Thursday, May 29, 2008

Adam Dunn Trade Rumors Heat Up Again

With his team down six runs to the Pirates, Reds manager Dusty Baker abruptly pulled right fielder Adam Dunn from the game in fifth inning Thursday, reviving MLB rumors that the front office may have reached a tentative accord with an unnamed team to trade the 6-foot-6, 275-pound slugger.

With no information immediately forthcoming, it could not be ruled out that Dunn had been injured, but he appeared to be perfectly healthy when Baker lifted him in a double switch. One thing for certain, with a six-run deficit, Baker could hardly be taking him out for a defensive replacement as Dunn is commonly thought to be a liability in the outfield.

Though Dunn has never been recognized for his glove, he has recently heated up at the plate, approaching a .260 batting average with 14 homers on the year, 10 in May alone.

Dunn, 28 -- whose two-year $36 million contract expires at the end of this season -- has been widely thought to have been on the trading block for well over a year. Yet it appears there have been no takers, perhaps until now.

If the Reds were negotiating a deal, Baker likely would have been instructed to take Dunn out of the game for fear that an injury would derail the talks. Official word was being awaited, but even if Baker explained his odd move as being merely utilitarian in nature, it would not be entirely discountable that something more complicated may be occurring behind the scenes, consumation or no consumation.

Now with the Reds playoffs hopes in shambles, Dunn, future Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and other players more than ever are regarded as potential bargaining chips for a posssible rebuilding effort.

Dunn -- who generally has been counted on to belt 40 homers a year while scoring 100 runs -- just came off a 14-game hitting streak in which he hit more than .400 with six homers. Dunn's .395 on-base percentage leads the team, but Baker is on the record as saying he prefers batters not take walks as they will "clog up the basepaths."

Circumstances Open Door for Rockies Ian Stewart

With the injury decimated Rockies having lost 12 of their last 17 games -- six of the last eight -- at least a door has been opened to test long-awaited former top draft pick Ian Stewart.

At 24 Stewart remains a work in progress, as he was batting a healthy but less than spectacular .281 with 12 homers at Triple A Colorado Springs. But with a number of regulars out, manager Clint Hurdle has called up Stewart to see just exactly what he can do at second base, as Stewart's natural position at third base is filled by Garrett Atkins.

Look for Hurdle to keep working Stewart -- an athletic, 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-handed batter -- into the lineup while waiting for middle infielders Jeff Baker, Clint Barmes and Troy Tulowitzki to return from disabled status, not to mention Atkins, who has recently missed time with a sore neck.

While Stewart has been shown to be overmatched in limited major league playing time, it is intriguing to consider the 2002 10th overall pick's .304 batting average, 15 home runs, 23 doubles, and 65 RBI in 112 games at Colorado Springs last season, including a .321 clip over his final 37 games. Stewart has also stolen more than 40 bases since turning professional.

In addition to Baker, Barmes and Tulowitzki, outfielders Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe; and pitchers Micah Bowie, Jason Hirsh, Ryan Speier, Luiz Vizcaino and Kip Wells are also out of action.

Doctors Concerned Over Ryan Church Brain Trauma

The diagnosis for Mets outfielder Ryan Church remains hopeful, though doctors are refusing to trivialize Church's risk of significant traumatic brain trauma following magnetic resonance imaging that was less than entirely conclusive.

Though Church has been released from Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, he remains a carefully monitored outpatient as he is manifesting potentially lingering post concussive syndrome. Of greatest concern is that Church continues to have memory loss, a symptom frequently accompanied by loss of concentration, headaches, dizziness, depression and a stressful reaction to bright lights, especially direct sunlight.

Church sustained his second concussion this year when he collided with Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar in a baserunning mishap in Atlanta 10 days ago, with Church taking Escobar's knee to the head so violently that Church has no recollection of the incident, according to the team.

If Church fails to return to normal soon, he likely will be placed on the disabled list, though the Mets are trying to avoid that out of concern that once taken out of action, he might quickly recover but could not immediately return to play. Church is essential to the team, as he plays effective defense while batting more than .300 with a team-leading nine homers.

