A fresher and healther Edward Mujica (left) jokes with Shane Robinson. (USA Today)
Though often sacrificed due to travel and quick turnarounds, a comfortable and ideally complete night's sleep is also the basis for surviving baseball's 162-game — and hopefully beyond — schedule that leaves little extra time for rest, recovery and rehabilitation.
For 29-year-old reliever Edward Mujica, a good night's rest simply wasn't happening regularly enough in 2013, and in the end it helped derail what had proven to be his breakout season in MLB.
Given the role of closer out of spring training by the St. Louis Cardinals, Mujica embraced the challenge and picked up 37 saves during a dominant five months of relief work. It was good enough to earn his first all-star selection, and the light at the end of the tunnel was a likely free agent contract that paid him at or around closer money. However, by the time September rolled around, Mujica was feeling sore and fatigued and was a shell of the pitcher that had dominated. Over his final 10 appearances, Mujica posted an 11.05 ERA, and as a result was relegated to a minor role during their postseason run.
The late season burnout left Mujica looking for answers in addition to a new contract during the offseason. It turns out he found both when the Boston Red Sox agreed to sign him to a two-year, $9.5 million on Dec. 7, because their athletic training staff knew the exact fix he needed.
A new pillow.
But not just any new pillow. A new REGULAR pillow.
“I had a Tempur-Pedic. It was $150,” Mujica said. “The trainer said, ‘Don’t use that anymore.’ He said, ‘Use this one.’ It cost me $20. It’s just a regular pillow.”
Sometimes it's the smallest and often overlooked details in life that make the biggest overall impact on our health and happiness. However, here we have a player who actually paid attention to the details and invested in a special pillow thinking it was improving his outlook, yet was actually proving detrimental.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mujica said. “For like six weeks the trainer has been working on me and my neck has been feeling better. My body is feeling better. We can feel it but everything is inside and they just fixed it.”
Think of the potential money he could have earned in free agency — and saved on pillows — had he made this switch one year ago. Mujica actually signed for less than Brian Wilson (two-years, $10 million), who's made only 20 total appearances over the past two seasons, while other closers like Joaquin Benoit and Grant Balfour each got two years, $15 million.
Mujica definitely could have neared that range, though his overall lack of ninth inning experience may have held his salary down some.
In the end though, Boston may prove to be the best fit for Mujica anyway. He'll serve as a set up man for Koji Uehara, which is the role he's excelled at in the past. But beyond that their small bit of advice could prove fruitful in the long-term. A healthier lifestyle should make for a longer career, and a longer career should make for more money.
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