Love in the time of Jose Reyes

Last night I posted a tweet that was called out by Phil Hecken for being in poor taste. It was and I apologized to him for my ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ comment. It wasn’t designed to be funny, it served no purpose other than to highlight a fact that he already knows: Jose Reyes accepted a suspension handed down by Major League Baseball after a domestic violence incident between him and his wife.

What followed my tweet was a great example of what the internet does well. Two strangers and I started conversing with Phil about the Reyes situation. We discussed whether the punishment fit the crime, whether professional sports should offer contracts to known offenders, and how badly we felt for his wife whose private life has been put on broadcast. Differences were exposed and respected. Conversation was intelligent, civil, and lively.

Keith Law stated that the Mets are sending the wrong message by adding Reyes to the organization. While I believe that the team does have good intentions, that’s not enough for me. I would allow Reyes back, but I would not allow him to play Major League Baseball with any club. He can play at the AAA level with half of his salary going to charities and groups that support those on the receiving end of domestic violence.

Another thing I would do is give Reyes some homework. At regular intervals he would be required to turn in a book report based on a list of books I would give him to read. I would probably start with The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as it addresses the core problem we’re dealing with here. His character is in question. It’s a privilege to play Major League Baseball and he hasn’t demonstrated that level of accountability.

Perhaps you’ve been wondering if there’s anything you can do to combat this social disease. The good news is that we as fans can take action. We have voices and we can use them. The current system rewards skills and performance. The return of Reyes to Citifield is nothing more than a product of a monumentally flawed system, one that rewards players based on statistical analysis, postseason appearances, and championship rings.

Transforming the system requires baseball to value character over everything else. What this means in real life is that if your team performs like the ’62 Mets, but they have an unimpeachable moral fiber and conduct themselves as model citizens even when nobody is looking, that team is more successful than the team that wins the World Series with a group of men whose reputations are less than stellar.

It means believing that Jose Reyes deserves our compassion instead of our jeers and derision and acting on that instead of sending out frustrated tweets and Facebook posts. The minor leagues are a place to work on things; control, command, an out pitch, whatever it is players are working hard to improve whether they’re trying to get to a level they haven’t experienced, or to return to a previous level. As such they are an ideal environment for someone whose character needs rehabilitation.

Another thing this requires is that we pull out our own mirrors and hold ourselves accountable for our own actions. We shouldn’t expect something out of others that we aren’t expecting out of ourselves. When our favorite team loses we can be supportive instead of casting blame which is the hallmark of a progressive and respectful fan. We can engage in discourse that furthers the human race, listen to others, and seek to understand before we feel understood.

Just as my friend Phil did, we can call out the behavior of others when it is out of line. We can read up on domestic violence to educate ourselves and others, we can let Major League Baseball know that we’re unhappy with players who aren’t held to basic civil standards and we can continue to support those unsung heroes whose value systems we respect. We can offer encouragement to those who are discouraged and reward those who are virtuous and honorable.

Perhaps you are properly outraged with the behavior of Jose Reyes. My guess is those who are calling for the swift hammer of justice to swing down upon him can’t imagine yourself in his shoes. I can since I’ve been there myself. I’ve used fists, feet, and force on others who were weak and defenseless, there’s no excuse for my behavior or his. I was raised in a home where my father hit me with a fly swatter when I stood in front of the TV. This past weekend I visited him at his group home. At sixty-six he’s an old man, frail, confused, and vulnerable.

I punched my mother when I was twenty-one and we were fighting at the end of the hall. She swung first and I thought that meant I could hit her back instead of choosing to be the larger person. Here’s a key takeaway that I read in a book called ADD and Romance. Arguments are typically about significance instead of what you think they might be about. People who feel insignificant handle that in different ways, one of those ways may be physical, emotional, or mental abuse.

Several years ago I went to couples therapy with my then my spouse. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the Karpman triangle should feel free to Google it and familiarize themselves with it as it can shed some light on my particular situation. He was abusive and so was I, rather than loving and nurturing our partner we undermined each other, creating a hellish and hostile environment for our growing children. Rather than lay the law down and condemn him which is what I was hoping our therapist would do, she told me that my anger was killing me.

Another book I’m perpetually recommending is The Question Behind The Question by John G. Miller. I follow him on Twitter and wish I was better at subscribing to his blame free philosophy. Each and every one of us can strive to enrich and strengthen our character. Deeds not words are going to show the world who we really are. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve hurt my spouse, siblings and children during moments of rage. I’ve come a long way since then and I know it won’t happen again.

As Richard Branson says, nobody is beyond redemption except for dead people. Jose Reyes has done something despicable. But he is still capable of transforming his life and attitude. He has to want this badly enough to put in the effort, it’s incredibly hard to turn your life around, but speaking from experience, I know it can be done. You can help by reading some of the books mentioned here, you can volunteer or donate to a shelter for battered women, you can probably think of many ways to contribute when you put your mind to it.

Love in the time of Jose Reyes is achievable when we remember that love is a sacrificial verb. In this instance I’m speaking about love for our fellow man who has gone astray. Without the support, encouragement, literal and figurative handholding I received from my friends, therapists, psychiatrists, and family members, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Back then I was a bigger mess than Jose Reyes; toxic, damaged, ugly, and unloving. Many like me have come back from worse, we had to choose that long and winding narrower path.

While there are still days when I struggle, I’m an entirely different person than the bitter, angry, victim I was. The Mets have an opportunity to show us as fans that they value character and integrity over wins, to rehabilitate Reyes will cost them considerable time and effort, it remains the right thing to do. They have a choice to make, as do you. Love in the time of Jose Reyes, who are you going to be and what are you going to do when you’re done reading this?

 

 

 

Bo Knows

Bo knows. Decades have passed since this slogan was plastered across the chests of my high school classmates, but I remember it well since it represented a status I coveted. Students who played sports were members of an elite group that seemed to receive preferential treatment from peers and professors alike.

During college two classmates of mine were killed in accidents. One construction related, the other, a friend of mine, was killed in a car accident when her vehicle hit a patch of ice and spun into oncoming traffic. A dream about her during my thirties convinced me that her story needed sharing. Fiction, like sports, has filled voids in my life.

Bo Jackson will not be admitted to the Hall of Fame. An argument against his inclusion is he falls short of the ten year longevity requirement. I would like to see an exception made for him. Bo Jackson is a historical figure who accomplished something special. Is this exception worthy of Hall of Fame admission?

I believe that Bo Jackson has earned enshrinement in the Hall of Fame since he was a cultural icon who helped define an era. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were the team to beat back then, but he lacked the multi-sport Bo Jackson achievements. It’s my opinion that Bo represents a greatness that stats fail to measure.

When I started writing my friend’s story I partnered her with a man whose shortstop career is loosely based on the Bo Jackson model. A murder attempt by his uncle left him with a titanium plate in his forehead, a shattered cheekbone, a broken wrist, and a lifetime of the types of seizures that can accompany a traumatic brain injury.

The male classmate of mine who was killed now has scholarship money in his name. It goes to multi-sport athletes that need the extra financial support some require to attend a private school. My girlfriend was a cheerleader, she wasn’t the star of the squad, her grades were good, but they weren’t exceptional. I still miss her.

There isn’t anything I can do to guarantee Bo Jackson a spot in the Hall of Fame, I’d like to believe that being him is enough of a reward since how you feel about yourself tends to be more important than what others think and award you. Last night’s conversation about his Hall of Fame case triggered a trip down memory lane.

Without Bo Jackson I wouldn’t have had a role model for my character and the melodrama that surrounds him. Consider this my tribute to a man whose relatively weak stats and lack of service time aren’t enough to diminish a lively debate about whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame. What that means to him, only Bo knows.