Though the concussion continues to be evaluated as "mild," the injury is not entirely predictable, with Church's worst case scenario seeing him missing significant playing time, such as Brewers third baseman Corey Koskie. Koskie has missed all of this season and last due to similar but presumably much more severe head trauma, even though Koskie's impact was seemingly slight compared to that endured by Church.

Even if Church quickly recovers, he must make a decision as to whether he desires to continue to expose himself to further injury, the ramifications of which could be very severe.

Vladimir Guerrero Draws Fire in Angels Funk

Despite sitting atop the American League West, the Angels continue to draw fire for an ongoing offensive slump, with much of the blame lain at the doorstep of All-Star outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.

Guerrero has been cited for excessive swinging at pitches outside the strike zone with resulting misses, poor contact and a batting average hovering at some 40 points below his lifetime mark, barely .260 with more than a third of the season gone.

The problem is, Guerrero has always been a bad ball hitter, so much so that it has been common for him to literally golf low outside pitches into the stands. So now fans are being asked to believe that suddenly Guerrero's difficulties are because of poor judgment at the plate?

Hopefully for the Angels, Guerrero will continue to meet or exceed the superior standards his previous statistics have targeted for him, and will carry on as the cornerstone of the middle of the lineup he always has been. But at 33, Guerrero has prompted questions as to whether he has lost a nanosecond or two off his swing, even while remaining relatively productive.

Angels coaches -- taking a nod from manager Mike Scioscia -- are treating his possible decline as a mere mental aberration as they try to jar him out of his funk. Hopefully for them they are right, for if it was not for the mediocrity of the rest of the division, the team hardly could be expected to sustain much of a lead while batting .179 and scoring just 23 runs in nine games, and scoring only 14 in 84 innings, as computed by The Los Angeles Times.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Top 10 Classified Ads Clipped by Willie Randolph

10. Become a tractor trailer driver; make big money in three weeks.

9. Immediate openings for McDonald's swing managers. Must pass drug screen.

8. Make money stuffing envelopes at home.

7. Hiring men's 900-line phone actors now. Must be able to impersonate women. Gay helpful.

6. Top dollars for actors in self-mutilation You Tube videos. No crazies, please!

5. If you can draw this dog, the Norman Rockwell Art School needs you.

4. How would you like to earn $250,000 a year and work just one day a week?

3. Boys, girls make money, have fun while seeing the country selling magazines.

2. You may already be rich! Sell the gold in your teeth!

1. Buy palatial homes in best neighborhoods for as low as three dollars, then sell for millions!!!

Andy LaRoche Eyed as Jeff Kent Replacement

With Jeff Kent's batting average fallen more than 30 points this month, The Dodgers are comtemplating making room for prospect Andy LaRoche at second base.

Manager Joe Torre was reported by The Los Angeles Times as having discussed moving LaRoche to second base intermittently because Kent is missing time with spinal pain, and because LaRoche has some experience there. The team wants to find playing time for LaRoche in order to shore up offensive shortcomings.

LaRoche -- a third baseman -- appears to have lost his position at least for now to Blake DeWitt, who has been hot since LaRoche went down with a thumb injury. LaRoche has since returned to action for Triple A Las Vegas, where he is being tried at first base with the idea of spelling mildly slumping James Loney once LaRoche returns to Los Angeles.

Torre also mentioned LaRoche as a possibility playing the outfield.

Dodgers Patient During James Loney Slump

The Dodgers are demonstrating patience with mildly slumping first baseman James Loney, the $400,000-a-year sophomore now assigned to the tutelege of roving batting instructor Don Mattingly.

Hitless in his last six at-bats and one for his last 10, Loney has seen his batting average fall to .236 against lefties, a significant liability for a cleanup hitter. But manager Joe Torre appears content to let Loney play through it for now, entertaining no thoughts of calling up deep reserve first baseman John Lindsey from Triple A Las Vegas, even if just to give Loney an occasional breather.

