Performance Enhancing Jewelry

Professional baseball players are wearing magical necklaces whose "titanium nanoparticles" supposedly "help the body's own energy flow more readily."

Andrew Sullivan points to a weird trend of professional baseball players wearing magical necklaces whose “titanium nanoparticles” supposedly “help the body’s own energy flow more readily.” There’s zero scientific evidence they do any such thing but there’s a Placebo effect.

My question: Why are these necklaces permitted to be worn? Aside from the fact that they detract significantly from the uniformity of the uniforms, don’t these constitute performance enhancing devices? Players aren’t permitted to take any number of stimulants, use corked bats, or pretty much anything else that gives them an artificial advantage. Yet, clearly, some significant number of players believe they’re deriving one from these devices.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Science & Technology, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Since there appears to be zero scientific basis behind these things I doubt MLB cares. Although, I have seen some discussion of the issue that the necklaces distract batters when they reflect sunlight.

    As for the placebo effect, that’s principally psychological. If they banned this necklace wouldn’t they also have to ban a player from wearing a crucifix because they believe it gives them some benefit?

  2. Burt Likko says:

    @Doug Mataconis: That would be right if traditional notions of Constitutional law and antidiscrimination statutes applied to MLB. MLB can make whatever uniform rules it wants, and enforce them as it chooses, even in an unfair or irrational fashion. It will do what its audience demands, which as far as fairness goes is a somewhat spotty and selective sort of ideal (and MLB knows that on balance, the audience likes home runs more than it dislikes HGH). The audience likes to see the bling, and it likes to follow players’ idiosyncracies and superstitions. So, the necklaces can stay until further notice.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Maybe, although a crucifix comes with 1st Amendment issues. I’d ban everything and mandate things down to everyone wearing their socks the same length so that they look like they’re in actual uniforms. Some teams actually do that now .

  4. Tano says:

    wouldn’t they also have to ban a player from wearing a crucifix

    There should be an absolute ban on all appeals to almighty powers to influence the course of the game. After all, how unfair is that???

  5. john personna says:

    The latest science seems to be that if we are really suckers for the placebo effect, then we should indeed use it.

  6. @Burt Likko:

    I didn’t say that MLB couldn’t make a rule about this if it wanted to, I was theorizing about why they haven’t done so.

  7. john personna says:

    BTW, this quote from Daniel Kahneman relates to a lot of OTB threads:

    “The illusion of skill is not only an individual aberration; it is deeply ingrained in the culture of the [financial] industry. Facts that challenge such basic assumptions — and thereby threaten people’s livelihood and self-esteem — are simply not absorbed. The mind does not digest them. This is particularly true of statistical studies of performance, which provide general facts that people will ignore if they conflict with their personal experience.”

    Why are some people unemployed? Why do we shoot better with a nanoparticle necklace?

    We have low internal skills for statistics and the transition from correlation to cause.

  8. Dale Franks says:

    Actually, I dunno if players think they work as much as they know they get paid lots of money to wear them.

  9. John Burgess says:

    @Dale Franks: If they’re being paid to promote the necklaces, then it’s an utter marketing failure. I don’t know what these necklaces are for, what they’re supposed to provide, or who makes them.

    They may distract batters; they distract me when I see them flopping around a pitcher’s neck.

  10. MM says:

    Well, bats, balls gloves, etc. all have very specific rules about size, weight, composition. I would argue that these necklaces are more of the traditional baseball superstition, since the only way they work is via placebo effect. It’s really no different than a player who has to have a chicken sandwich before every game, or some of the elaborate pre at-bat rituals, more than a performance enhancer.

  11. Ernieyeball says:

    We all know there are curses in baseball, make of them what U will. The Red Sox thought they exorcised the Curse of the Bambino when they won the World Series in 2004. The Cubs have the Goat, the Black Cat and Bartman to contend with.
    However fans of Chicago’s Northside Nine are either unaware or just will not mention this.
    The year of the Black Cat, 1969, was a record breaker for the Cubs. As most fans know Leo Durocher’s Dandys were in first place in the new National League East Division from the 1st day of the season all the way into September.
    The city was going nuts. Not once did the Cubs drop out of 1st place the entire season until…
    Then the bottom fell out. It was to be the year of the Miracle Mets. Cubs couldn’t buy a win.
    The Mets won the first ever National League Division Championship Playoffs and beat Baltimore in the World Series.
    Meanwhile back in Chicago the Harpies were singing.
    “Leo, what happened?” demanded the Chicago Sports Press.
    “You were in first place ALL YEAR LONG until…”
    Leo replied: “Those last few weeks, we couldn’t have beat a team of women.”
    What no one talks about that I have heard is the curse.
    What day was it in September of 1969 that the Cubs dropped out of 1st place…the 9th month…???
    September 11…9/11/1969…

  12. john personna says:


    Big picture, I think it is interesting that the most skills-based profession in our world (pro sports) is so shot through with superstition (lucky socks).

    If you can have lucky socks, you can have nanoparticle necklaces, no problem.

  13. A voice from another precinct says:

    @James Joyner: You’re taking this far to seriously. It’s only a game. The fact that businessmen use it as an outlet for their conspicuous consumption tendencies and that silly rubes (such as you?) pay lots of money to go to this particular carnival enhances the entertainment value for me marginally. The fact that the government subsidizes the enteprise with billions and billions of mostly state-level) tax payer dollars and special employment rules makes the tax payers that endorse this boondoggle is pathetic. The fact that the GOP believes that people who make baseball-player level salaries are some how entrepreneurs who deserve lower taxes because of their actions “driving the engine of the American economy” is lunacy that will eventually discredit the party.

    But your still taking this issue too seriously. Lighten up, get a beer and sit in the friendly blue glow of the plasma tube in your living room for a while, and it will pass.