Feminine Footwear Systems

Greetings and welcome. Today I am thinking about Tyler Clippard, Zack Greinke, and the 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks. Enjoy.

Whenever Saberfeet analyzes footwear we rely on adjectives to describe what makes an individual unique. I believe that both Clippard and Greinke are feminine men whose footwear is holding them back. Before we get into what changes Saberfeet would suggest let’s take a look at another set of feminine men who are wearing elite footwear systems.

Buster Posey, Cole Hamels, and Edinson Volquez are two pitchers and a catcher who are wearing footwear that I believe represents a pinnacle. Hamels is a New Balance man while Posey and Volquez prefer Under Armour. Each of them has a slightly different strategy, but the end result is footwear that flows seamlessly into their uniforms without distracting the trained eye.

During the 2015 season Tyler Clippard wore black cleats while Zack Greinke chose a pair that was white with scattered Dodger blue. White is a great choice for men like Bryce Harper, Eric Hosmer, and Troy Tulowitzki, but it seemed garish and insubstantial on Greinke. Conversely I felt as if Clippard’s black cleats weighed him down, drained him of energy, and robbed him of confidence.

Soft, subtle, muted colors tend to work best for feminine people. We can see that in the light gray cleats that Posey and Volquez have chosen. Zack Greinke pitches well, even if we momentarily ignore the idea that his footwear may be the wrong shape and size, could he pitch better if we gave him footwear that was a different color?

Properly fitted footwear systems return energy to the wearer so one thing I’d expect from both Clippard and Greinke if their footwear was upgraded would be an energy increase. Whether that’s going deeper into games, throwing more pitches, or pitching with less effort and better results – I predict that they would report greater energy if the recommended changes were implemented.

Saberfeet has long felt that Buster Posey’s footwear would work well for Zack Greinke. As someone who has been diagnosed with anxiety I can appreciate how Zack might be feeling at times. Footwear that is the wrong color for you can make you feel ill at ease and uncomfortable. Would Greinke be less anxious if he had different footwear?

Tyler Clippard intrigues me. I feel as if he should be more confident after pitching in the postseason. Knowing that the correct footwear can bolster self esteem I would like to see what he thinks of what Chris Colabello wore during the 2015 season. It’s wrong for Troy Tulowitzki, but I believe that it may be something that Tyler Clippard can rock if he likes it and approves of the switch.

I can envision Tyler Clippard driving a golf ball into a hole on a fairway near a battered Scottish castle. I think he would look nice in a pair of light gray trousers, a pastel polo, and this eye-wear: http://m.mlb.com/news/article/84721376/nationals-reliever-tyler-clippard-excited-to-share-in-jeters-final-all-star-game. Notice how the loose heather gray top flatters him. Edinson Volquez wears a uniform that is comfortably fitted and I’m wondering if a more relaxed uniform would benefit Tyler Clippard as well.

Could Arizona capitalize on brilliant pitching from Greinke and Clippard by making the footwear changes recommended here? The road to the postseason is long . Trips to the DL haunt the best of teams, but I’m less concerned about the physical health of Zack and Tyler in light of what I believe to be true about their psychological makeup and mental wellness.

Footwear is no magic bullet that will protect people from any type of injury, however it is equipment that can be analyzed and improved upon. Ideally everyone playing baseball would invest in a Saberfeet analysis, but for now consider the upside of what a small change like cleat color could do for Clippard, Greinke, and the 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks.

Saberfeet: How safe are your feet?

 

Footwear system components

This is a list of considerations for footwear systems. Enjoy.

  1. Shape*

Shape is the single most important component of any footwear system. I like to think of footwear as containers that hold feet. The shape of the container determines whether the foot inside feels squeezed, lost, or has that elusive just right Goldilocks fit. Great footwear systems are constructed from the foot out, yet many make decisions based on less critical factors. Shop for shape to eliminate the headaches and heartaches that accompany wearing the wrong shape.

How do you know that a particular shoe is shaped like your foot? Trace each foot onto a piece of cardboard. Put a mark by each MTPJ (bunion joint). Cut it out and bring it along to the store. Match it up to the sole, bend, and you should have a pretty good idea of how your foot will fit into a shoe from heel to toe and from left to right. Many overthink footwear. Patient listening and feedback are helpful here. Do you want to take the shoes off or keep wearing them? Let your body tell you what it likes and listen to it.

* Socks precede shape, but hosiery needs its own post #StayTuned

2. Size

Ideally every footwear purchase starts with a bare foot. Experts are experts because they have seen things and made mistakes that someone else hasn’t. They’ve encountered oddities, bungled decisions, hurt others and themselves, cried, sweated, sworn, and learned far too many lessons the hard way. Your size is your size. Manufacturer variance exists, but for the most part if you are a size eight going up to a size nine or down to a seven is unwise. When shape is right, size is an easier concept. I can give you shoes in your size that hurt your feet, that’s why shape comes first, and then we move on to size.

There are three measurements for every foot. Heel to longest toe, heel to MTPJ, and width. Width is a consideration after you determine whether to fit to toe length or arch length. The Brannock website offers an exceptional tutorial. I find this to be the consistently best way to measure feet as computer systems tend to average both feet and cost a lot more money than I’m willing to spend. There is no substitute for the human brain. Computers have their place, but you should be able to explain the calculations and assumptions they’re making and they should be used in conjunction with human eyes and the Brannock device.

3. Height

If I had to guess, I’d say that instep and arch are the two terms that are consistently interchanged for each other. Your instep is the portion of foot immediately after your ankle if you are looking down at your feet. Your instep is on the top of your foot. Your arches are underneath your feet. Any extreme is more difficult to work with than a more normal or average feature. I have an exceptionally high instep. My children have an exceptionally low rise. Neither is good or bad, these are challenges that need to be addressed for our footwear systems to function properly.

You can measure your instep in the comfort of your own home. Take a ruler and place it next to your foot. Measure from the floor up to the top of your instep. This doesn’t have to be an exact measurement, you’re trying to get a feel for how much area your foot is displacing inside of your footwear. Height can make or break footwear. It’s a little understood and under applied footwear component, but thanks to this article you can go forward armed with new knowledge.

4. Depth

This will be a familiar term if you work in the therapeutic footwear market as government regulations specify how deep the toe-box needs to be to qualify. Height differs from depth since it is measuring the space where your toes go. This is especially important for diabetics with conditions such as LOPS (loss of protective sensation), prior amputations, poor circulation, and/or foot deformities. Some people can’t feel pain in their feet and can walk around with a Lego, bottle cap, or matchbox car in their footwear without realizing it’s there.

Depth is an important concept, if your toes lack enough room your feet will be uncomfortable. Signs that your footwear isn’t deep enough include holes in your socks on the top of the toe area. Shoes rub against them and eventually the friction rubs a hole in your socks. Shoes can also be too deep for people. The extremes here are Clayton Kershaw and Chris Bassitt if you need a baseball analogy. Think of footwear as a container you’re pouring leftovers into, you need just enough room, too little is just as bad as too much.

5. Weight

This component merits our consideration, but first we need to contemplate the two ways that this term can be used. I use it to refer to the weight of a shoe, and to the amount of weight a footwear system will be supporting. As a five foot tall woman sitting at the computer my footwear isn’t working as hard as footwear worn by a leaping shortstop with a forty-nine inch vertical. What goes up must come down; gravity and compression forces act upon footwear which must be resilient enough to withstand distortion, torque, shear, moisture, and temperature changes.

Body weight fluctuates. People lose weight, people gain weight. Pregnancy, illness, and disease are just three of the factors that can influence weight. When your weight changes, your shoe size may too, another reason I stress that feet need to be measured every time you intend to purchase footwear. Footwear that is too heavy fatigues feet. Footwear that is too light may not be durable or secure enough. Everyone has a different weight need, addressing yours will increase comfort and safety.