Prospect Andy LaRoche, however, is another matter, as he has been moved across the Las Vegas diamond to learn first base skills with the idea of spelling Loney from time to time once he returns to Los Angeles.

While LaRoche has failed to reach the .300 plateau forseen for him before he went down with a thumb injury, Lindsey is batting more than .350 and slugging nearly .700 with eight homers and 14 doubles in 165 at-bats in the thin desert air. But at age 30, Lindsey's time has passed and is regarded as no more than an insurance policy in the event of an injury to Loney,

With Loney's overall batting average still clinging to the .270 range, he is being tolerated for now as Torre needs him in the No. 4 hole to break up righties Matt Kemp and Jeff Kent, who have difficulties of their own.

Loney meanwhile has found something of a kindred spirit in Mattingly, a left-handed hitter who also experienced his share of setbacks when coming up 25 years ago and who was not initially seen as having a great deal of power potential.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mark Reynolds Keeps Job as Chad Tracy Returns

Despite being moved to seventh in the batting order and hitting just .225, Mark Reynolds will remain the Diamondbacks starting third baseman for now and incumbent Chad Tracy will come off the bench, manager Bob Melvin told The Arizona Republic.

Tracy has returned from an extensive layoff after knee surgery, making his first appearance at first base when Melvin gave Conor Jackson a day off. But Tracy has been cast as a spot starter and pinch hitter until further notice.

"We'll see how it goes," Melvin said. "We'll see physically where we are from day to day."

Melvin likened Tracy's temporary role to that formerly filled by supersub Tony Clark, who still resides in the Phoenix area but now comes off the bench for the San Diego Padres.

Randy Johnson Strikes Out 15 in 13 Innings

Diamondbacks hurler Randy Johnson's 5.40 ERA through his first six starts may be a bit deceptive, if his last two appearances are any indication.

Johnson -- coming back from spinal surgery -- has allowed just one earned run in his last 13 innings, walking one and striking out 15, with the team believing he has rediscovered his Hall of Fame form.

"It look like it to me, definitely," manager Bob Melvin recently told The Arizona Republic.

The Republic noted that it took four starts for the 6-foot-10 lefty to round into form last year, with this year apparently taking just a bit longer.

"He's not thinking about it anymore," Melvin said. "...He's throwing the ball where he wants to."

Much of Johnson's awakening has been attributed not only to his deadly fastball, but the reliability of his slider.

John Smoltz to Halt Rehab, Rejoin Braves

An additional rehabilitation appearance by Braves hurler John Smoltz -- as recently as Monday thought to be a 50-50 option -- has evidently been rejected and Smoltz likely will return to the team forthwith, MLB News Online has learned.

Expect Smoltz to join the team during the Braves ongoing road trip, with a potential that he could appear out of the bullpen as soon as the series against Milwaukee, and no later than the end of the week, an organizational source said.

Smoltz, 41, has been observed experimenting with a lower arm angle to hasten his return, but early success with it may portend of trouble.

While in active rehab, Smoltz threw to hitters this past week but was mum on his progress afterwards in what is tantamount to a media blackout, with even his handlers reticent after Smoltz allowed one hit on 12 pitches for Double A Mississippi in a road game against the Smokies in Kodak, Tenn.

Some tightness Smoltz reportedly was feeling Sunday is not the critical issue. More important was the fact that he changed his arm angle during the outing, indicating he is not free of pain in his pitching shoulder. It's quite possible this points to the beginning of the end for the Cooperstown-bound Smoltz, according to an independent medical assessment based in part on archival data and general medical histories.

When a pitcher in this class of talent changes his pitching motion, it can induce series of adverse biomechanical events to the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, and elbow, such as in the case of Hall of
Famer Sandy Koufax.

