Posts Tagged ‘major league baseball’

Energy Bracelets Turn Athletes to Stars, If Only in Their Heads

Bloomberg – October 5, 2010 – Mason Levinson and Tom Randall – Philadelphia Phillies pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs says he has no idea whether energy-enhancing jewelry that’s being worn by athletes from Little Leaguers to basketball icon LeBron James really works.

Yet, for the last month, Dobbs has worn a different brand of energy bracelet on each wrist. “I want to stay impartial,â€? Dobbs said with a chuckle. “Maybe my left side will feel better than my right side.â€?

As Major League Baseball’s postseason opens tomorrow, each contending team is likely to field several players wearing some type of energy-flow bracelet, necklace or apparel.

Sales of the accessories have tripled in the U.S. since 2008, according to research group SportsOneSource. Closely held Phiten Co. said its worldwide sales topped $200 million last year. Bracelets made by Power Balance LLC have been spotted on soccer star David Beckham, Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and Hollywood celebrities Robert De Niro and Sean “Diddyâ€? Combs.

The jewelry’s makers say their products use processed titanium and holograms to improve balance, energy, recovery time and flexibility. Critics say the sellers are perpetrating a scam older than professional sports itself.

“This is utter nonsense,â€? said Steven Nissen, head of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic. “There’s absolutely no scientific reason why this would work. Unfortunately, we’ve not done a good job as a society in keeping people from selling snake oil.â€?

Placebo Effect

Nissen, an advocate for evidence-based medicine who has helped shape U.S. regulations for pharmaceutical companies, said the main reason for the popularity of the jewelry is the medical phenomenon known as the placebo effect.

“If you come in to see me as a patient and tell me that you have a terrible headache, and I give you a placebo sugar pill and tell you that it’s going to relieve your headache, there’s a 35 to 40 percent chance that it will relieve your headache,â€? Nissen said in a telephone interview. “That’s called the placebo effect. It’s very powerful, and that’s what allows quackery to exist.â€?

Erica Jefferson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said none of the bracelets have been approved for medical use, and any claims to reduce symptoms or treat a condition must be backed by scientific evidence and reviewed by impartial scientists.

“The agency encourages consumers to report side effects, product defects or health fraud to the FDA — which may include complaints that these products don’t work, Jefferson said.

Shaquille O’Neal

Power Balance, of Laguna Niguel, California, counts among its endorsers 15-time basketball All-Star Shaquille O’Neal and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the top pick in the 2009 National Football League draft. The company’s corporate partners include Rawlings Sporting Goods, a brand subsidiary of Jarden Corp., based in Rye, New York, and the TaylorMade unit of Adidas AG of Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Power Balance’s wristbands and pendants use a secret hologram technology “designed to interact with your body’s natural energy,â€? said Josh Rodarmel, 26, who co-founded the company with his brother, Troy, 36. Troy discovered the technique of treating holograms with “certain frequenciesâ€? through “trial and error,â€? Rodarmel said.

“As far as studies, we haven’t really commissioned a ton of them because we’ve been using testimonials as our backbone,â€? he said in a telephone interview. “We just let our customers tell the story.â€?

So, has Power Balance commissioned any studies on its holograms?

“No, we haven’t,â€? Rodarmel said. “We are going to probably begin to, but at this point we have not done any studies.â€?

‘Tricking Your Mind’

Nick Swisher, a right fielder for the New York Yankees who wears a Power Balance bracelet and a variety of Phiten apparel, said he doesn’t care if it’s just the placebo effect making him perform better.

“If you are tricking your mind, you’re winning half the battle,â€? Swisher said. “I don’t know if it provides any energy. I don’t need any energy, bro.â€?

Phiten’s titanium products, which range from $25 to $85 for a necklace on the company’s website, are made by dissolving metals and infusing the mix into fabrics. The processed metals “regulate and balance the flow of energy throughout the bodyâ€? and generate “more relaxed muscles leading to less stress and greater range of motion,â€? according to the website.

