By: Holly Horning
OK, this is just getting silly now. With the most recent injury to Jose Iglesias, I’m not sure if I’m witnessing an elimination contest or a re-telling of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
But in the case of Iggy getting injured during the final game with Seattle, there is more to this story. And the questions started with the FSD tv broadcast team who indicated that this injury could have been preventable. The on-field crew, sitting near the dugout, saw that Jose (who had been given the day off), was told at the last minute that he would pinch-hit. They insinuated that he had no time to warm up after everyone watched Iggy running to first base, in pain and having pulled a hamstring.
Should Jose have kept himself warmed up and ready to play? Should Brad have given him more notice? But let’s also ask questions about whether the overall training and conditioning program is focused on preventing injuries.
This scenario seems to play out every year. And understandably, injuries do happen – especially as the season drags on. But if you ignore the injuries caused by opponents, and even Victor Martinez’s knees, there are just too many players missing games that those within the physical training fields will tell you are due to incomplete and insufficient conditioning.
For at least the past 5 years, the Tigers have had more than their fair share of injuries. Most of them nagging injuries or smaller ones that escalate into bigger issues that somehow take one or more seasons to completely heal. But the biggest red flag came several years ago when both Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera both had to have core muscle surgery – an injury that is not common. Yet, somehow, it happened to two players, both on the same team.
This year, all starting pitchers not named JV, have had problems with backs, groins and obliques. And when you have cluster injuries, it points to a lack of proper conditioning.
For decades, I’ve worked out with personal trainers and when I’m not working with them, I’m talking to them. And in my business, I come into contact with several professional sports trainers. I’ve also spent time this year talking to chiropractors and physical therapists about the injuries we’ve been seeing with the Tigers. And they all say similar things about what causes injuries like these.
In the latest research on physical fitness, the model of extensive weight-lifting and building of muscle has shown that it can more easily induce injury because overly- developed muscles inhibit movement and flexibility. Something I saw during Spring Training this year when I was down in Lakeland watching the Tigers train. Half the team couldn’t bend down far enough to touch their toes or stretch their legs out while sitting.
Modern training now is focused on balancing strength with exercises focused on lengthening muscles and increasing flexibility. Yoga and especially Pilates (developed during WWI to rehab wounded soldiers) are focused on strengthening the core from which all movement emanates. (I have practiced both for over 20 years.) And when your muscles are elongated and more flexible, it reduces injury. These disciplines support the ability to move more quickly and suddenly – and successfully. If your muscle pattern is bulky, movement is restricted and makes you more prone to injury when a quick or sudden movement tries to stretch them out beyond their comfort point.
Physical therapists and chiropractors will tell you that when you don’t have a stable core or back, it alters your movement and mechanics as your body tries to stabilize itself and compensate for these weaknesses. Most likely seen are backs that hurt, oblique strains and groin pulls. And when they aren’t addressed and corrected, then the misalignment issues spread to other parts of the body. Hello, Jordan Zimmermann.
MLB has finally caught on with over half the teams adding yoga and Pilates to their training regimens. Some teams actually require their players to take classes over the winter. I have yet to find any evidence that the Tigers have incorporated any of these into their system. But it’s no surprise, really. The organization, while expending huge dollars to field a team, has often been behind the curve when it comes to keeping updated. As evidenced within their non-roster aspects such as analytics, software programs, training and a team play manual.
The Washington Nationals experienced significant injuries last year and broomed their entire medical/training/conditioning staff. They implemented a state-of-the-art training program that includes a focus on developing greater flexibility. And it’s paid off.
Since 2012, the Tigers have had huge investments in their roster but don’t outwardly appear to care for them as maybe they should. It is akin to having a garage full of expensive cars which are driven extensively but never maintained so they run smoothly. Cars that end up sputtering down the road or breaking down as a result.
How many years recently have we heard the excuses from the Tigers for not winning? Multiple years of hearing that Miggy was hurt. Same with VMart, JV, Iggy and half a dozen others. And these injuries were officially identified by the team for the failure to be successful in October. Injuries as excuses.
And these injuries were also directly responsible for Brad Ausmus retaining his job after the 2015 season.
Given that this year’s DL has had a rotating list of 5+ players, coupled with 3 position players, at least 2 starting pitchers and a handful of relievers, will the injuries once again be used as the excuse for not achieving the post-season? Will they be used once again as the excuse for picking up Brad’s option year as manager? Will they be used to excuse accountability by the Front Office and the overall organizational decisions?
Let’s hope that Al Avila understands, invests in and implements a program that will address this long-standing issue. Five years of excuses are more than enough.