6. Color

Your shoes are the right shape. You found the correct size. They’re deep enough, tall enough, and the weight is appropriate for your usage. Now we can move onto the fun part which is color. For anyone who wants to learn more about how I determine what color is likely to work well for someone, I use an adaptation of Carol Tuttle’s energy profiling system. I spent a hundred bucks on it and have never regretted a penny of my investment. This tool sets me apart from a lot of other people and explains how I can confidently make recommendations for people I have never met.

Establishing your neutral is the first step. I work with four neutrals to make life easier on myself: white, light gray, dark gray, and black. Typically one of these will work better than another. Carol also has ideas on metallics that I’ve found invaluable. Footwear and art exist in conjunction with this wonderfully wide diverse world around us, but we have to start with the basics before we can proceed to texture, stripes, foxing (this is a footwear term that I thought would be fun for people to learn), etc…

Tying it all together:

Footwear is a statement of who you are and what you want the world to believe about you. Whether you are smart, sexy, sensual, classy, cool, calm, charismatic, enigmatic, melodramatic, hypnotic, erotic, exotic, or all of those things by turns, your footwear helps send messages to yourself and others. Messages to yourself should reinforce your best qualities. Messages to others will be read according to their perspective and life experiences. There aren’t hard and fast rules, but there are some guidelines and there are always those cases when the suggestions can be safely tossed out your nearest window.

One thing you don’t see here: marketing terms. Many employers teach sales people to extol the FAB’s (features, advantages, and benefits) of a product. This works when a shopper selects a shoe that happens to be a shape that is congruent with their foot, they have socks that work well with that shoe, and it’s available in their size and a color that is flattering to them. Avoid letting a sales person talk about why the company that made it thinks a shoe is wonderful, it probably is for the person whose foot they had in mind when it was designed. You need shoes that work for you, not someone else.

You are the star of the show when it comes to footwear. Anyone who does anything other than explain why they believe a footwear system will work for you based on your foot is missing the entire point. People who work in shoes tend to know what they’re talking about and what will work for someone or they don’t last. They can be more rational and less emotional which is a good thing when shoe shopping. Ethical employees will avoid pressuring people or forcing a sale. Expertise is less important than rapport and trust, if you’re uneasy working with someone, speak up or leave.

Many view shoe shopping as a necessary evil. Manufacturers blame retailers, retailers blame clients, clients blame capitalism and free enterprise, but the whole process can be tremendous fun. The key is streamlined simplicity and attitude. Expert decisions and quality information should be guiding this process or it won’t go well. Build relationships, treat others well, and arm yourself with this type of basic knowledge while understanding that a blog post can’t replace years of experience or your own intuition.

My goal is to create a win/win/win for myself, my clients, my employer, and whoever produced the footwear I’m selling. I do this by sticking to my system, listening to my clients and their feedback, and trusting my own gut. Everyone will make mistakes, how you handle the screw up determines whether you can rebuild lost trust or you get sued after someone tripped, fell down the stairs, and died in shoes you sold them. Footwear can be as ugly or as beautiful as you choose to see it.

Thanks for your time today. I had a lot of fun putting this together, and I hope you feel that your time here was spent well. Once you have a good grasp of the fundamentals, the world of footwear really opens up to you. The world doesn’t become your oyster, your prior frustrations were adding layers to the pearl inside. You can not know any of this and still be a healthy well adjusted person, keep footwear in perspective or it will take over your life which upon further reflection, may not be an entirely bad thing… #Wink

Saberfeet: how safe are your feet?

Dangerous Footwear Systems

I love baseball. This list makes me very sad.

Bassitt, Chris:

Improperly fitted footwear endangers the wearer and others to the degree that it is unstable and unpredictable. Watching Chris Bassitt fight to keep his footwear on was terrifying. I believe that it’s too tall, possibly too wide, and that he may have a narrow heel. Every time he lifts his foot he’s carrying his footwear with him instead of it acting as an extension of his body. It’s astonishing to me that he’s able to throw anything toward the plate given how his footwear system is failing him.

Grade: 20

Recommendation: Length seems appropriate. Reduce vertical height to increase foot and footwear contact. Physical therapy to retrain muscles that have been misused. Proceed with caution.

Greinke, Zack:

From the ankles up I get lost in watching Greinke pitch. His footwear makes me nervous for several reasons. I believe it’s the wrong shape for his foot, I believe it may not be long enough for him, and I feel as if the color and style are at odds with his personality which robs him of confidence in his footwear system.

His name is here because periodically I run into people who think that color is irrelevant. Would manufacturers offer us choices if color is meaningless? I vote no. I have a system that I use to help me determine what colors and textures may work well for someone. Shape is the most important footwear concept, color is right behind it. I might not state that color takes precedence over size, but I think it at times.

Grade: 50

Recommendation: Study bare foot to determine shape. Ideally I see him in the shade of gray that Chris Colabello and Buster Posey prefer.

Tulowitzki, Troy:

Every time I see Tulo I feel bad for him. It seems to me that he’s in a lot of pain and I wonder how much of that can be attributed to his footwear and posture. Constructing what if scenarios is futile, but in my opinion he’s a Hall of Fame player given better fitting footwear from day one. You probably have an opinion on that and you’re welcome to it. This is mine and I like it.

If I could talk to him I would ask him if he feels like he’s responsible for things that are beyond his control. I think Troy is a fun guy who needs to accept that about himself. Fun people fill a necessary and important role in a team situation. In my dream world he and Zack Greinke switch footwear and both feel better once they’re accustomed to the change. I think they bring different things to the table and would work well together in a team setting if mutual differences were respected (and I believe that they would be).

Grade: 50

Recommendation: This is another case that I think would move quickly. Identify foot shape, make sure that he has enough length and width for his foot to do what it needs to when he’s batting or fielding. Match footwear to his personality and watch his confidence in himself grow.

Myers, Wil:

For a long time I had a serious problem with Wil Myers and his footwear. Most of my job is recognizing what is right. People like Wil Myers give me trouble because when there’s more wrong than right I worry about them setting themselves up for chronic issues. He hasn’t been healthy enough to play many games, but I can’t blame a broken wrist on his footwear.

Grade: 50

Recommendation: There’s work to do, but I don’t see anything about him that makes me think he would be a complicated case unless he doesn’t feel like there’s a problem with what he’s wearing. The most important aspect of a footwear consult is the trust between people. I can only work with people who trust me, and sometimes there are personality conflicts that make you unfit to work with someone else. I’d rather see him continue to wear what he has than to get into it with him or anyone else. This would be a good case for a colleague of mine if I had one.

Belt, Brandon:

I tend to group people in my mind. Brandon joins Greinke, Tulo, and Tyler Clippard as one of the players whose 2015 footwear is at odds with what would really work well for him. It’s heavy, dark, and seems stiff. I feel bad and frustrated for him, fortunately I think he’s another person who would be fairly easy to work with if he was willing to experiment with different colors and styles. I’m not a medical anything, but I’d like to hear what a professional has to say about valgus knee stress.

Grade: 50

Recommendation: This may not seem like the obvious starting point, but I’d like to learn why he favors the high socks. I would steer him away from black which would mean trying longer pants if he’s open to that look. As far as color goes, I’d like to see how he feels about the color scheme Buster Posey favors. Hang in there Brandon, better footwear is out there.

Moreland, Mitch:

Part of the problem with Mitch Moreland is I happened to see him on the same day I had the opportunity to observe what Mark Canha was wearing. The night and day difference may have affected my initial evaluation, but subsequent appearances haven’t altered my feeling about his footwear. I recently read that he was playing with a stress fracture and immediately wondered if footwear played a role in his injury. For some reason he rubs me the wrong way and since I’ve never met him in person, I’m going to assume that it’s me and not him. He and Wil Myers are better off without a second mom in their lives.