Koufax was struck by a batted ball in the foot which resulted in his having to favor the injury in order to pitch, ruining his arm and unraveling his career. There is no way to know if this is absolutely cause and effect with either Koufax or Smoltz, but when a pitcher of this caliber sees a necessity to alter his motion, after having paid the bills with it for so many years, there is reason to believe his undoing is right around the corner.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tigers Mike Hessman Mired Like Hen in Mud

Toledo Mudhens corner infielder Mike Hessman has hit another homer to extend his International League lead to 19, but the 30-year-old Tigers prospect appears hopelessly typecast as a perennial Triple A minor leaguer.

When Tigers manager Jim Leyland experimented with Gary Sheffield in left field, MLB rumors surfaced that the move would open a slot for Hessman at designated hitter. But Sheffield's inability to throw effectively curtailed any such consideration, and Hessman's next best hope appears to be limited to an expanded roster callup in September unless injuries require his elevation from the status of deep, deep reserve.

Hessman not only leads the International League in home runs, he is one just one homer shy of becoming the fastest player in league history to reach 20 home runs in a season. The record is held by former Mud Hen Marcus Thames, a one-time top Yankee prospect who finds himself gaining more and more playing time with the Tigers while Hessman languishes in Toledo.

Mets Skipper Willie Randolph Twists in the Wind

Most observers have scoffed at the possibility that Mets manager Willie Randolph will be fired when he returns to New York from the team's current road trip, but former Blue Jays manager Buck Martinez has not ruled out the possibility -- at least by inference.

"I know what he's going through," Martinez said during a recent broadcast of XM Radio's morning baseball show, which Martinez co-hosts with Mark Patrick. "I went through the same thing."

Martinez -- who was 20-33 during his brief tenure as Blue Jays skipper in 2000 -- noted that he found himself in Randolph's position eight years ago when rumors swirled about Martinez's pending dismissal and Martinez received no reassurances from ownership while the team traveled. Warned that he would be called into the front office upon his return, Martinez was fired shortly after arriving.

Randolph has watched the Mets -- in fourth place at 23-23 -- struggle with a mediocre .500 record since last year's All Star break, with managing partner Fred Wilpon reportedly refusing to return Randolph's telephone calls while the team travels.

Wilpon's silence has led to MLB rumors that Randolph will be dismissed during a meeting with Wilpon scheduled next week in New York.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

No Confirmation on Colby Rasmus Demotion

Springfield Cardinals officials -- traveling to Texas on a week-long road trip -- could not be reached for comment on an MLB rumor that top St. Louis prospect Colby Rasmus would be demoted to Double A Springfield from Triple A Memphis after reports of strife between Rasmus and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

The trouble between La Russa and the 21-year-old outfielder was attributed to an unsubstantiated internet posting in which Rasmus was quoted as complaining about La Russa's and his staff's coaching, which supposedly resulted in the youngster's ongoing batting slump at Memphis. Rasmus' average has fallen to the mid .100s since he was demoted following spring camp.

The posting was later blamed on another member the Rasmus family, giving rise to speculation that Rasmus had been privately expressing his unhappiness to those close to him. But Rasmus later was reported as blaming himself for his troubles at the plate, saying he has failed to modify his swing to use the entire field rather than constantly pulling pitches, as coaches have asked him.

The slump has set back the youngster's goal to contibute to the parent club before the All-Star break, with his callup before September roster expansion now less likely.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cardinals Medical Reports Strike Unhealthy Tone

Say it isn't so, Tony.

Citing a long string of possibly coincidental events, St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Joe Strauss in a recent investigative report appears to have uncovered what is largely hearsay and circumstantial evidence that Cardinals team physician Dr. George Paletta has participated with the team's front office to create raft of dubious and suspect press releases regarding player medical information.

Suspect announcements seem to be characterized by flaky supporting evidence for a wide variety of player movements, including trips to the disabled list, "rehab" sessions in the team's Jupiter, Fla. camp and substance abuse treatments. Far reaching ramifications include various players' history of problems prior to the alcohol-related automobile death of relief pitcher Josh Hancock.

The most recent announcement concerns troubled closer Jason Isringringhausen, but the list of ambiguous, injury-related, anecdotes also includes those of Scott Spezio, Mark Mulder, Chris Carpenter, Chris Duncan, Chris Perez, Albert Pujols, and Tyler Johnson.

