All-Stars offer theories on rash of injuries
KANSAS CITY -- Baseball nutritionists and trainers should close their eyes and ears on this one.
Atlanta's Chipper Jones, a senior citizen at 40 in Tuesday's All-Star Game, has a remedy for all those players who've been on the disabled list this year: Fatten up, chow down at McDonald's once in awhile.
"I think you need a little fat [on the body] to play baseball," he said during a media session with the All-Stars on Monday. "It seems like when guys take their shirts off, they have 2 or 3 percent body fat. This is a fast-twitch, muscle-type of game. You build up and build up, and eventually you're going to break down.
"I'll tell you this: I was a fast-food junkie early in my career and never had any pulled muscles. I got a trainer, stopped eating that food, and for three years in a row went on the DL six times. Coincidence? I don't know."
There have been years when more players were injured, but this season it's been almost an epidemic of pulled muscles, injured arms and other maladies. And it seems like more superstars have been victims than in the past.
According to Major League Baseball, the 30 teams have put 353 players on the disabled list this season through Sunday. This number does not define whether the same player has been on the DL more than once.
Injuries also have taken their toll on players chosen for the 83rd All-Star Game. Washington shortstop Ian Desmond, Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson, St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina and Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp had to be replaced because of injuries.
"We've talked about this a lot," said Tony La Russa, who's managing the National League All-Star team. "Maybe it's because it's happening now and gets your attention, but I don't think so. There are so many injuries -- obliques all over the place and hamstrings; there's something we're doing wrong and it's not just this year.
"You see a contact-type injury and can understand that, but there have been a lot of non-contact injuries. I know it's affecting every ballclub. I believe there's an answer somewhere and they're obviously trying to figure out what it is."
Rangers manager Ron Washington, the AL All-Star skipper, said "I've never seen injuries mount so much. There's a lot of work being done on legs and conditioning. The reason for the injuries is hard to put a finger on. The majority of the injuries are the type you can't do anything about. I don't know if it's the bodies, the hard work the players are doing. Maybe their muscles are wound too tightly."
Washington did have one thought: "I do know the past few years the heat has been different than any I have experienced and sometimes the cold has been much colder than anything I've experienced."
La Russa added: "More has been invested and concentrated on strength and fitness. Injuries should be fewer, but there are more. It's mysterious."
The Cardinals' Matt Holliday points to the extreme heat in St. Louis as a possibility. "The training staffs seem to be better than ever," he said. "Maybe sometimes guys push themselves too much. You want to be out there for your team, but there's a fine line between being tough and stupid. You want to be out there even if you're a little dinged up, but sometimes it's best to take a couple of days and get back to 100 percent."
To the Yankees' Derek Jeter, the 162-game schedule is very demanding and puts a strain on the body.
"It's a tough schedule," Jeter said. "You're playing games every day and then there's the travel. More games are televised, which means there are fewer day games on getaway days. For us, we played Sunday night and got in here at 5 o'clock this morning. That could have something to do with it. Guys play hard, but maybe the fatigue factor is just a coincidence."
Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson believes many injuries are caused because the demand on players is so great.
"They go harder and try to do more," Johnson said. "There's enormous pressure on them to perform at a high level. The game isn't that easy, so when you have that pressure where you try to do more than you're capable of doing, injuries can happen. Maybe the body can't take it when it's pushed to the limits."
"I push myself all the time," Jeter said. "Injuries are part of the game, but guys work out even more today than they used to."
There's also the huge salaries players now earn. They're overly cautious because even a small injury can lead to a career-ending problem.
The Rangers' Josh Hamilton, who's had his share of injuries, said "it's such a long season if you deviate or change anything in your routine, the consequences can be costly. But during the season you also have to tweak your routine if something creeps up. You have to do something about it."
Hamilton believes, "If the game asks you to do something quickly, it might cause a problem. For myself, if I'm standing around in the outfield and not doing anything for three innings and then all of sudden a ball is hit to the gap. Then, I have to go full speed and there's a chance I can possibly hurt myself. Same thing with a pitcher -- a little slow roller and he has to accelerate off the mound and might hurt himself."
The Phillies' Cole Hamels, whose team has been devastated by injuries this season, believes players are too quick to take themselves out of games.
"I just think they're not playing through injuries as they did in the past," he said. "I tweak things and I play through it. Nowadays because of the money they don't want to have career-ending injuries. That one strain or hamstring injury might cause them to sit down. There's so much more focus on the game, they can't play hurt for a couple of weeks until it gets better. So, they take the time off and the team brings up another guy.
"Every day you see somebody else go on the DL. Even if I'm feeling well like I am now, I'm still working out each day so I can stay off the disabled list."
Paul Konerko said "most guys go home after the season [and relax] for three weeks or a month and after that it's full throttle. They work out, get in shape, eat right -- everything. If you show up in Spring Training just a little bit out of shape you're really behind the eight ball.
"My best bet about the injuries is guys are in such great shape, one false move this way or that way, you have no fat and the muscles are so toned a bad move can pop something or strain something."
So maybe Chipper Jones' theory has some credibility -- more fat on the bones!
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.