Phiten, based in Kyoto, Japan, has funded four studies in mice and humans, said Lisa Oka, a spokeswoman.

Improved Joint Range

One completed study of 14 athletes, published in April in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found soccer and hockey players wearing titanium-treated clothes didn’t play significantly better. Players wearing Phiten garb did show improved joint range of motion, though the texture of the particular garments may be partly responsible for the benefit, the authors wrote.

Phiten is the market leader in sports energy accessories according to SportsOneSource in Charlotte, North Carolina. It has licensing agreements for its titanium products with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the U.S. PGA Tour. Endorsers include pitchers Josh Beckett of the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain, golfer Sergio Garcia and Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony.

Phiten sells a pure titanium bracelet for $230, as well as titanium-infused athletic tape, lotions and a $170 pillow.

Balance Demonstrations

Demonstrations of balance and flexibility are used to win over leery customers to Power Balance and EFX Performance Inc., another hologram bracelet maker, as well as “As Seen on TVâ€? bracelet seller iRenew Bio Energy Solutions LLC. The performances, which include tests without and then with the jewelry on, may be skewed by administrator bias and muscle memory, the Phillies’ Dobbs said. Still, they’ve made believers of many, including the Philadelphia team’s manager Charlie Manuel.

“I put these on and I noticed the next morning when I woke up, my hands were kind of freeâ€? of chronic arthritis pain, said Manuel, 66, about Power Balance bracelets after taking a balance test. “I’ve been wearing them ever since.â€?

John Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida, who has worked with professional athletes, said he wouldn’t necessarily advise his clients against wearing the jewelry.

“There’s an old quote, ‘Don’t turn good faith into bad faith,’â€? Murray, 48, said in a telephone interview. “So I’m not going to go around telling people that they’re full of it or they don’t need it if it helps them, but I’m going to promote a more rational approach.â€?

No Scientific Tests

EFX, in Mission Viejo, California, relies on demonstrations to prove its products’ effectiveness, said President Jim Ruschman. The 1-year-old company, whose bracelet is worn by golfer Phil Mickelson, hasn’t conducted any clinical studies.

“We look forward to and embrace testing with anyone,â€? said Ruschman, 52, in a telephone interview, agreeing that the company’s balance tests are unscientific.

A telephone message left for iRenew through its customer service center went unreturned.

Wearing exotic substances to improve health is nothing new; magnets for therapy have been worn for centuries, attracting patients with their unusual properties, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland.

Third-century Greeks wore magnetic rings to treat arthritis. Doctors in the Middle Ages used magnets to treat gout, poisoning and baldness. In the U.S., magnetic hairbrushes, insoles and ointments were widely used in rural areas following the Civil War.

‘Snake Oil’

Studies of magnetic jewelry haven’t shown demonstrable effects on pain, nerve function, cell growth or blood flow, according to the U.S. alternative medicine center.

Power Balance endorser Shane Victorino, a Phillies outfielder, echoed many players’ sentiment when he said: “You’ll never know unless you try it.â€?

“That’s basically what a snake-oil salesman would say in the 1800s,â€? said Bruce Berst, from Casper, Wyoming, who portrays snake oil salesman “Dr. Dumassâ€? in historical re- enactments of life on the frontier. “If you are suffering and can’t find relief, what do you have to lose but a dollar a bottle?â€?

‘Fashion Thing’

Phillies catcher Brian Schneider called energy-flow products a “gimmickâ€? and pitcher Roy Oswalt tabbed it a “fashion thing.â€?

Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series Most Valuable Player, began wearing an EFX bracelet after taking their balance test in late August. He won his next five starts, the best streak of his career.

“If it’s something that allows me to do something helpful — legally — then I’m all for it,â€? said Hamels, who didn’t know whether the bracelet or his new Phiten socks had helped.

The craze reminds sports psychologist Murray of the film “The Wizard of Oz,â€? when each character sought something symbolic of human success.

“One got a heart, one got a brain,â€? Murray said. “That was all bogus. A guy was behind a curtain. The power, folks, is within us.â€?

