is only to help the former), the best route for baseball training seems to be a balance. work hard, make improvements in terms of getting stronger/more athletic/etc., but do so in a way where you can also stay fresh for the long season and down the stretch when competing teams need their players most.

the gm at work said...

Probably gonna be the final word on this one. Oh well.

Tankenstein, your points on how subjective weight loss/weight gain is and can be is completely justified. However, if a guy is losing 25 pounds of fat, I can't imagine that being bad for your performance. In baseball, we're looking at a sport where fat guys have succeeded, from Kirby Puckett to Mo Vaughn, to David Wells and Curt Schilling, to both Fielders. Obviously baseball is not as weight-intensive as the sport I do. But if you're a guy like Schilling, why do video games all winter and show up fat when you can work out all winter and not show up fat? That's really all I'm saying.

Tim, my mom does read the blog. In her eyes, I'm the best sportswriter in the history of the United States. I have not seen the commercial.

Your point about working out to your competition's level is extremely valid. If your competition's sitting on their ass all offseason and you're not particularly motivated to go to the gym or rehab your hamstring, you're going to spend way too many hours up in the tree stand either in Georgia or Kansas. Not referring to anyone in particular, of course. But once again, it's not 1965 anymore. You gotta think that at least 50% of these guys are doing the Arizona thing, doing the Jeter thing, doing the Carl Crawford thing. In 1965, if Selena Gomez were to confront Arod, she'd be doing it at a dive bar, not a gym in Miami. But times have changed and half of the field is using the offseason as a time to gain an advantage, not as a time to go bowhunting.

The guys bowhunting are leaving themselves at a disadvantage, and as a fan who (going back to a discussion from a month back) wants their athletes to live an unbalanced life, that pisses me off.

the gm at work said...

Also, Pat, I agree with everything in your comment. Hopefully Bandi (who, as we know, was a notorious offseason gym rat) checks in with a character assassination of both of us late tonight.

Anonymous said...


I don't believe I've ever launched a character assassination against you. If I have I apologize.

Of course, a character assassination against PF is something I do just about every week. I will not apologize for any of that.

In any event, here's my contribution to this particular post, in a question and answer format:

1) Question: Do I have a problem with fat people in general?

Answer: Absolutely not. Fat people are a part of life. There are lots of smart fat people that make our lives easier. Winston Churchill was fat. Refridgerator Perry was fat. Fat people can be awesome too.

2) Question: What kind of fat people bother you?

Answer: That's a great question, but it's really not about what kind of fat people bother me. It's more about under what circumstances do fat people bother me.

For example, when fat women wear clothes that they have no business wearing, that bothers me.

When fat people make fun of me for being too skinny, that bothers me (it's like hey guess what, you're fat, go eat a donut).

And more to the point, when fat athletes get extra credit for being fat but also being good at sports, that bothers me.

If a pro athlete shows up fat and still produces, great. But you don't get extra recognition for being good and fat at the same time.

CC Sabathia is a prime example of this. Great pitcher? No question. Good athlete- No question.

But how many times have I heard about how great an athlete CC is for his size?

Probably about 100,000 times in the last 3 years. And that's 99,999 times too many.

Lastly, i will close this comment by touching on the one time in my life I had to lose weight, and that was to play pop warner football in 8th grade. Needless to say, I lost the weight, eating mostly vegetables for weeks on end and also running around a track the middle of August wearing a big trashbag and several sweatshirts so that I could lose water weight on weigh-in day.

If I can do that to play pop-warner football, then you would think these professional athletes coudl show up to spring training in shape.

Anonymous said...


This post basically explores what we already know--some guys stay in shape because they just want to win, they want to be the best, and they don't care if they're playing touch football with their friends or pitching in the ALCS. They just want to win. Other guys? They get in shape if the money makes it worthwhile. Is that right? Probably not. But it is reality.


Any time we can get a rant about fat people, we have to go for it. I will say this--fat people usually are very amusing and affable. Mostly because they have to be, but still. I view them as polar opposites of red heads.

--the Gunn