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MLB return: Things like cold tubs could become hot topic in baseball’s negotiations

MLB return: Things like cold tubs could become hot topic in baseball’s negotiations

Stephen Strasburg sloshed across the clubhouse multiple times a week, soaked neck-to-toe, shorts dripping and shower shoes squeaking.

Part of his off-day routine -- which is expansive and perhaps even a bit manic -- includes visits to the hot and cold tubs. Strasburg worked for years to find a path of injury avoidance. He knows he can’t control some things, but is adamant in his attempts to control whatever possible. Or at least pursue mitigation. He’s tired of being hurt.

So, when the parameters of the league’s recent proposed health protocol includes no hot or cold tubs, it will get the players’ attention. It seems a bit silly in real life. However, these mechanisms, these routines, work as placebos and functional relief for people forced to do something every day.

The weight room is another issue, too. If access has to be staggered, how will it be determined postgame? Victor Robles disappears into the weight room for an hour after every game. Depending on game length, he’s not done until midnight or 1 a.m. Juan Soto travels back there, too. Meanwhile, several players use the tub to expedite overnight recovery. Would Robles have to wait for Soto to be done? Or vice-versa? Does the team have to create a secondary workout space to spread people out? How does the access hierarchy work? Service time?

Ryan Zimmerman’s plantar fasciitis problem last season put him in the trainer’s room on a daily basis for three months. Max Scherzer’s back and neck problems needed in-between start care. Howie Kendrick’s hamstrings needed maintenance. Adam Eaton’s surgically-repaired knee was still progressing. Every pitcher used a specific arm-care routine. All of this happened before and after games.

Which makes ruling out the use of these devices or facilities one of the underlying issues when the players and league try to negotiate a way forward. The pandemic has brought all of baseball’s intricacies to the fore: an enormous group is doing a swath of tiny things on a daily basis. That’s how baseball works. Most players are in the clubhouse around 2 p.m. for a 7:10 p.m. first pitch. They leave at midnight. And, repeat.

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The process produces a tethering of components when talking about routine. It’s not just the luxury of having a cold tub available. The cold tub -- and a slew of other physical therapy devices -- equal better health, which equals more time on the field, possibly better outcomes and subsequently more salary.

And managing health at the start of the season may be the trickiest process. Namely when it comes to legs.

A recent epidemiology study in the orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine showed hamstring injuries in baseball trend upward from 2011-2016. “The rate of hamstring strains increased in MLB from a low of 1 injury every 39 games in 2011 to a high of 1 injury every 30 games in 2016.”

Of the 33 players on the KBO’s injured report since play restarted in South Korea, nine have undisclosed injuries or are on the list for non-injury reasons. Of the remaining 24, 10 have leg injuries. And they’re not part of baseball’s oldest roster.

Which brings us back to Strasburg sloshing through the clubhouse. Not being able to use these resources isn’t just a luxury curtailed. It’s a performance detriment players are likely to speak up about, even if they conjure creative ways to construct their own cold tub. So, add it to the very long list of things which need to be resolved.

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Brian Dozier on World Series run with Nationals: ‘I’d do it again for anything’

Brian Dozier on World Series run with Nationals: ‘I’d do it again for anything’

Brian Dozier has played nine seasons in the major leagues for four different teams. He’s made the playoffs three times, made an All-Star team and won a Gold Glove. His career has been a respectable one and he’s formed particularly deep ties with the Minnesota area after playing his first six and a half seasons with the Twins.

And yet when he looks back on his playing days, it’ll be his one year with the Nationals that stands out the most. In an interview with MASN’s Dan Kolko aired Wednesday, Dozier talked about what he missed most about the team now that he’s playing against them as a member of the New York Mets.

“The team is what made it,” Dozier said. “Oldest team in baseball, all the veterans, we had fun, we knew how to have fun in the locker room, outside, all that kind of stuff and it was game on in between the lines. That was really important and it goes to show you that when you’re not playing baseball or whatever down the road, switching teams and all that, the relationships that you have and you build are off the charts and last year was probably the most fun I’ve had.”

Dozier struggled at the plate for most of the year, hitting .238 with 20 home runs and 105 strikeouts over 105 games. He lost his job as the team’s starting second baseman to midseason acquisition Asdrúbal Cabrera and had just seven plate appearances in the playoffs.

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But Dozier made his most important impact in the clubhouse. A fluent Spanish speaker, he helped a roster full of Latin Americans gel and feel comfortable letting their personalities flourish. With his own rendition of Pedro Capó’s song “Calma” and repeated shirtless playoff celebrations, he did plenty to endear himself to Nationals fans as well.

He may have only played one season in D.C., but it was a season that he won’t soon forget.

“That was fun times, man,” Dozier said. “I’d do it again for anything. For another ring.”

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Juan Soto welcomes cardboard cutouts of family to Nationals Park

Juan Soto welcomes cardboard cutouts of family to Nationals Park

As Juan Soto made his return to the Nationals lineup on Wednesday after dealing with a positive COVID-19 test to begin the season, his family was in the stands to cheer him on. Well, sort of.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, no fans are allowed at MLB games. Instead, teams have opted to place cardboard cutouts of supporters in seats throughout the ballpark to make the atmosphere feel a little more normal. So of course, Soto's family was "in attendance" for his first game back in left field as the Nationals star had custom cutouts made. 

In a perfect gesture, Soto greeted his cardboard relatives by slapping an RBI double to left field in his first trip to the plate. Though there was no applause from the seats, you can bet there was plenty of cheering going on wherever they are watching the game.

Soto's connection with his family runs deep, and it was on display throughout the Nationals 2019 World Series run. From getting tackled by his father after his clutch knock in the NL Wild Card Game to having a traveling fan club at the World Series, the Soto's are clearly his No. 1 supporters.

RELATED: AS SOTO RETURNS, BASEBALL IS REMINDED HOW MUCH IT MISSED HIM

So while the pandemic may be keeping them from being there in person, there was no chance Soto was going to return to action without a way to have his family cheer him on.

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