I hope you have enjoyed this story from the world of sports psychology.

What’s Behind A-Rods Postseason Turnaround?

New York Baseball Digest – Mike Silva – October 13th, 2009 – I discussed this on Sunday and once again was criticized for saying that a “relaxed” A-Rod has as much to do with his success than anything. Dr. John F Murray, who appeared on my show back in June, had the following to say in Sunday’s New York Post.

“If he’s becoming a little more honest . . . he would have less anxiety, said Palm Beach sports psychologist Dr. John Murray. “He would sleep better at night and be more relaxed. More focused. That is key.

Dr. Murray was responding to a quote from a team insider who said A-Rod has “ditched his philandering ways and is making a big effort to inject honesty and openness into his relationship with the actress Kate Hudson.? If only he had met Hudson five years ago perhaps the Yankees would already have their 27th World Series. I am kidding of course, but you have to admit that there is a clear change in A-Rod at the plate. That is why anyone who cites “small sample size? is not looking at the big picture.

Ken Davidoff, who embraces all sorts of modern statistical theory, echoed much of what I have been saying on the show and the blog:

It’s never as simple as “Now A-Rod is relaxed, therefore, now he’s great.? Someone has to pitch the ball to him, after all, and that pitch might be sublime, horrible or somewhere in between. But my goodness, he’s playing the game with such a peace now, if you will. In previous postseasons, in tight spots or with runners on base, you could feel the tension oozing from his body. Yes, sometimes such tension can produce a flare, broken-bat single, and results are all that matter. But I can’t remember too many instances in the previous five years where the defense robbed A-Rod of a hit. He just didn’t square up the ball too often.

I have seen most every inning of Yankees postseason baseball the last 10 years. The pressure clearly got to A-Rod, along with many others on the Yankees, during the 2004 ALCS. Davidoff said it best when citing the lack of hard hit balls throughout the postseason. I wish I could get a copy of the ESPN interview before the 06 Detroit series. A-Rod was so tight during the conversation I thought he was going to snap like a rubber band. Obviously none of us are in A-Rod’s head, but it doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to recognize bad body language when you see it.

Finally, I think you have to point out how Rodriguez has made peace with Derek Jeter. The one black mark on Jeter’s captain legacy is how he handled A-Rod’s transition to New York and the Yankees. NYBD contributor Frank Russo mentioned in his Monday column that A-Rod, “stressed by the spotlight of both the Selena Roberts steroid story and his hip surgery, had a heartfelt talk with Jeter sometime during the season, where he “again apologized for the comments he made about him in the April 2001 issue of Esquire Magazine.? I think it was petty of Jeter, and showed that even the great one can fall to one of the seven deadly sins, but at least A-Rod finally owned up and helped put the situation behind the duo. Peer pressure and respect is a big thing in sports. Sometimes confidence can be something as simple as the support of your teammates. Of course, you can’t discount good pitching, fielding, and hitting, however the difference between playoff teams is so minuscule that the “intangibles? often can put a team over the top.

A-Rod is not out of the woods as Anaheim comes to town on Friday. Something tells me that his performance against the Twins was no accident and we will see more of this as the Yanks attempt to win title number 27.

Hope you enjoyed this article about sports psychology.

Baseball’s Most-Ejected Managers

Sports psychology commentary in Forbes.com – Monte Burke – June 22, 2009 – Sure, home runs and stolen bases are cool, but the ejection of a manager is baseball’s greatest performance art. Two actors (manager and umpire) meet on center stage in front of thousands to kick dirt, toss bases and hats and spit tobacco juice and obscenities into each other’s faces. The fact that we already know exactly how the spectacle will end–with the outstretched arm of an ump–diminishes it not one bit.