Grade: 50 (I really want to put 40, but I’m trying to adjust for bias)

Recommendation: Podiatry visit and footwear consult. Apologize for being a venomous bitch with a terminal case of footwear snobbery.

Cabrera, Miguel:

This is where baseball loses me because I can never appreciate his bat the way that others do. I start at his feet and rarely get a chance to move upward. I understand he has knee problems, and I’m not surprised. Someone has worked with him, I can see that, but I wonder what he’s going to do when he’s done playing baseball and can hardly move without some degree of pain.

Baseball players tend to be young. Men like Bartolo Colon and David Ortiz are rarities. Youth has trouble believing that the body parts they have are going to age more rapidly with heavy stress than they will if they are properly maintained from the beginning. I feel really bad for him, and I’m not sure there’s a lot that can be done for him at this point in time.

Grade: 60

Recommendation: I’d like to see how he feels about a lighter color scheme, but I wouldn’t do much outside of that. Know when to fit, know when a case is beyond your level of knowledge and expertise.

Ortiz, David:

Once upon a time I either read or heard that Ortiz claims he can wear anything from a nine to a thirteen. I’m here to tell you that while this may be theoretically possible, it is inadvisable. This is why baseball needs a footwear selection and distribution system that puts player safety ahead of dollars from footwear contracts. Ortiz has gotten away with this which makes him fortunate. Systems and process rather than luck should be driving footwear choices. Luck has a funny way of running out on you when you need it most.

Grade: 60

Recommendation: Ortiz has a keen sense of personal style. I have a hard time envisioning sitting him down for a footwear consult so I’d probably just chill out and appreciate the fact that he’s a colorful product of a flawed system. It’s not up to me to change the world or Big Papi.

Familia, Jeurys:

During the postseason and the World Series games I said numerous prayers that Terry Collins would take his bullpen in for footwear consults. The problem with the World Series is you don’t want to change anything on anyone that could alter the way that they pitch or field, and it takes time to adjust to new footwear systems. Familia, Clippard, and Reed all seemed to be wearing the same style of footwear and it didn’t work for any of them.

The Royals had the footwear advantage going into game one. Footwear isn’t the be all and end all of any sport, but how does the outcome change if Cespedes catches the Alcides Escobar hit or Matt Harvey has different footwear and pitches a complete game instead of leaving in the ninth inning? Could footwear make that kind of a difference? I don’t know. I think it’s within the realm of possibility and less far fetched than scenarios I’ve entertained previously.

Grade: 50

Recommendation: The Mets have a uniform that is very hard to work with in my opinion. From what I’m seeing the problem won’t be Familia’s foot which I think needs some extra length, width, and height, it’s going to be finding anything that looks good on him and the uniform he’s required to wear. Custom cleats are a place to start. In my world he gets traded to the Brewers, Toronto, the Dodgers, the Royals, Rays, or the Padres. I know baseball doesn’t work that way. That’s just what I want for him.

Gordon, Alex:

You just read a sentence where I stated that the Royals had the footwear advantage going into the World Series. Here’s an exception to that rule and I would include Mike Moustakas in this conversation. After investigating a conspiracy theory that these men were spearheading a group wearing footwear designed to make me nervous I concluded that Ned Yost has better things to do with his time.

Grade: 50/60 (Moustakas has slightly better footwear in my opinion)

Recommendation: Sometimes I have strong brand, color, or style ideas, and sometimes I pray for inspiration. I’m leaning toward trying gray with Alex Gordon and giving Mike Moustakas a basic black leather cleat. Probably a fairly smooth transition with minor adjustments once we iron out the fundamental shape/size issues.

Beltre, Adrian:

This is hard for me to write. Adrian Beltre is one of my favorite third basemen and I can hardly stand to watch him play because of his footwear. He’s been playing for so long that I can’t see him being comfortable with a footwear change. Ditto for his teammate Elvis Andrus, but there may be hope for someone like Delino DeShields who reminds me of Curtis Granderson. It says a lot about the 2015 Rangers that they went as far as they did with the footwear they had. Rougned Odor has footwear that I like, but he was the sole infielder wearing something I would have passed had I been there to hand out footwear grades.

Grade: 50

Recommendation: Footwear consult and frank chat. Determine level of trust and go from there. Probably an easy case as far as footwear upgrades go, but it’s going to feel very strange to wear a different size. My sense is that he’s a routine person who dislikes change. I would tread very lightly here once I got past my initial awe.

Krol, Ian:

Ian Kinsler is also on this list, but Ian Krol is more problematic from my point of view so I chose to give him more attention. I’ve made a lot of poor choices in my life, many of them because I didn’t know any better. I believe that’s the case with Ian Krol, or at least I hope it is since I’m struggling to come up with a scenario where the footwear he has was the best of the possible choices.

Footwear shape is the most critical component; if shape is your problem there is no easy fix. You have to go back to the beginning and start over which is what I would do with him if he was a client of mine. We can work with Doug Fister and Stephen Strasburg if they’re willing to have their footwear evaluated along with his. I didn’t see many 2015 Nationals wearing footwear that I felt comfortable with although Bryce Harper has potential and Ian Desmond was a treat. Hopefully Dusty Baker addresses the footwear issues before Opening Day 2016.

Grade: 40

Recommendation: The nice thing about very dysfunctional footwear systems is that these people benefit the most from upgrades. There’s nothing I’m seeing that leads me to believe he lacks anything other than a systematic footwear evaluation. I’d love to observe a before and after situation where we have him pitch in his regular footwear and then get the same footage of him in better fitting footwear. I think he’s the ideal candidate for a footwear swap and would hang onto him if he does what I think he could given a more stable and reliable base. Ignore the haters Ian, it’s not you, it’s your shoes.

Clippard, Tyler:

I wrote a separate piece on him that I never posted. In that he leaves baseball for golf. He isn’t wearing the worst footwear in baseball, but his makes me the saddest.

Recommendation: Transition to PGA, enjoy exploring ruined castles in Ireland, romance tempestuous cellist.

Conclusion:

The other day I wrote about elite footwear systems. In the future I’d like to list players by team and position. Apart from Miguel Cabrera these are players that I think would look and feel better after a one hour footwear consult that includes evaluating their bare feet, measuring them properly, and getting them into something that fits them and their personality.

As an expert I operate at the most basic and fundamental level footwear has. For some of these players a footwear change isn’t going to make a tremendous difference in the here and now. Adrian Beltre is already great, but for someone like Chris Bassitt or Ian Krol, this could be a game changer. Nobody questions that Tulo is good and it’s not always about increasing performance.

Footwear is like food, water, sleep, and other basics. Anytime you cut corners on a fundamental, you run into problems. Baseball careers can be brutally short. These people are being done a great disservice and so are their fans, coaches, managers, front office, and owners. I’ve framed this as a baseball project, but my hope is that this type of analysis and information will spark conversations and effect change outside of the baseball cocoon.

There are fewer than a thousand Major League Baseball players, millions of people watching them, and billions of people on this planet. It’s my belief that we all have footwear needs without a system that guides us to products that have half a chance of meeting them properly. It makes me sad to write posts of this nature, but I feel like I don’t have a lot of choice in the matter.

Baseball is a game and if we’re keeping score poor footwear choices are responsible for some percentage of injuries and discomfort. I’d like to see that change. What about you? Are you in?

Saberfeet: How safe are your feet?

Elite footwear systems

This is my list of players who own elite footwear systems. Enjoy.