What is genuinely surprising about all this that anybody is surprised in the first place.

No doubt, every team's medical staff -- not to mention everybody's personal physician -- has manipulated medical evaluations for some administrative or political advantage for either the patient or the organization. Everybody has biases, including the learned members of the medical profession. Professional sports teams and their medics are no different.

It's just that the St Louis Cardinals would appear -- while judgment could be withheld until all the facts are in -- much more clumsy than most. It would seem that nearly every medical report from the Cardinals front office must potentially be considered a half-truth or smoke screen, and must be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Maybe Dr. Paletta needs to put down his medical journals and watch more CSI episodes?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vernon Wells Has a Broken Wrist? Guess Again

Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells has been put on the disabled list for six to eight weeks after diving to catch a fly ball last week and supposedly "fracturing his wrist." Poppycock!

Since decorum prevents more appropriate exclamations too foul for this august company, poppycock will have to suffice since, evidently, initial X-rays were negative but the Blue Jays medical staff inexplicably ran the offending wrist (with Wells attached) through the MRI scanner and viola: a fracture.

"I knew it," spouts some trainer, becoming an instant hero for being smarter than every physician and textbook of medicine, finding Wells' injury and protecting the owners' investment and Wells' career while the Blue Jays season goes in the tank.

As has been repeatedly opined in this venue, the "gold-standard" textbook definition of a fracture is one found on plain radiograph, not a CAT scan or magnetic resonance image.

In only the most unusual of circumstances will a CT scan or MRI be indicated to look for a clinically important (read: important) fracture, and the wrist, friends, is not one of them.

Every physician knows that if every musculoskeletal extremity injury with a negative X-ray were run through the CT or MRI, numerous fractures would be "discovered." Pay attention now: Any fracture illuminated by the latter method has no more clinical utility nor significant clinical outcome than if the bony abnormality wasn't discovered at all. That's why the CT and MRI is not the right test for a fracture.

Hence, whatever the extent of Wells' injury (which is much more likely to be soft tissue in nature, not bony) will take a few days of rest and rehab, and he will be asymptomatic in seven to 10 days.

Doubtless, Wells will soon begin to wonder why, with no symptoms and full range of motion of the joint, he is not back in the batting cage, itching for his next opportunity against the AL East hurlers.

"Well, Vernon, you have a broken wrist, remember? You can't play until....hummmm...August?"

Even though he will soon be well on the way to recovery, Wells' wrist will no doubt be placed into a long arm cylinder cast for a month, and then a short arm cast for another month, and it's that medicalization of this ridiculous diagnosis that will do the most damage, resulting in stiff joints of the hand, wrist and elbow and atrophied musculature, necessitating several weeks of rehab to get him in shape just in time to hold his beer can in September while watching the Yankees fight it out with the Red Sox for top berth in the division.

Sorry, Vernon, you might have made the All-Star Game this year, but your so-called medical experts are gonna block that one. Oh, and by the way, here's the bill.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mike Hessman Poised for Tigers Promotion

With Marcus Thames shown to be a useful if less than spectacular part-time, designated hitter, one wonders how long before Tigers manager Jim Leyland's next shakeup coughs up perennial Triple A farmhand Mike Hessman to take over the bulk of the at-bats at that position.

Leyland has shrugged off the possibility, but noises coming out of Detroit indicate the 6-foot-5, 235-pound, Hessman certainly is being noticed. How could he not be, with his batting average exceeding .300 and slugging approaching a Ruthian .750. The pivotal question appears to be whether Gary Sheffield can hold his own in left field, a coy experiment perhaps designed to make way for Hessman.

Though Hessman at 30 is a late bloomer -- and hit only hit .235 with four homers in 51 at-bats for Detroit last season -- the 2007 International League Player of the Year seems to have hit his stride at Toledo despite a preponderance of strikeouts. The lumbering corner infielder is on a pace to hit more than 25 homers by the All-Star break, as he is knocking them out a pace exceeding one every nine at-bats.

