By Evan Brunell
Several teams are restricting consumption of energy drinks, drawing the ire of players as USA Today reports.
The Diamondbacks and Astros have ceased providing energy drinks and are asking players not to drink them, but are unable to enforce their wishes because it is not prohibited in the labor agreement. While it may seem odd for teams to ban energy drinks that could help their own team win a game, harmful benefits are cited as to the reason why.
"We take the same education approach with the energy drinks that we take with supplements," Ross Atkins, vice president/player development of the Indians, said. "We ask why a player is using it, is there something else natural he could to improve his energy levels?"
The Astros began their own monitoring of energy drinks when Wesley Wright left a game in 2009 with dehydration, telling club officials he drank several Red Bulls and soft drinks before the game. Drinks that contain caffeine can dehydrate a person if consumed to excess, which it appears Wright did. Red Bull, in fact, is banned in France for its high caffeine levels. Teams are taking the initiative to scrub the minor leagues of energy drinks, which is not bound by a labor agreement for its players. The Brewers, for one, don't even allow their minor-leaguers to store energy drinks in clubhouse refrigerators.
"We've had a couple of issues regarding dehydration," Wade said, "and our people think they can be traced to misuse, overuse of energy drinks. It just seemed that we shouldn't be creating an environment where we're almost facilitating the effects of dehydration."
Baseball players have increasingly turned to caffeine to gain an edge after baseball banned amphetamines. Amphetamines, unlike steroids, improve focus and decrease exhaustion, so caffeine is an understandable replacement.
"The reason guys take energy drinks is because there's not anything else [legal] to take," Pirates pitcher Jason Grilli said. "Let's face it, the competitive edge is why the whole steroid thing got rampant."
Gary Wadler, former chairman of WADA's banned-substance-list committee, says there is no evidence that energy drinks act as a performance-enhancer, while vice president of communications of the American Beverage Association Tracey Halliday says the concern is overblown.
"We are strong advocates of moderation," said Halliday. "But when it comes to caffeine, the caffeine included in there is half the caffeine of a similar cup of coffee. It's a safe ingredient approved by the FDA."
But it's not performance-enhancement issues that are concerning teams. It's the over-consumption of energy drinks, which is a health issue. While players are understandably upset over the increasing limitations on energy drinks, there are valid concerns that could perhaps be addressed by simply capping the number of energy drinks a day. Joel Hanrahan, the Pirates closer, drinks two Red Bulls a day and unsurprisingly doesn't believe energy drinks should be banned..
"I don't see why it should be banned. You've got to go out there 162 games. You're playing 21 games in a row, and switching time zones, and you want to be mentally and physically ready," Hanrahan said. "If fans can sit in the stands and drink it, why can't we drink it during games? We're human, too."For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Photo: Ian Stewart of the Rockies.