Burns, Billy:

The classic shallow foot requires minimal rise. Adidas provides an almost invisible increase from toe to tongue tip, footwear seems to skim over feet like a second skin. Angular geometry provides visual interest and deception. Personality is captured and revealed along with foot shape. Hosiery and stirrups pull viewer eye upward in a smooth seamless transition.

Grade: 80

Cain, Lorenzo:

Cain’s bright and airy footwear coupled with his speed allow the viewer to wonder if he’s actually flying over the depths of Kaufmann Stadium. Superb color and style choice drives an uninterrupted blur of royal blue and white. Playful energetic footwear is the perfect contrast for face and hair. Footwear is large enough and long enough to keep the LoCain train running.

Grade: 80

Despaigne, Odrisamer:

The Padres lack love from EPSN  which is odd considering their sunny location. I believe that this is their loss. Despaigne has to be seen to be believed. Nothing jumps out at the viewer at first. There is no hint that anything is out of the ordinary, nothing that invites a second look. The eye is drawn onward and upward in a natural progression of footwear, hosiery, uniform. Ruthless originality without sensationalism is often imitated, but never duplicated.

Grade: 80

Galvis, Freddy:

Footwear that appears to be too long on short men often fits. Last season the tri-colored red, white, and blue Nike cleats were a highlight of the night I watched the Phillies host the Nationals. Like Danny Valencia, Galvis has a youthful face. His rogue dimple and wide smile give him the ability to pull off footwear that may seem garish and busy on another player. Could the Mets have topped the Royals with Galvis on their roster? The world will never know…

Grade: 80

Gerrit, Cole:

Frugal business decisions are to be applauded, but there is always a danger that a valuable asset will slip away if it feels unloved. Gerrit’s footwear may seem to be lengthy, and I might quibble about lace tension, but for a man with his coloring to make that color scheme work is no small sartorial feat. Underpaying a pitcher who understands footwear like Gerrit Cole is almost as foolish as denying a man a right to wear his facial hair as he pleases.

Grade: 70

Gilmartin, Sean:

During the regular season Michael Clair opined that Sean Gilmartin’s stirrups should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. We quite agree. Anyone who takes the time to fold his socks and stirrups over his pants to keep viewer eyes from an elasticized hemline is a gentleman and a scholar.

Grade: 80

Hamels, Cole:

Rumor has it that Chuck Norris pursued Hamels for his squad before Cole and the other set of Texas Rangers agreed to work together. Few players coordinate footwear and eye color as splendidly as Hamels does. Of special interest to the footwear elitist is the ruler straight vertical at the end of Hamels’ cleats. Serviceable navy is a classy timeless choice for the less is more double play inducer.

Grade: 70+

McCutchen, Andrew:

If The Cutch ever runs out of things to do my advice would be to open up a footwear clinic. This is what footwear can and should be. From the way he stands to his utilization of high contrast components that enhance his overall appearance without overwhelming the viewer, it would be impossible to complete this list without featuring someone who may be wearing the best footwear in baseball. We’re not sure where he obtained his copy of Feng Shui Footwear, but we want to read it when he’s done.

Grade: 80

Posey, Buster:

Misty fog mimics the soft, subtle, unobtrusive gray of Buster Posey’s cleats. Take note Zack Greinke, this author predicts that Posey’s footwear would have a calming effect on you.

Grade: 70

Volquez, Edinson:

Volquez makes this list as a prime example of someone whose style is relaxed and comfortable. While there are those who may describe his uniform as sloppy I believe that these are people who are unfamiliar with the energy profiling system employed here. Heels are the largest bones in the foot, Volquez uses them effectively to carry his body weight. This pleases us mightily. We can’t imagine flopping down on a couch and taking a long revitalizing nap in his living room, but his footwear makes us believe that this is possible.

Grade: 70+

Wong, Kolten:

His name is on the list because he qualifies. Credit where it’s due and that’s all I’m giving to someone who plays for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Grade: 80

Zobrist, Ben:

A gentleman whose footwear is also relaxed and comfortable we voted Ben onto this list way back when he was a Tampa Bay Ray. When it came down to the last spot it was a choice between Ben and Kevin Pillar. Judging footwear requires people to make difficult decisions. Unquestionably both players are wearing footwear that helps them perform their job to an extent that makes them seem superhuman. The factor that helped Zobrist appear here while Pillar takes home an honorable mention? Fashions will come and go, but the timeless practicality of Ben Zobrist’s basic setup will never fade. Would this list change had the Blue Jays won the World Series? We hope you know us better than that.

Grade: 75

Do you have a footwear favorite that you would like to see featured? Let us know and we’ll see what we can do for you.

Sincerely,

Saberfeet: How elite are your feet?

 

Matt Harvey

Greetings and welcome. Today I am thinking about Mets pitcher Matt Harvey. As Tom Verducci’s Dark Knight Harvey enjoys a degree of notoriety. Harvey gets high marks in the style category. When the Mets are wearing the blue tops Harvey is one of the few people pitching in a uniform that accentuates his skin and hair. I haven’t seen a necklace on him and I wouldn’t add one either. He has bedroom eyes to go along with a bit of a pout to his mouth. He’s serious, aggressive, competitive, sultry, and sensual.

His glove is a glossy black with the Nike swoosh in the Mets colors. It harmonizes well with the color and style of his footwear which is also a reflective black with striking accents. I hate the pinstripe pants on him, I bet he would be stunning in a deep black, but we have to work with what we have. He’s a joy to watch when he’s pitching well, but he has a tendency to be hotheaded and I’m going to say that’s because he cares a little too much. I’m okay with his ego up to a point. In my opinion sending him out in the ninth inning wasn’t a bad decision, but I don’t like how he demanded the ball.

Could Matt Harvey have pitched a complete game given different footwear? I say yes. Compared to the opposing pitcher Volquez Harvey centers his weight over the middle of his foot instead of using the larger heel bones. This matters since you can get more leverage when your heels are down and back. We want large bones and muscles to do big work and smaller bones and muscles to do lesser work. The way he stands now I wouldn’t keep him around. Losing weight would help take pressure off of his lower back, that would help him with longevity and health.

I think Matt Harvey has anger issues. I also believe that he takes team failure personally, it’s also my opinion that the Mets really didn’t understand how to use him effectively. To me he’s dangerously analytical. I believe he would enjoy a greater leadership role given that opportunity. His foot is very tall, he has a very high instep and I’m guessing that his footwear doesn’t fit him fabulously because of it. I’m also wondering if his footwear is slightly short and narrow. Giving him footwear that fits him properly will help his feet relax. The way he stands and pitches now is fatiguing. My theory is that better footwear and heel usage allows him to finish that game he started the night the Mets lost the World Series to the Royals.

This next part has nothing to do with footwear, it goes back to something my chiropractor told me after I got divorced. I have a lot of trouble relaxing and I think Matt Harvey does too. I think he gets trapped in the web of his own thoughts. He’s intelligent and cunning; that led to me thinking about outlets for him. My chiropractor frequently discusses my mental health issues. He told me I need to get laid and I think that’s good advice for Matt Harvey too. Sex can be a way to chill out and unwind, but it can’t be sex with just anyone. I’m not going to bed with anyone I don’t respect. I have standards. Everyone should, yet many don’t.

Matt Harvey is an attractive man with a lot to offer the right woman. What does the right woman look like? Harvey does well with high contrast. He has dark olive skin, for cosmetic reasons I would go much lighter, or considerably darker. Maybe a Nicole Kidman type or a beauty like Damaris Lewis. Scarlet Johannson fits the bill, but I don’t see them working as a couple. Based on what I’ve seen Matt Harvey likes power, control, and he needs to be challenged by someone who can stand up to him and not back down from his forceful and dominant personality. I want his partner to be someone he can talk to about baseball and life, someone who loves him enough to say no when he’s being outrageous, an alluring woman who can hold her own during an argument. A lady who is comfortable with herself who affirms him and builds him up in a way that his teammates can’t.