Look for Thames to resume his primary duties as an outfield fill-in, outfielder Matt Joyce to be sent down and for Hessman to be called up before the season's midpoint, if Sheffield remains in left, or fails to stay healthy.

Dallas McPherson Awaits Return to Show

As long as the team is playing well, the Marlins likely can be expected to avoid burning an option on slugging minor league third baseman-turned-outfielder Dallas McPherson, despite McPherson's prodigious play in Albuquerque.

Though the Marlins will face Kansas City at home this week in interleague action, a designated hitter will not be required until June 13 when the Marlins will cross Alligator Alley to face cross-state rival Tampa Bay on American League turf at St. Petersburg.

It may not be until then that manager Fredi Gonzalez takes a serious look at promoting McPherson, who has hit his prime at 27 and is pounding Triple A pitchers with a home run approximately every 10 at-bats, a batting average that has flirted with .300 and an on-base average approaching .400.

Though corner reserve Wes Helms figures to face lefties when a designated hitter is needed, McPherson would be an ideal, speculative option against righties if he can continue his torrid pace.

McPherson still needs to show why the Angels took him as the 57th overall pick in the 2001 draft and regarded him so highly that he was able to push aside veteran Troy Glaus at Los Angeles. Regrettably, however, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound McPherson's meteoric rise was curtailed after various injuries, the most serious of which required spinal surgery.

McPherson's services were considered by at least four teams after he came back from rehabilitation, but it was only Florida with a vacancy at third base that was willing to take a chance on signing him. So far, he has not disappointed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Curt Schilling is Finished; Repeat: Finished

The often brash and brilliantly arrogant Red Sox hurler Curt Schilling recently opined in public that the BOSOX medical staff was correct in denying him the shoulder surgery he wanted last winter -- a procedure recommended by his personal orthopedic surgeon (who has at least twice carved on Schilling in the past) to reconstruct/repair/restore his frayed biceps tendon.

That offending tendon, by report, had been reduced to a few strands of bandied connective tissue (the biceps tendon, by the way, serves to flex, that is bend, the elbow joint and is not a prime mover with pitching motion).

Contrary to popular belief, surgery is definitely not always the answer to every woe. Sometimes it makes things better, sometimes it makes things worse, sometimes things are unchanged postoperatively.

In some cases, it's a crap shoot, but, clearly, surgeons get paid to operate, that's what they like to do, and, it seems, every problem they encounter is something to fix with a knife (talk about self-assured arrogance?).

It is unclear exactly what surgical procedure was recommended, but sewing the withered ends of two paint brushes together (which, anatomically, is what a muscle, tendon, or ligament rupture looks like) is no job for the fainthearted. And yet, despite the medical reports, Schilling is in active rehab and apparently throwing on the side.

So what happened to the biceps tendon? Something, some activity, wore it out. Did it regenerate from scar? Parabiosis? Reanimation of dead tissue? Not likely.

Either the initial MRI reading and subsequent diagnosis was incorrect (which is common) or that tendon is holding by the thinnest of threads. The suspicion is that it is the latter -- and you can be certain you have not heard the last of Curt Schilling's biceps tendon. Curt Schilling will never pitch in the Bigs again.

Seek Couch Time for Hafner, Cano, Jones, Howard

April is in the record books and May is well underway. About this time of the year, sportswriters, pundits and sports book aficionados begin to draw conclusions about this season's players and what they will, or won't to, for the balance of the season. There are always new stars on the horizon who nobody guessed would be in the limelight along with other players who just can't seem to get off the mark. What is wrong with Travis Hafner, Robbie Cano, Andruw Jones and Ryan Howard? How could Cliff Lee have been sent down last year and this season he is reaching for the Cy Young trophy? Some will speculate that those who are faltering are hiding injuries which are affecting their performance. We have an alternate explanation and recommended therapy.

