Here at BallNine life is not just about yelling from Twitter rooftops. Trying to find solutions to problems is part of the game here.
The latest injury news from the Yankees is disturbing on several fronts. One thing is certain, the Yankees can’t blame Matt Krause for this one. Krause was the Yankees Director of Strength and Conditioning that was let go by the team in December and replaced by Eric Cressey with the title Director of Player Health and Performance.
Yet, here are the Yankees again with leg injuries popping up for big men Aaron Judge (calf) and Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring) while simply playing baseball. If we are to believe the Yankees, a few days on artificial turf might be the problem.
Evidently, the bubble wrap doesn’t work as well at Tropicana Field. If that were the case how come the Rays don’t lead the baseball world in injuries from nowhere?
There needs to be some clear thinking here. With that in mind I reached out for some wisdom from longtime certified strength and conditioning specialist Sal Marinello, someone I have known for 20 years and have watched closely work with clients.
To be clear, he has never worked with any major league players but he has worked over 45,000 private sessions in his career, training everyone from high school and college athletes, in all different sports, to Broadway stars and everyone in-between over his 30 years in the business.
He is boots, or I should say sneakers, on the artificial turf. And somehow even though he does a lot of his training in New Jersey on artificial turf fields, it all works out.
What the heck is going on here with the Yankees and in baseball in general?
Why does the simple act of running, that may include some sprinting, depending on the mindset of the player, create an issue? Why can’t the Yankees get a handle on these injuries?
Should baseball just start signing more fat guys? Should players look more like John Kruk and Sid Fernandez?
Why can’t the best baseball players in the world run from first to second base without getting hurt like Stanton did. How did Judge injure a calf that was first described by the Yankees and Aaron Boone as “lower-body tightness?”
What is Boone talking about? How can the manager keep a straight face when talking to the media, a group he once belonged to at ESPN? Somehow Boone said Judge’s injury is a result of wear and tear at the Trop. Wear and tear after only 17 games this season.
“ How can… [Boone]… keep a straight face when talking to the media? ”
One thing I’ve learned about Marinello through the years is that he will tell you exactly what he thinks. You don’t need to be a certified code breaker to know where this certified strength and conditioning specialist stands.
“It’s absolutely ludicrous to say wear and tear,” Marinello told BallNine. “A calf injury is ridiculous and the fact that the Yankees have had a track record of them the last couple of years, there is something going on there beyond a guy just getting hurt.
“The worst thing is when Stanton got hurt they said he was running on a wild pitch so it wasn’t even an aggressive full speed move,” Marinello said. “He got hurt on a jog basically.”
Marinello pointed out that most players work with strength and conditioning coaches on their own in the offseason and are not always under the watchful of club employees. “That’s part of the problem, too,” he said. “There seems to be a disconnect in the entire field. If I were training a guy I would hope that we would all be on the same page so whatever the team wanted we are going to have him prepared.
“There is a disconnect the same that there is with the pitchers. Why is it any different? The pitchers are getting ruined too,” Marinello said.
Whatever is going on is not working.
“Now there is a track record,” Marinello said of these injuries now through a number of years. “It’s a systemic problem. It is not limited to the Yankees or any one club. We’re seeing kids with knee pain and hip pain and labrum tears in their hips who are average to above average athletes that have such horrible mechanics and they train horribly. The better guys are able to get through it because of the survival of the fittest but they are damaged and when you ramp up the intensity and the volume they have to contend with their bodies breaking down.”
That’s an excellent point. There’s more. The players are in great shape but they get injured more often.
“They are paper tigers,”
“They are paper tigers,” Marinello said.
He believes this generation of professional athlete trains too much. In generations past, spring training was used to get in shape, now players train year round.
“These guys start their training three weeks after the season ends and then they train all the way through the off season and never stop,” Marinello said. “By the time they come to camp they are supposedly in shape but their bodies haven’t had any time to recover. I think that is part of the problem, these guys never stop.”
From the outside looking in, Marinello, 57, notes Judge’s mighty setup and swing require so much power and torque. “You may not be preparing the body for the rigors of that swing technique,” he said. “If you are not training specifically for that, you could be running into a potential problem. He may be training in a way that is non-complimentary to how he hits.”
Judge has had his share of oblique injuries and other injuries – running into walls and hurting his shoulder, diving for a baseball and breaking his top right rib, getting hit on the wrist by a pitch and breaking his wrist. It’s been a difficult run for him physically despite all his success of his 52 home run rookie season in 2017. Judge has missed 113 games since the start of the 2018 and will be on the Injured List until August 22nd at the least.
“The stresses you put on the body don’t happen in a vacuum,” Marinello said.
Judge’s swing produces big numbers. In his 17 games he leads the American League in home runs (9), RBI (20) while putting up an astounding .758 slugging percentage and 1.101 OPS.
Since there are so many running injuries in baseball, I asked Marinello does he believe baseball players sprint enough in their workouts.