I feel like Matt puts up barriers so people don’t get too close to him. He isn’t going to open up to just anyone. I would advise women who want to pursue him to be subtle, he has an eye for detail, and my guess is charisma is going to be compelling to him. A complex partner who has layers he can go through would be who I would pair him with if I was speaking to him about that aspect of his life. Call this intuition, but I have a hunch that Harvey is a fantastic flirt who may be too eager when it comes to seducing women. With his face and salary he isn’t going to have to do anything to attract the cream of the crop, but he should refrain from satisfying his feral sexual appetites until he finds a woman that he thinks is going to be the one.

Power should be balanced in the relationship. He won’t respect a woman he can wrap around his finger and a woman who won’t stand up for herself is going to have trouble keeping his interest regardless of how attractive she is. A bold lover who can tease and tantalize, who knows when to heat it up and when to back off and give him space to cool down. This is just me being fanciful, it isn’t based on any facts, just my impression of the guy on the bench wearing number thirty-three. That congruency is interesting, that he chose an odd number fascinates me. For me Matt Harvey represents a dynamic puzzle of varied layers.

I can’t like him. I don’t dislike him, but I admire the potential that is there. I think he’s a very frustrated man who hasn’t found what makes him feel alive. Does he really have an out of control ego or is that masking some deep and haunting insecurities? What scares him? What keeps him up at night? What does he do for fun? Fun is another thing I want for Harvey. If the Mets are going to keep him they need to import some fun. A fun girlfriend would help him. I have a feeling he has a tendency to take himself too seriously. Having a fun romantic interest, fun in the form of teammates, or both would help balance him. Matt Harvey to the Giants is a fun trade for me. I would love to see what Buster Posey and Matt Harvey could do together. Buster takes care of his pitchers, Matt Harvey needs nurturing, but he isn’t the kind of guy who is going to want anyone too maternal that fusses over him.

I don’t like the way that Terry Collins manages Matt. Harvey has leadership potential. Helping others helps you. I would give him a great deal of freedom and as much responsibility as he wants. Partnering him with younger pitchers or teammates who may be struggling would give him an opportunity to use his problem solving skills and dull the selfish edge I sometimes see in him. I’d be willing to bet that he could be a great mentor and would trust him with people who remind him of himself, but not people who need heavy duty empathy. Again, these are just my ideas so please feel free to disagree. This isn’t your average post on Matt Harvey, but then, Matt Harvey isn’t your average starting pitcher either. I wish him nothing but the best going forward.

An Open Letter to Jedd Gyorko

Dear Mister Gyorko:

As a footwear analyst I’m writing to share my opinions on your footwear choices. Although I’ve seen numerous pictures of your athletic footwear it wasn’t until I saw the picture of you and your wife in dress clothes that I was able to get a better view of your shoes. It looks to me as if your foot is wide, and your shoes are too long for your feet. I’m also wondering if you also have a short arch.

Without measuring your feet myself I can only make educated guesses about your arch length, but I believe that the combination of long footwear and short arch may have led to the development of your plantar fasciitis. While I couldn’t see this on your dress shoes, on other footwear it appears that there is a crease beyond where I’m imagining the ball of your foot to be, and the end of your cleats. That tells me that the shoe is breaking (bending) after your foot is when ideally these two events happen simultaneously in a pain free environment.

When people wear footwear that is too long for their arches they risk stretching their plantar fascia beyond its normal capacity. While the human body tends to be very forgiving it has limits. When the plantar fascia is routinely hyper-extended by footwear, bad things can happen and torn plantar fascia is no joke. While I’m neither a podiatrist or a medical doctor, I believe that if you ran this theory past someone with that level of experience and education, they would probably agree that footwear that does not fit can be responsible for a condition such as plantar fasciitis.

My concern for you if you are wearing footwear that is too long is that your plantar fasciitis will return because you haven’t addressed the root cause of the issue. While many people attribute plantar fasciitis to overuse, my observations of your footwear are leading me to believe that in your case it is a combination of participating in athletic activities while wearing footwear that is too long for you. I also have a suggestion for you if have not already done this. Have your feet measured by someone who will let you stand the way that you normally do.

Some practitioners move feet so they are parallel to each other which can skew a measurement. By capturing your normal stance and measuring your feet and arches as they are typically being used you will have the best indicator of your total foot and arch length. Once you have data you can start making some comparisons. For each foot you should have three numbers. You’ll need to compare your heel to toe measurements to those of your arch length. If your arch is longer than, or equal to, your heel to toe measurement, then my theory is invalid.

If your arches are shorter than that heel to toe measurement, your footwear problem is going to be more difficult to resolve. People with short arches can have a very difficult time finding footwear that fits, particularly if their foot is also wide. What often ends up happening is they buy longer footwear to get the width that they need, but this puts excessive stress on their plantar fascia, and can cause the toes to start tipping upwards. If this is the case, custom footwear will likely be your best option, and that can get pricey, but I believe that you will find it is worth the investment.

Whenever I observe a player whose footwear is working against them I mentally upgrade it and then make predictions about how those changes affect them. While there will be the initial strangeness of something different beneath your feet, that should be an easy transition for you. I would expect your shoes to feel much lighter and your step to have more spring in it as fatigue is reduced. Better fitting footwear will not immediately increase your speed and reaction time, but it can relax you to the point where you are able to make better decisions.

Your first step will be smoother and your foot will land more softly and precisely than it has previously. Over time I would expect your base running times to decrease as your speed increases. Defensively you are a greater threat when you can cover more ground. That should boost your UZR ranking and help your other defensive numbers. At the plate I believe that you will find yourself breathing more easily than you were. Pitchers are in for a surprise as you’ll be able to make better contact and draw more walks than you have in the past.

I thought about skipping this part, but decided to ask for a favor as you seem like the kind of person who would understand what I’m about to say. My footwear crusade has been largely driven by my own personal experiences as someone who has benefited from, and gotten screwed over by those working in the footwear industry. Several years ago people paid me to talk to them about strategies that would set them apart in the competitive diabetic shoe market. When I left my job there was a hole in my life that I tried to fill with soccer mom activities.

But then I saw how many kids that played with my daughters were wearing footwear that didn’t fit. My daughters took a goalkeeping class where I met their coach, a former Milwaukee Wave keeper, who told me his feet had been ruined by crappy footwear. The same parents who can afford club soccer and are traveling to games in expensive vehicles are some of the people who turn deaf when I explain what handing cleats down to the next kid in line is doing to young and growing feet. I want to change the way that athletic footwear is viewed and I believe you can help.

There are guys playing minor league ball whose footwear is just as bad as their pay and the food. Despite that many of them consider themselves fortunate to be where they’re at. Think about the kids who are buying Gyorko jerseys and going to games just to watch you play. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could pass along advice that they are unlikely to receive from anyone else? Stop and go back to your minor league days, were you wearing footwear that fit you well? How do you think that affected your game?

Today you have access to elite footwear minds. You can talk to a team podiatrist or trainer about your personal issues. You’ve been the recipient of top notch care, and I’m happy that those people are available to you, but what about those who aren’t as blessed? You have an opportunity to change the landscape of amateur and professional sports. Everyone needs to have their arches measured and it’s not happening at any level of any cleated sport that I can see. Measuring feet is not brain surgery or even hitting a baseball, but footwear that fits can help both the ballplayer and the surgeon perform his or her duties better, and shouldn’t everyone have access to that type of relaxed comfort?