Major League Baseball is a head game, perhaps like no other in sports, in which extraordinary emotional as well as physical pressures placed upon the athlete. The vast majority of us go through our day-to-day activities with some acute or chronic pain. So is true for professional athletes -- more so. Baseball players, especially pitchers, seem as fragile as potato chips with a low threshold for heading for the trainer's table with established injuries. Other players who are reported to be 100% physically still must deal with the head game -- the fans, the media, and the clubhouse, knowing there are a bevy of hot-shot rookies breathing down their necks. If it's not physical, how does a professional athlete break out of the slump?

Doctors Thomas Newmark and David Bogacki have described the use of relaxation, hypnosis, and imagery in sports psychiatry (Clinics in Sports Medicine, 24(4):973-7, Oct 2005). Hypnosis is a procedure during which a mental health professional suggests that a patient experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behavior. The purpose of this report is to briefly describe the use of various methods of relaxation, hypnosis, and imagery techniques available to enhance athletic performance. The characteristics that these techniques have in common include relaxation, suggestibility, concentration, imaginative ability, reality testing, brain function, autonomic control, and placebo effect. Athletes can use many characteristics of hypnotic trance to benefit their performance. The techniques described herein facilitate learning new information that can be applied in competition, provide general relaxation to enhance performance, and assist in the rehabilitation of injury or pain. The characteristics that these techniques have in common include relaxation, suggestibility, concentration, imaginative ability, reality testing, brain function, autonomic control, and placebo effect. Hypnotic trance allows access to different functions of the brain. Two different aspects of brain function are of interest. First, hypnosis increases the opportunity to understand unconscious motivations of athletes The unconscious motivations of the athlete are more accessible in a trance than in ordinary mental consciousness. The writings of Freud and his collaborators suggest that gaining a greater understanding of the unconscious motivations of patients facilitates treatment goals. In this context, hypnosis is only part of an overall psychotherapy treatment plan. Hypnosis also permits greater access to the functions associated with the right side of the brain. Gaining greater access to the functioning of the right brain is useful in the mental training of athletes. The imaginative skill of the right brain can help make hypnotic imagery sessions more powerful and performance-enhancing. It must be stressed that hypnosis is a tool with techniques.

Hypnosis is not itself psychotherapy. Hypnosis has its limitations, and will not transform an average athlete into a superstar. A substantial amount of research supports athletes' reliance on imagery. Imagery training has been used to increase time practicing, to set higher goals, and to increase adherence to training programs. Generally, research on imagery in sport performance enhancement has been positive. Another characteristic of the hypnotic trance is the ability to assist in the control of autonomic function, including blood pressure and blood flow. This control is important in recovery from injury, as well as in blocking the adverse reactions to anxiety. Athletes can be taught how to control autonomic functions through trance, and can apply the positive effects to enhance performance. Hypnotic techniques, biofeedback, and autogenic training may all be employed to facilitate the rehabilitation and healing process. Recently the power of the individual for self-healing is becoming increasingly recognized. Much of contemporary psychosomatic medicine focuses on enlisting the aid of the patient in mobilizing the healing process, and hypnosis has a long history of energizing the healing forces within an individual.

Sports psychiatry experts emphasize that the body and mind are in constant interaction. In summary, hypnosis and visual motor behavior rehearsal can sharpen an athlete's focus and enhance performance or stop a slump. This mental rehearsal of success can give the athlete a mental edge in real competition. So get on the shrink's couch, Mr. Cano, Mr. Jones, Mr. Hafner, and Mr. Howard -- you have some work to do. You still have over 400 at-bats left in 2008.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ken Griffey Trade Speculation Won't Go Away

Speculation about a trade of Cincinnati outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. to Seattle refuses to die, especially with the Reds in a tailspin and chances of the team competing for a playoff berth looking more remote.

The idea of Griffey finishing his career in Seattle has been kept alive for at least three years, only to be accelerated once again not only because of the Reds woes, but the Mariners need of offensive punch.

Griffey continues to struggle, however, as he has notched only five hits in his last 28 bats, and remains stuck on 597 homers after recently being robbed at the fence by leaping Cubs center fielder Felix Pie.