Earl Weaver, the fiery, longtime manager of the Baltimore Orioles, was perhaps the art’s most flashy practitioner. While he argued, he furiously pecked the brim of his hat on an umpire like a bird. He once tore up a rulebook and scattered the pages all over the field. In an infamous incident, Weaver was tossed for smoking a cigarette in the dugout. The next day he delivered the lineup card to the ump with a candy cig dangling from his lip. He was tossed again.
In Depth: Baseball‘s Most-Ejected Managers

Legendary as he was, however, Weaver has nothing on Atlanta Braves skipper Bobby Cox, who is the all-time leader in manager ejections, with 143 (which doesn’t even count his two ejections in World Series games). The most recent one? Yesterday, when he was tossed in a game against the Boston Red Sox for arguing balls and strikes, giving him 34 ejections since 2004. “I don’t know why umpires miss strikes,” Cox grumbled after the game.

Behind the Numbers

To determine our list of most-ejected managers, we looked only at who’s been tossed the most since the 2004 season. Our statistics come courtesy of David Vincent, a contributor to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and the author of Home Runs Most Wanted. Cox tops our list by just a hair, over Ron Gardenhire of the Minnesota Twins. But his all-time ejection record may prove unbreakable.

St. Louis Cardinal’s manager Tony LaRussa has the second-highest total of active managers with 78. That’s roughly half of Cox’s all-time total. And LaRussa is only ninth in ejections since 2004, with 11 dismissals. He’ll have to work very hard to catch Cox.

Cox is the Cal Ripken Jr. to Weaver’s Mickey Mantle. The Braves manager lacks flash, but he’s consistent, averaging a little more than five ejections a year in a 27-year career (Weaver, who is No. 4 on the all-time list with 98, averaged almost six a year for 17 seasons). What sets Cox apart is his seemingly shorter fuse: He’s been tossed mostly for arguing balls and strikes, but last August a dismissal came for something as simple as arguing with ump Joe West about turning on the stadium lights.

A fiery manager can be an asset more than a liability at times. Last August, with his team down 4-3 to the Chicago White Sox, The Twins’ Gardenhire was booted for arguing about a hit batsman. As he steamed off the field, he punted his hat 15 feet into the air. The Twins then rallied to win game.

“I hope [Vikings head coach Brad Childress] saw that,” Gardenhire said later. “If he ever needs a kicker, I got good height on it.”

No. 3 on the list is Charlie Manuel from the world champion Philadelphia Phillies, with 21 ejections. A late-season ejection last year was followed by the Phillies winning the National League East, then going on to win the World Series.

Does getting ejected have a material effect on the team’s play? Perhaps. Including Cox and Manuel, seven of the 11 men on our list have won the World Series: the Red Sox’s Terry Francona, the Chicago White Sox’s Ozzie Guillen, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Mike Scioscia (all tied for sixth place), the Cardinals LaRussa (ninth) and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joe Torre (tied for 10th).

Two others, the San Francisco Giants Bruce Bochy (fifth) and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Joe Maddon (tied with Torre) have taken teams to the World Series. On our list, only Gardenhire and the Cleveland Indians’ Eric Wedge (tied for third) have not taken a team to the World Series.

Rallying Cry?

Ejections have had short-term positive effects, too: Lou Piniella, who surprisingly didn’t make this list (he only has six ejections since 2004), had a famous blowup and ejection on June 2, 2007 against the Braves, when his Chicago Cubs were a disappointing 22-30. He kicked dirt on the third-base umpire’s shoes and kicked his hat across the diamond as the crowd bellowed “Loooooooo!” The Cubs went 63-47 the rest of the way and made the playoffs.

Then again, ejections can have no impact whatsoever. At the time of Cox’s ejection last August, the Braves were 55-63 and on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention. After his tossing, they went 17-27 the rest of the season and missed the postseason.

Says John F. Murray, a sports performance psychologist: “The managerial ejection is a way to change the tempo of a game, a very tactical way of delaying and distracting.”

It’s certainly been a useful tool in the careers of most of the managers on our list. But frequent ejections can also be a sign of serious trouble. Former Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost would have been on our list of active managers, with 18 ejections since 2004, but he was fired in September 2008. Former Colorado Rockies skipper Clint Hurdle and former Houston Astros manager Phil Garner also would have made the list, with 14 and 13 ejections, respectively, but they, too, were canned. These guys lost their cool–then lost their jobs.

