Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Red Sox: 2014 prediction post

So I look pretty foolish after predicting last year that the Sox would go 77-85. But as a long, longtime Sox fan, it was in my blood to be pessimistic. Still is. So, I'm going to double down and predict that in 2014 the Sox go ... 77-85.

Oh, sure, it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon and declare them favorites to win the World Series. But consider, from Mike Carp and Shane Victorino all the way up to Big Papi, this was a group that greatly overperformed last year. It was awesome and it would be awesome if they would do it again. But more likely, they'll return to something closer to their historical statistical averages.

Given that, what have the Sox done to make themselves better? Well, they went out and got Grady Sizemore. I loved the deal, and still do, given the price tag. But there's a good chance he's going to get hurt. Beyond that, the Sox lost Jacoby Ellsbury, they replaced Jarrod Saltalamacchia with a catcher twice his age, they turned the all-important right side of the infield over to a couple of guys with less than a year of experience between the two of them combined, and they let their aging starting rotation get a year older without any infusion of young blood.

Meanwhile, the Yankees and the Orioles have both gotten better. And the Rays still have the best pitching staff in the division, not to mention a scary lineup that inclues Evan Longoria and Rookie of the Year Wil Myers.

So, think back to the 2005 Red Sox, who looked a lot like the 2004 Red Sox, but only managed to capture the Wild Card before being swept in the ALDS. Or the 2008 Red Sox, who at least managed to get as far as game 7 in the ALCS. The truth is, its very, very hard to repeat in the big leagues, even when your team is stacked. And the 2014 Sox ain't stacked.

So, my gut and my mind both say 77-85. I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gonna Have to Face It...

The Dish recently posted some thoughts on being addicted to running. I think that anyone that runs even moderately seriously has either felt this way or can easily see it happening. James McWilliams tells us that
An estimated three percent of the general population suffers from exercise dependency. The more endurance-oriented the sport—ultra-marathoning, Iron Man competitions—the better the chances there are for some sort of addiction to set in. Exercise addiction overlaps with other disorders—most notably eating disorders, but also drug and alcohol abuse—about 25 percent of the time. ...
He details the varying stages of the addition and concludes:
It’s hard to see how—given the tendency of the high to diminish for the exercise freak—the temptation to add one more mile could be resisted, especially when acute negative consequences do not result. It’s hard to imagine ever effectively treating this “disorder.”
While I find this interesting, I have a hard time seeing running or endurance exercise as an addition on par with a chemical addition. Despite what he says, its seems to me that there's a world of difference between not wanting to stop something and being unable to stop something (e.g., as in the case of a meth addict). Glibly, I note that our bodies also have a built-in way of treating this type of disorder: it's called injury. I know more that one person who has over-trained or over-raced themselves into an injury that could have been easily avoided if only they had rested now and again.

Regardless, I think any person who doesn't recognize that any endurance athlete gets off of endorphins is fooling themselves. I've always looked at it as similar to people that get hooked on spicy food. McWilliams describes it this way:
My own experience of needing increasingly more miles to feed the seductive opiate rush of a workout speaks to the insidious impact of this possible chemical rationing. The body and mind recall all too vividly what it’s like to exist (blissfully, mind you) in post-exercise equilibrium and will do what it must do to rediscover that balance. 
Andrew astutely brings in Stanton Peele, who points out that
“People can become addicted to anything, whether drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, gambling, love, or sex, if it is the focus of an encapsulating experience that alleviates bad feelings and buttresses their self-esteem”
Which seems to me to get more to the point. I feel that "addictions" of these kinds aren't so much a change  in body chemistry leading to loss of decision-making ability as they are a positive feedback loop gone awry. The trick to to realize that and put it in perspective. Easier said than done, but to my mind a better way of treating the condition than like you would a normal addiction.

Interestingly enough, McWilliams concludes his article by flipping the whole premise on its head:
Contemplating the mysterious nature of this pleasure, something occurred to me that led to rethinking the whole idea of exercise addiction: Those we classify as exercise addicts might be a rare sort who are honoring what their bodies are designed to do and, historically, have done.
What if the real addicts are those who seek to be sedentary—which could be just as unnatural as seeking to be drunk or high—while the crazed athletes are the ones who are seeking the deeper wisdom and capacity of the human body?
Now that's a theory I can get behind!

Cross Posted on Thought Ambience