Past generations of players, especially pitchers, made sprinting a big part of their routine. His answer is fascinating.
“It’s funny I’m reading a book from an expert I’ve seen speak over the years. His name is Frans Bosch and the book is Anatomy of Agility. He is a bio-mechanical track coach, sprint expert,” Marinello explained. “His whole theme is that everything comes from the sprint, from your sprint technique. If you can’t sprint you can’t be agile. And you can’t be agile in a high-intensity manner in which all these pro athletes need, whether it is baseball, basketball or football and no one ever teaches these guys how to run.
“These guys, at some point, their bodies begin to break down.”
Stanton, 30, has suffered a litany of leg injuries.
“Baseball is an open-skill sport, meaning things happen on the field and you are not locked into a technique, so you may have to change direction or whatever, “ Marinello said. “A lot of times though these players are getting hurt doing things that are the essence of what their activity is, so they are getting hurt swinging the bat, that tells you there is something wrong with their training because they can’t handle the basic act of swinging the bat.”
As for avoiding leg injuries, in general, he said, “You need to do ground base compound movements, what that basically means is you got to be feet on the floor and not in a machine but move like the body moves, you don’t need to do weight-lifting stuff, but body weights, squats, lunges and sprinting and there are definitely schools of thoughts at the high levels of the profession that sprinting seems to be the cure for a lot of these ills.”
Sprint more in practice, and sprint properly and there may be less leg injuries. That would be something Marinello would like to see teams do more of throughout the major leagues.
“The high intensity movements reveal all the flaws,” he explained. “When you are jogging you really can’t tell about how anybody moves, but when someone sprints full speed everything is revealed to you. It’s almost like the guy who is really good at hitting the three-pointer when he is by himself in the gym versus what happens when there is a game.
“In Bosch’s book there is a great quote: ‘There is only one way to sprint, there are many ways to waltz.’ And what that means is you can dance slow, you can dance medium, you can dance fast, but there is only one way to sprint and that is full speed. That’s when all the flaws become evident.”
The flaws need to be fixed.
LAW OF AVERAGES: Go to the MLB.com stats page for team hitting and the highlight statistic that pops up is OPS. There is good reason for that. Hitters used to be judged on batting average up until recently in the #OverNerding World, so that was considered the most important hitting category and would have been highlighted. No more. Batting average doesn’t mean anything with those in charge now so it is no longer important. With that in mind it should be noted that 15 teams are hitting .240 or below. Half of baseball can’t even hit .250, the essence of mediocrity so why highlight it. In 1968, the year hitting officially died, 14 teams hit .240 or below. There were only 20 teams back then. The next season the mound was lowered five inches. In ’68, the Yankees posted the lowest batting average with a .214 mark. The Indians are the lowest this year at .196. Isn’t Launch Angle/Exit Velo the greatest?
MANFRED BALL: On occasions when contact is made baseballs are really flying. Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote a story this week on how the Padres missed out on drafting Mookie Betts in 2011 when he was drafted by the Red Sox in the fifth round. Betts’ uncle Terry Shumpert spent 14 years in the majors and was a teammate of Tony Gwynn’s in 1997. He referred to Betts as a right-handed hitting Gwynn for his ability to square up the baseball and noted this interesting baseball point: “I do think the ball is juiced,” Shumpert said. “I don’t think any of these guys have the power right now they are displaying. But it is what it is.”
PHILLIES PHAIL: Everyone warned the last-place Phillies that their bullpen was going to destroy the team, but management knew better and went into the season with a dreadful bullpen. And that is exactly what has happened. Going into Saturday the Phillies’ bullpen posted a 9.12 ERA. That is ridiculous. The Mariners were 29th at 6.49 and the Reds were 28th at 6.23. As my friend Hal McCoy noted on his website HalMcCoy.com, Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon once said: “The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen.” Phils manager Joe Girardi can relate.
WELCOME BACK, KOTTER-NALS: Cue John Sebastian and let’s welcome back the Cardinals return to action Saturday. St. Louis must play catchup after Covid with a slew of doubleheaders after the 17-day pause. With Adam Wainwright the winning pitcher in the first game 5-1 victory over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, the right-hander passed Bob Forsch to go into third place all-time in Cardinals history with 164 wins. This was Wainwright’s first appearance at GR Field since 2006 (5,169 days), longest time between appearances at a ballpark since Jamie Moyer went 6,533 days between appearances at Wrigley Field. Also worth noting, as a visiting writer through the years in both St, Louis and in Jupiter, FL during spring training, Wainwright always set a tone of professionalism in the Cardinals clubhouse, making time for out-of-town reporters … From Elias: The last time the Cardinals played three doubleheaders over a five-day span was Sept. 15-19, 1979 … While Wainwright is playing in his 15th season, outfielder Dylan Carlson, the Cardinals No. 1 prospect, made his MLB debut Saturday, just another wonderful example of the circle of baseball life, no matter the difficult circumstances.