The latest potential off-field scourge for Major League Baseball? Are you sitting down? … energy drinks like Red Bull and Rockstar Energy. Yep, after the “steroid era” are we about to hit the “caffeine era”? (Short answer: doubtful.) Granted, PEDs still might be prevalent in baseball considering MLB plans to suspend Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and others after the All-Star break.
In any event, earlier this week, the Washington Post examined the increase in baseball players jamming caffeine into their systems after MLB banned amphetamines aka “greenies” from clubhouses in 2005:
Since Major League Baseball banned amphetamines in 2005, baseball players have noticed an increase in the consumption of energy drinks, which are also a fast-growing portion of the beverage industry. It’s like drinking coffee at your cubicle to provide a boost on another long day at the office, just far stronger, and it can help offset the rigors of a relentless schedule. But it’s not a practice all teams condone. The jump in usage — and dependency — has caught the attention of team and league medical officials.
The bulk of the Post story focuses on the grind of the six-month, 162-game baseball season and players looking for a (legal) energy boost or to remain sharp in the batter’s box, which energy drinks can provide. Many teams don’t provide energy drinks, beyond coffee so the players are taking it into their own hands:
And especially around this hot and humid time of the season, high caffeine intake can lead to dehydration, which can put players at a higher risk of muscle cramping, strains or heat-related illnesses. In 2009, Houston Astros reliever Wesley Wright landed in the hospital after reportedly drinking several energy drinks and soft drinks before a game, which led the team to stop providing them for players.
If you remember, last year Josh Hamilton missed time down the stretch for the Rangers due to excessive caffeine intake, which caused vision problems. There are health risks to slamming soda after soda and topping it off with a cup of java or cracking one of those NoS (is that the correct nomenclature?) drinks and trying to play nine-innings of ball in the summer heat. Standing in the batter’s box, all jittery with my mind racing thanks to the caffeine, is about the last thing I’d personally want to try when somebody like Matt Harvey is dealing. If I were a front office guy for an MLB team I’d probably consider safer, natural alternatives to boost energy rather than having my players running down the 7-11 on their way to the ballpark and buying Red Bull en masse.
On a macro-level, the increase in caffeine and (theoretical) decrease in steroid-type PEDs points toward Tom Verducci’s long-standing opinion that younger, fresher players across the 25-man roster is changing the way baseball is played this decade. Teams relying on youngsters like Manny Machado rather than aging sluggers is the new way of baseball.
Regardless of who you are, the 162-game season is a grind. Although they might be professionals, to quote the immortal Lou Brown from “Major League”: “Over 162 games, even tough guys get sprains, sore arms, muscle pulls.” That’s one of the things about steroids most people forget, as much as they help boost muscle, they also helped promote recovery. Over the dog days of summer, PEDs helped keep you from wearing down.
Caffeine, of course, isn’t illegal. Parents probably don’t think twice if they see a pitcher in the bullpen sipping a Red Bull and worry if it will adversely influence their children. Still, with MLB constantly worried about its image, we’ll see if this progresses any further. Stay tuned. [via Washington Post]