(and a big thank-you to Patricia Quinn and Richard O'Brien for that one)
The latest Barry Bonds tomfoolery has a cartoonist-slash-"motion consultant" claiming that Barry's elbow brace is in fact secretly a Transformer from the planet Cybertron, which straightens, levels, and powers Barry's swing to the tune of 75-100 extra home runs. Will Caroll over at BP has already taken the cole slaw shredder to this far more effectively than anyone else could, taking the radical step of interviewing the guy who makes Barry's brace. And according to him...
...Barry's arms haven't changed size in twelve years.
Interesting, isn't it?
Of course, if you really want to look at a player whose career statistics were wildly enhanced by an elbow guard, I suggest pointing your peepers at Craig Biggio. Big's massive elbow guard allowed him to lean over the plate without fear of damage (Many of his historic plunkings show him making as much effort to evade the ball as Terrell Owens makes for a pass in traffic over the middle), taking away the inside half of the plate for the pitcher and giving him extension over the outside half of the plate. In other words, it was a huge benefit to his hitting and his OBP...almost sort of a performance enhancer.
Nothing against Biggio, mind you. I've always enjoyed watching him play, and he's clearly a superior talent. But at this point the baseball meta-narrative doesn't allow us to attribute success by a player of his ilk (read: short, white, scrappy, middle infielder) to anything other that scrappiness and indomitable will. At this point, it seems likely that Biggio received far more benefit from his elbow guard than Bonds did from his.
And if David Eckstein, Joe McEwing, David Newhan and Scott Podsednik start showing up in the batters box in +4 plate mail, well, you know where it started.