During the Arizona Fall League season I had some opportunities to view farmhand footwear. While people like Mark Appel and Brandon Drury were a joy to watch, I also had to sit and wonder how long it would be before I learned that Bryan Ellington was injured. I saw a pair of 20 grade cleats and it’s frustrating to know that Sean Coyle would be better off playing barefoot from my point of view. It’s incredible to me that with all the technology that exists I am still seeing some of the footwear that exists at the MLB and MiLB level. What kind of an example are we setting for children and non-athletes if this is what the best of the best are wearing?

Each of us has gifts, and while I’m unsure how what I’ve written will be received, I wouldn’t feel right about not saying something when I know how hard you’ve worked and how much you’ve sacrificed to get to where you are today. People need hope and you’re in a position to tell people that your feet were measured if you choose to go that route. My campaign is a Twitter tag called #2Minutes2Measure and I would be eternally grateful if you would be willing to promote that. Two minutes is all it takes for someone like me to properly measure feet. Those two minutes have changed people’s lives and that’s what you could be doing if you are willing to ask people when their feet were last properly measured.

To close I’d like to say that my soapbox may not be yours. I understand that not everyone feels as passionately about footwear as I do, and that’s okay. When people say that baseball is a family, I believe that which is one of the reasons I feel like I can share these things with you. I don’t know anything about your life outside of baseball, or even much about you as an individual who gets to play what I view as the greatest game on earth. I felt like I had to reach out, to speak out, and I felt like you would at least entertain my suggestion that you have your feet measured.

Every day can seem like a battle at times, and I have a lot of respect for the people who have to deal with what professional athletes have to handle as they go about their daily lives. In my world all feet are not created equal, but they all deserve to be taken seriously, and now that I don’t work for a company outside of home maybe this is a little more important to me than it should be. But then I get the texts from a RHP I’ve worked with whose girlfriend slept with his best friend on prom night. He missed a year of college ball because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery and I think that it’s worth writing things like this so others who have issues that are larger than footwear will recognize that they’re not alone.

I’m sure you didn’t expect anything like this so I apologize if anything I said made you uncomfortable. You have a beautiful family and I know that they would like to be spending more time than they get with you which was perhaps the silver lining in missing so many games. I dislike begging people to use their social status to promote what I’m doing, but it’s also kind of cool to realize that by working together as a team we can accomplish so much more than we could as individuals. I wish you nothing but the best going forward, and if you are interested in learning more about how feet should be measured, or would like to ask me specific questions about your situation, please feel free.

I would also encourage you to have your children’s feet measured as soon as they’re ready for regular shoes as foot shape and type are inheritable traits and you will save yourself a lot of wasted time if you start with the measuring and go from there. It breaks my heart to see athletes of every age being ruined by footwear that doesn’t fit that they bought just because it has a swoosh on the side, but I can’t take on gigantic footwear companies by myself which doesn’t stop me from encouraging them to measure athletes as a way to enhance their careers.

As far as your career goes, I believe that changing your footwear will bring you unparalleled joy. It will affect aspects of your life that you don’t believe can be connected to footwear and once you experience what footwear can be, I won’t have to ask you to share this type of information with others. Please stop wearing footwear that doesn’t fit you well, and if there’s anything I can do to help you out, you know where to find me.

Warmest regards,

Jessica

An Open Letter to Buster Posey

Dear Mr. Posey:

Last night a friend of mine asked if I had seen the orange cleats that Bud Norris wore during his last outing. During a search for said shoes I stumbled across a pair you wore which leads to the crux of this missive. Based on my observations, I’m theorizing that your feet would benefit from roomier footwear. It appears that an area near the medial lacing of your right shoe is creased and pulling. I’m wondering if a portion of your right foot, specifically the ball of your foot and your small toes, are being denied freedom.

My hypothesis is that your instep is fairly generous, giving you what footwear people would call a high volume, or voluptuous foot. People whose feet are wide and tall frequently have difficulty finding footwear that accomodates the generosity of their feet. Without having seen either of your feet in person, or next to each other, I’m going to go out on a limb and compare your width to Justin Verlander’s whom I also believe needs more room for his toes to spread.

While your hemline curvature indicates that your footwear is not riding your heels, it remains difficult to assess whether your footwear is long enough. It may be, and kudos to you for selecting the Under Armour cleats as that logo on the vamp is deceptive. Without seeing your foot in person I’m hesitant to recommend another brand, but the analyst in me wants to hear your thoughts on the New Balance footwear that Dustin Pedroia prefers as the slope of that instep appears to be higher than the Under Armour cleats I saw, and the toe box is angled to give extra room to digits four and five.

Your feet take a lot of abuse behind the plate so a mesh upper probably wouldn’t work well there, but I believe that the shape of that shoe more closely matches the shape of your feet. Wider cleats would allow your feet to relax inside of your footwear. This translates into more comfort and speed as it is easier to run faster when your foot is allowed to fully expand in whatever direction it needs. Could experimenting with a footwear change mean that you would beat the ball to the plate during a particularly grueling future postseason game?

I’ve always had a great deal of respect for you as a player and a family man. I would love to see the Giants face the Royals for seven games. I was disappointed when Kolten Wong went yard despite having liked him as a prospect before he became part of the regular roster for the St. Louis Cardinals, but more important than a team I dislike flaunting their home grown talent is the safety of those playing what can be a very hazardous game. Catchers are unique in the way that their feet are being utilized, and the removal of one from any game is an event I can’t celebrate.

I strongly encourage you to have your feet professionally measured if you haven’t already. There is a tendency for people with wide feet to go longer with footwear to get the width they need. That can stretch the plantar fascia, forcing the feet into an antagonistic relationship with their footwear. Depending on arch length, this could increase the likelihood of an injury such as turf toe. Morton’s neuromas have long been associated with shoes that pinch the wearer’s toes, and while surgery is an option, it will not make the feet that you were born with, better. Unsightly and painful corns are another issue that can arise when pressure from footwear squeezes toes, and lack of circulation can be problematic when blood flow to compressed areas is restricted.

During a game pitches are either inside of the strike zone, or outside or it. Footwear is similar in that it fits, or it doesn’t. Just as a pitch can be wide, or high, feet can also stretch the limits of their constraints, and that never bodes well for the wearer. Your small toes help to balance and stabilize you, and it bothers me to think of yours being compromised. I know you are busy, but your health impacts your family, your fellow teammates, and your fans.

Ignorance is bliss until you start paying the price of footwear that failed to meet the demands your body is making. I’m afraid that these seemingly minor annoyances may be contributing to problems that will plague you later on in life, and hasn’t someone who works as hard as you do earned an opportunity to wear footwear that’s as comfortable as it is supportive and durable?

My very best regards,

Jessica Jensen

P.S. Go Giants!

Umpire Footwear

Recently I read a post written by Scott Lindholm that discussed whether the strike zone shrank as games progressed towards the ninth inning. While his article was intriguing, I questioned whether we can do something about preserving strike zone integrity and by extension, reducing bad calls in general with the technology that we have now.

While many baseball fans are watching what happens to the ball my primary focus is on people’s feet. It’s always struck me as interesting that many umpires have better posture than the athletes they’re standing near. Almost every umpire I’ve had the privilege to watch has a straight back. At my chiropractor’s office there’s a nifty poster of the same elderly woman bending over twice. Both images show that her knees are bent; however in only one of these images is her spine straight. Athletes are paid to be in peak physical condition while umpires are allowed to carry more weight. There are overweight umpires with great posture standing next to players who weigh less, but have poorer posture, and I’d like to explore why.

Before we get too much further I want to thank Cliff Wolf for reminding me of Joe Nathan’s 300th save which is where my inspiration for this originated. During our discussion of the blown call an umpire friend of mine named Chris Kamler explained that as the game progresses, the strike zone changes. That made sense to me since people are standing outside in all kinds of extreme weather, they may have things going on in their personal lives, and human error exists. No umpire can be expected to correctly call every pitch, but I believe that there is room for improvement, and it doesn’t have anything to do with eyesight or training.