Hope you enjoyed the comments from sports psychology.

With smarts, grace, this female sportscaster broke down barriers

SI.com – Jeff Pearlman – Pearls of Wisdom – She covered her first NFL game in 1976, when the language on media credentials included the sentence NO WOMEN OR CHILDREN IN THE PRESS BOX. Four years later, while working the Cotton Bowl between Nebraska and Houston for The Boston Globe, she was stared down by Cougars coach Bill Yeoman in the victorious post-game locker room. “I don’t give a damn about no Equal Rights Amendment!” he screamed. “I ain’t having a woman in my locker room!” Yeoman escorted her out.

“All the cameras shifted from the players to me,” she says. “I went to the top of the Cotton Bowl by myself, sat down and cried.”

When she started at CBS Sports in the late 1970s, network executives were perplexed about what she should wear on-air. “My first jackets were men’s sports coats that they tailored for me and attached a CBS patch near the pocket,” she says. “Ridiculous, right?”

Because she is, by all accounts, as nice as they come, she will not replay all the horror stories from the 1970s and ’80s — the graphic clubhouse gestures (when, in 1989, a New York Jets tight end named Mickey Shuler spotted her entering the locker room, he screamed, “Hey, no f—— women!” She simply waved him off and kept walking); the athletes who wouldn’t give her a second’s time; the fans who refused to take her seriously; the repeated whistles and smirks and tags: Honey. Baby. Love. Cutie.

The mounds of disrespect; of disregard; of disgust. “What kept me going through all the years?” she asks — then pauses for a moment’s reflection. “More than anything, the love of and respect for competition. That’s what it comes down to for me. That’s why I do this.”

In the transient world of televised sports, personalities come and go like failed breakfast cereals. Where in the world is Irv Cross? Joe Montana? Steve Zabriskie? Eric Dickerson? Jerry Azar? Kit Hoover? Meghan McDermott? Emmitt Smith? So much of the medium is based on looks and gimmicks; on catch phrases and ratings, that stability is little more than a meaningless nine-letter word. Today’s hot sideline reporter is tomorrow’s old news. It is what it is — a surface industry. A temporary stroll in the sun.

And then, there is Lesley Visser. The 55-year old. The survivor. She is the one who ignored the words on a credential and overcame Yeoman’s Archie Bunker rant. She’s the one who grudgingly donned the ugly blazers and dealt the taunts and slurs. Nine years ago, when ABC fired Visser as its Monday Night Football sideline reporter, replacing her with the younger, blonder, perkier, sexier Melissa Stark, most thought her career was over. It was a new age in sports television, one where — when it came to women — knowledge and experience ranked a distant second to looks.

Today, Visser is a reporter for CBS Sports, writes a regular column for CBSSports.com and hosts a morning show on WFTL in South Florida. Today, Stark is, eh, uh, somewhere.

“That I’ve lasted,” says Visser, “is one of my greatest accomplishments. Maybe my greatest.” Earlier this week, the American Sportscasters Association named Visser its No. 1 Female Sportscaster, outdistancing a field of 36 finalists that included such standouts as Andrea Kramer, Robin Roberts, Michele Tafoya and Hannah Storm. That the announcement received all the media attention of a John Oates CD release was both unfortunate and, in more than one sense, tragic.

Instead of focusing on Visser’s achievement, the national media zeroed in on the sad, unsavory saga of Erin Andrews, the ESPN reporter who was videotaped naked in her hotel room. Whatever one thinks of Andrews as a professional, each moment devoted to her pitiful plight (and each Google search) takes away from the strides that women like Visser and Gayle Gardner and Christine Brennan made.

