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Athletics’ Loaiza Accomplishes Rare Feat; Could Intoxication HELP an Athlete?

Esteban Loaiza, signed by the Oakland Athletics to a 3year 21million deal during the offseason has had his share of "interesting" events this season.  The first interesting event was Loaiza actually being signed by the A's.  Many fans and experts considered this a major lapse in judgment of GM Billy Beane, who is one of the best at finding and creating terrific pitching talent. 

Loaiza's start to the season justified this view, as he began by losing three of his first four starts, while compiling an 8.35era.  This erratic start was blamed on several things by experts.  Some said it was another example of the setback players who participated in the World Baseball Classic exhibited.  Others blamed it on Loaiza's age — Esteban turned 34 in the offseason.  The most obvious reason for Loaiza's demise however was the demise of his fastball.  He hit the low-90's with his "heater" with the Washington Nationals in 2005, but it topped-out at 88mph for Oakland, and he averaged just 86mph with it.  In other words, Loaiza was throwing batting practice to opposing hitters — a recipe for disaster.  

After a medical check-up (the A's were fairly certain an injury was hampering Loaiza), it was revealed that Loaiza was suffering from a strained left elbow and shoulder.  A month and a half spent on "the dilly" (DL) seemed to have cured Loaiza, as his return start lasted 7 innings with just 1 run allowed on 4 hits with 5 strikeouts.  The reason this DL to "old-self" stretch is interesting is Loaiza didn't think there was anything wrong with him physically; "I'm fine health-wise, it's just location problems with my pitches" Loaiza was quoted as saying on April 22nd, a day before his last pre-DL start. 

But what happened between early Wednesday morning and Thursday for Loaiza was perhaps the most interesting stretch a Major League pitcher has had to endure ever. 

Well before dawn on Wednesday morning, Esteban Loaiza was pulled-over by a CHP officer in the East Bay, suspected of being drunk and driving over 120mph on his Ferrari.  After failing a sobriety test, Loaiza was taken into custody and he spent the rest of the night and most of the morning in jail.  Loaiza spoke by phone with manager Ken Macha, who said "it's a very serious situation.  He should be able to pitch [on Thursday].  He's concerned with what may happen".  I'd be concerned with a few things if I were Loaiza.  Being awake in the middle of the night just a day and a half before your start is not a smart idea.  Driving 120mph and being intoxicated to the tune of "twice the legal limit" is an even dumber idea.  Loaiza, however, was able to put most of these concerns to rest, pitching the A's to a 9-6 victory of Seattle, and earning his 2nd victory of the season, pitching 6 innings and allowing 3 earned runs (5 total). 

That has to be the most eventful 36 hours ever experienced by a Major League pitcher.  Earning a win just a day after being arrested in his second start off the DL might just put Loaiza back on the right track and help the A's, winners of 7 straight, continue their hot stretch.

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On a related subject, it's interesting to pair Loaiza's experience with those of his city-mate Randy Moss (Wide-Receiver – Oakland Raiders).  Moss has admitted that he smokes marijuana just hours before every game, and he's a star football player.  This brings up the question: could intoxication help an athlete perform better?

There's two sides to take on this question…

One is the "NO" side, and it's the most obvious side to take.  Getting drunk or "high" hours before gametime could only hamper a player's abilities because it'll make it difficult for them to concentrate on the game, right?  Well the obvious answer to that is YES, but consider the opposite…

If you say that YES, getting intoxicated helps an athlete's performance, there's supporting evidence for this as well.  You have Moss as a potential proof, but alcohol and marijuana are drugs that calm the "user" down.  For a Major League pitcher, especially one on thin ice (Loaiza), remaining calm even in difficult situations could be the key to throwing well.  The same goes for Moss, or any other athlete; imagine playing in a major sporting event and remaining calm the entire time, while your opponent is nervous.  You're likely to make fewer errors and thus likely to play better. 

This is an issue that can be debated, but one thing is certain: the sports world doesn't want it to be.  Anyone that believes in "role-models" hopes to death that intoxication doesn't help athletes, and that bunch includes me.  I certainly hope that doing drugs doesn't help a player do better in a game, although I'm open to the possibility that it might. 

If you have a thought on this issue, please comment on this post. 

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2 Responses to “Athletics’ Loaiza Accomplishes Rare Feat; Could Intoxication HELP an Athlete?”

  1. You certainly bring up an interesting topic and one that’s certainly uncomfortable for some people. Because of the “role model” belief system, if drugs help athletes, young athletes will be inclined to use them, which clearly, we believe is a bad thing. In that way, you obviously hope that marijuana doesn’t help Moss or Bode Miller (skiier). However, it is possible that drugs do help athletes by, as you said, calming them down.

    I would take the same stance as the one on steroids. Steroids help players, but they’re bad. Drugs might help players, but they are also bad.

    Thanks for bringing up this issue.

  2. this post made my day!


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