Designed to be unobtrusive, I have spent a lot of time admiring umpire footwear. The majority of it is black; however Twitter followers of mine have alerted me to variations such as the white stripes that Jerry Meals once sported. Home plate umpires don a lot of gear to stay safe behind home plate. This is important to remember because in my world, footwear is measured in comfortable stand time and that equipment is a discomfort factor. It is physically taxing to stand for long periods of time, and when you think about what an umpire needs to be able to tune out to focus on a ball that can be moving in different planes at ninety-odd miles per hour, I’m equally impressed with the umpires as I am with those who are pitching, hitting, catching, and fielding.

From a professional standpoint it is really difficult to get good visuals of umpire footwear since it is rarely a focal point during games. Try watching feet at the next game you have up on your screen. Pitcher footwear is visible; up close shots depend on who is filming. Batter cleats are shown, and I can see coach and umpire footwear from time to time, but I have yet to watch a game where the camera zeroes in on umpire footwear. From talks with various players, coaches, and staff, I’ve learned that there is no standard foot measuring protocol in baseball. I assumed that there would be a file on every player as cleats are equipment whose failure can mean player injury, and there’s value in trying to discern if there’s an outbreak of a particular injury that could be attributed to a particular style and model, but if this data exists, I have not discovered it yet.

New Balance appears to be a popular brand with the umpires I’ve seen, and I’m wondering how umpires decide what size and width they should be purchasing. My assumption is that if players who tend to earn more than umpires are not being measured for footwear, neither are umpires, and that’s where I think we can make some reasonably conservative changes to a system that could benefit from optimization. I believe that no one is measuring total foot length, comparing that measurement to arch length, determining width from the greater of those numbers when appropriate, and working with umpires to insure that their feet as comfortable as they can possibly be.

If that is true, we should be able to measure all umpires, compare their measured foot size to the size they currently wear and come up with a variance. My theory is that variance represents the number of umpires who would benefit from a standardized foot measuring system and subsequent footwear change. Improving fit of umpire footwear will make umpires more comfortable, it will help them relax, and I believe that more comfortable and relaxed umpires will have more consistent strike zones and greater accuracy as games progress.

While I could end this now, I know there are followers of mine who would be disappointed if I did not bring up the fact that I could be completely wrong about everything I’ve written previously. There are four possibilities for us to consider: My theory is right and action is taken to improve footwear fit. I am wrong and nothing needs to be done. My theory is dead wrong. I become a laughingstock in the footwear world, my fitter card is revoked, and I am shunned by peers and colleagues who are appalled at my waste of investigative research dollars, or I am right and no action is taken. The following paragraphs take a look at what happens under each supposition:

Let’s cast me as an avaricious footwear consultant who charges hefty sums to investigate the seamy side of baseball footwear. I’ve convinced the union to hire me and unfortunately, after meticulously measuring each umpire, I find that they are already wearing footwear that fits. Time and money have been wasted, I have a fee coming, but the strike zone shrink and bad calls remain faithful to historical trends. Incidentally someone told me that players were happy as long as the strike zone was consistent and they knew what to expect so we shouldn’t hear more complaints from people like John Smoltz who recently advanced the strike zone shrink theory that Scott Lindholm addressed in his article on the subject.

Our second scenario involves me being wrong without any investigation or corrective action taking place since none is needed. We assume that umpires are wearing footwear that fits since their ability to perform their job related duties depends on them having good footwear. These are grown men who are presumably intelligent enough to recognize that the human body changes over time, and they realize that they need to be measured every time they purchase footwear to take into account forces like gravity pulling their arches down and flattening out their feet. Here my assumption is wrong, but there is no money spent, and again, the strike zone remains the way it was with no significant variation.

Scenario number three involves me being correct about a percentage of umpires wearing footwear that does not fit, however nothing is done about it. No one is measured so money is not spent, but instead of umpires wearing footwear that benefits them, they are donning hosiery and footwear that undermine their health, safety, and comfort. In our first scenario our monetary expenditure was wasted because data proved that I was wrong. Here I am right, but we don’t have a concrete dollar amount for what bad calls due to the discomfort of footwear fit are costing those umpires as accountable people who have earned the right to stand on a diamond and wear that uniform. It’s probably not a value that can be expressed as a pure function of money although there may be attorneys who would disagree.

Our fourth and final scenario requires me to be correct, and proactive change occurring since umpires aren’t part of a roster the way that players are. What I foresee: umpires being measured, those numbers compared to their current footwear, and some necessary changes taking place as we discover who needs a different size. While you can hire a company like Saberfeet to come in and analyze a footwear and distribution system, you can walk into a shoe store for free to have your feet measured.

Anyone can search Google, find the Brannock website, and read up on how feet should be measured for the greatest degree of fit accuracy. Under this system I predict that the number of bad calls will decrease while strike zone integrity improves. I’d expect to see umpires with the most disparity in current shoe size to measured foot size improve their percentage of good calls, but overall I believe that we would see better calls across the board as we’ve reduced the discomfort associated with standing for long periods of time in shoes that do not fit.

I try hard to be a positive person, and I could rhapsodize about a better world where the strike zone was set at the beginning of a game and never changed, but the problem is, I don’t really care about the strike zone. As a fan, a mother, and someone who knows what I do about footwear basics, I’m concerned about the feet, ankles, knees, hips, spines, shoulders, and necks of umpires everywhere. More than that, I’m concerned about the players, the fans, managers, coaches, and whoever happens to be reading this who has not had their feet properly measured by someone who knows how. Hint; here’s how you can be the change you want the world to see.

An MLB strength and conditioning coach I had the good fortune to speak with told me that players get mad when their feet hurt and I can’t blame them. What if instead of enhancing performance, the cleats that an athlete endorses are actually harming him? Flying wood from a broken bat can easily injure a player. Damage from footwear is not as visible, or immediate, and unless something changes we will continue to watch games that could be better, safer, and more enjoyable simply because someone decided to ignore my suggestion that everyone be measured for footwear. Two minutes is ample time to measure a set of feet. The data is easy to collect, the time increase is negligible, and the health benefits are incalculable as footwear can affect your ability to breathe properly and disperse oxygen to tissues in need of nutrients and waste removal.

I’d imagine that you would rather not have your team suffer from the same treatment the Rays received from Marty Foster when Joe Nathan picked up save number 300. While Foster later apologized, that still rankles, and if you’re like me, you sit and wonder why you love a game that can figuratively rip your heart out of your chest. Love is a strange phenomenon and I don’t often question why I love baseball, but I would like to ask you which of the four scenarios I presented is accurate because either I am right about a certain number of umpires needing footwear that fits and I have a no cost solution, or one hundred percent of the umpires you see are wearing the size that suits them best.

You can sit and read what I’ve written, but until action is taken, the game will continue the way that it is, and we’ll never see the baseball that could have been. That’s my dream, my goal, and wouldn’t it be cool if we had a way to create a win/win/win situation that would make everyone happier? Both teams playing are going to be better off if the strike zone is consistent. The umpires will be more comfortable, they’ll be able to perform their jobs better, and since they’re going to be more relaxed, perhaps they won’t take the calls that they do miss so hard and personally in the future.

Saberfeet: Could baseball be even better than it is now?

A very special thank you to Cliff Wolf, Chris Kamler, Sean Lahman, and Scott Lindholm. Without their contributions and Twitter conversations, this post would not have been possible.

P.S. I’m now wondering if we can take the umpires who have the worst strike zones and the highest number of blown calls and work backwards to see if there is any correlation between performance and footwear fit, but that’s a post for another date.