Back in the day, the righteous fight was for respectability. Women weren’t objects. Or playthings. Or idiots. Every time a female reporter entered a clubhouse, or asked a thought-provoking question to a chauvinistic jock, or wrote a breathtaking lede, the slow-moving world of sports took another small step toward enlightenment. That was one of Visser’s aspirations then — not to be seen as some sort of trailblazer (which, without question, she is), but as a professional. As an equal. Now, however, thanks to this odd physical obsession over all things Erin Andrews, as well as to the ritualistic hiring of women reporters based first and foremost on looks, we are back in the dark ages. Paging Bill Yeoman. Mr. Bill Yeoman.

Once upon a time, female sports journalists weren’t celebrities to be lusted after. They were simply people who wanted to tell the stories, then step to the side and listen. The goal wasn’t to be seen, or to walk on the ESPY red carpet in a revealing outfit. There were no blogs, no look-at-me antics or low-cut dresses.

Lesley Visser’s goal was to cover sports and go unnoticed. She did it better than anyone.

Nowadays, that seems impossible.

CBS: Lesley Visser on How Sports Psychology Would Help David Ortiz

CBSSports.com – June 8, 2009 – See NFL Hall of Famer Lesley Visser’s new article about the unbelievable struggle faced by David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox. In the article she speaks with sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray about his struggle and likely solution at:
http://www.cbssports.com/cbssports/story/11834418
Many athletes benefit from sports psychology.

Dr. John F Murray Talks Sports Psychology on NY Baseball Digest

Sports Psychology Interview with Dr. John F. Murray

Click here to hear Dr. John F. Murray in a 20 minute interview with Mike Silva of New York Baseball Digest

This interview was conducted on May 28, 2009

Yankees will have hands full with latest A-Rod controversy

amNewYork – Jason Fink – The Yankees’ season is about to get a lot more interesting.

With injured star Alex Rodriguez set to return within a week, experts say the Bombers will have their hands full, as the controversial slugger and his teammates cope with the onslaught of negative publicity over the explosive tell-all bio published Monday.

Besides alleging more extensive steroid use than A-Rod has admitted to, the book portrays him as insecure superstar whose jealousy of teammate Derek Jeter borders on obsession.

“It’s a gossip cauldron and it could turn into a fire pit if not properly managed,â€? said John Murray, a sports psychologist. “Everybody will say it doesn’t matter and talk is cheap but this is the biggest stage in the world and these players know what’s being said about them.â€?

In one telling scene from “A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez,â€? author Selena Roberts describes how on the night of the 2008 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium both players hosted parties with celebrity guest lists.

“Not even Madonna stopped by (A-Rod’s party), and most of Alex’s teammates skipped the bash in favor of the All-Star celebration hosted by Derek Jeter,â€? Roberts writes. “Alex was last seen sitting in a back booth at the 40/40 Club with his mother.â€?

A-Rod, 34, was constantly comparing himself to the team captain, Roberts writes, revealing something of an inferiority complex.

When out at nightclubs, according to the book, A-Rod would ask women: “’Who’s hotter, me or Derek Jeter?’â€?

“’The Jeter thing ate Alex alive,’â€? a friend of Rodriguez told Roberts. “’It was always about Jeter.’â€?

In what could prove a continuing distraction, Roberts writes that the rift between the two stars split the team.

“The tension between Jeter and Rodriguez escalated to the point where the clubhouse – and management – began to take sides,â€? the book says. “In the middle was a team that, (outfielder Gary) Sheffield says, ‘didn’t know what to think about the soap opera.’â€?

All of this has left fans wondering whether the team, which has battled tabloid stories about A-Rod before, can ignore the sideshow.

“It’s never good to have rivalry within the team,â€? said Mike Cioli, 36, of Manhattan. “I think they will be distracted but I don’t see how it will affect the performance.â€?

Sports psychologist Robert Udewitz, who practices in Manhattan, said the hype surrounding A-Rod’s off-field peccadilloes – which include a highly publicized divorce and alleged affair with Madonna, as well as the steroids admission – may well hurt the team.

“These little stressors become bigger and bigger,â€? he said. “You don’t see too many teams who thrive on adversity.â€?

Melinda Hsia contributed to this story