Pressure to reach the 600 plateau is being blamed for the 36-year-old slugger's slump, as he experienced a similar meltdown when the 500 homer mark eluded him.

Time Lapsing for Derrick Turnbow Deal

With time running out for the Brewers to strike a deal with another team, expect the club to try to pass struggling reliever Derrick Turnbow through waivers so that he may be placed on a minor league roster and straigtened out.

The Brewers continue to see Turnbow as a potential member of the relief corps, especially with closer Eric Gagne having blown five saves, including three of his last six chances, and his ERA exceeding 6.00.

Though the team has veteran closers Solomon Torres and David Riske ready to step in, GM Doug Melvin has entertained no talk of demoting Gagne, at least publicly.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Cubs Fans for Life Won't Go Away

They’re every where....they’re every where....Cubs fans that is! Seems like no matter where the Cubs are playing there will always be lots of Cubs logo jerseys, hats & home made signs in the stands.

After 100 years of Cubs fans saying..."maybe next year" maybe this will be the year for the loyal fans to see the World Series at Wrigley Field.

After all where else can you hear Mike Ditka sing out of tune, Shania Twain sing in tune, or even Ozzie forget the words to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the 7th inning stretch.

Where else can you sit on a roof top across the street from the field to view a ball game? Where else is there almost no parking for a ball game? (the red line on the "L" is the only way to get to the field in comfort).

Where else can you actually see a person still change the numbers on the score board when the Cubs do get that home run? Where else can a ball get lost in the outfield vines and make it ground rule double? Unfortunately we cannot still say only day games, lights were installed a few years ago....but we are slowly getting use to it.

A loyal Cubs fan will always be there for the glory when it becomes our turn to fly the World Series pennant.

Carlos Marmol Envisioned Replacing Kerry Wood

Cubs manager Lou Piniella's recent decision to let setup reliever Carlos Marmol face six consecutive batters in the eighth and ninth innings -- and chalk up six consecutive outs -- may set the stage for Marmol's promotion over Kerry Wood to the closer's roll, according to XM baseball talkshow host Rob Dibble.

Basing his prediction on Piniella's track record, Dibble said Piniella will not announce a change in the closer's job but rather subtly slide Marmol into the job by bringing him into games in the eighth inning, then leaving him in the game for the ninth inning for the save. The more often Marmol succeeds, the quicker he will win the closer's job, said Dibble, who played for Piniella when Piniella managed the Reds from 1990-93.

Dibble -- co-host of "The Show" heard daily on XM Radio channel 175 -- hints that despite Piniella's claims to the contrary, Piniella soon may lose patience with Wood, who has saved four games but lost one and blown three while his ERA has ballooned nearly to 5.00.

Though Wood has chalked up 15 strikeouts in 13 innings, Marmol has recorded two saves and no losses, plus 25 strikouts in 16 innings with a dazzling 1.29 ERA.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mark Mulder Regresses in Rehab Start

Continuing his struggle to come back from rotator cuff surgery, Cardinals lefty Mark Mulder appeared to take a step backward Tuesday in his fourth rehabilitation start, a 10-5 loss to offensive-minded Triple A Salt Lake at Memphis.

After making progress in his previous outing for Double A Springfield, Mulder strained to reach the high 80s with his fastball, clocked at a full 5-8 mph slower than his normal speed when healthy. Though Mulder never has been an especially hard thrower, he depends on modest velocity in order to achieve movement on his pitches.

Boobirds were evident among the 13,496 fans watching as Mulder surrendered two homers, nine runs (seven earned) on nine hits before being lifted in the fourth inning. Mulder walked one, struck out one and hit a batter while staying under the same 80-pitch limit set for him in his previous three outings. Once again, slightly more than half his offerings went for strikes.

Though Mulder was somewhat outside the strike zone, he often found his mark and was generally able to keep the ball down, even if some pitches were in the dirt, wide or inside.

Perhaps suffering what for him would be an early season dead arm, Mulder will likely need two more starts or more before returning to St. Louis perhaps by mid-May, barring a setback.