The Big Hurt is about to hang 'em up

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The Big Hurt is ready to face reality:

Frank Thomas said he’s getting close to announcing his retirement,
and the 41-year-old slugger said he’s having fun being a member of the
media. The Chicago White Sox’s all-time leader in home runs, RBI and
runs, finished last season with the Oakland A’s and hasn’t been picked
up this season.

“That percent right now [that I’ll play again] is probably about
five percent, since we’re so deep into the season now,” Thomas said on
ESPN 1000. “But I’m still in shape, ready to go, if anything happens.
But I’m getting close to announcing my retirement because I just turned
41. I just want to make sure that it’s the move I really want to make.
I don’t want to be one of those guys that keeps coming back and keeps
saying, ‘I’m unretiring, I’m coming back.’ I want to make sure it’s out
of my system.”

Well, sort of face reality. I think baseball has more or less taken
care of the “retire/unretire” option for Thomas. Though he could still
probably be useful on an AL team, no one wants him (unlike Griffey, who
is probably less useful than Thomas, Thomas doesn’t have a home where
he can go and become a gate attraction), so the decision is pretty much
out of his hands.

Thomas will be an interesting Hall of Fame case. He should be a lock
on the numbers alone, but spending so much time at DH is gong to hurt
him with some voters. It’s less clear how the steroids era will effect
him. On the one hand he was outspoken against PEDs and helped lead the
charge to institute testing. And the media recognized him for that to
some degree. On the other hand, there’s a strong sense that all
offensive statistics — not just those of the PED users — were
inflated during Thomas’ career, so people may discount his
accomplishments even if they don’t consider them to be illegitimate in
and of themselves. That may be a little unfair and irrational, but if
you don’t think the BBWAA can be unfair and irrational, you’re not very
familiar with their work.

For what it’s worth, he’d have my vote.

Joe Mauer reveals he’s had blurred vision since 2013 concussion

Joe Mauer
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After a decade as the best all-around catcher in baseball Joe Mauer suffered a concussion in August of 2013 that forced him to change positions and marked the end of his time as a great hitter.

Mauer was doing his usual thing at the time of the concussion, hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage and .880 OPS. Since returning from the brain injury he’s hit .270 with a .348 on-base percentage and .725 OPS while seeing his numbers decline across the board.

Mauer revealed today to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that “lingering symptoms occasionally blurred his vision at the plate the past two seasons” and “he will experiment hitting with sunglasses for the first time to improve his pitch tracking” this season.

Here’s more from Murphy:

Bright sunshine sometimes triggered blurred vision that Mauer links to the concussion with which he was diagnosed in August 2013 after absorbing at least “two significant blows” from foul tips while he was still catching.

“I don’t want that to be kind of an excuse. If I’m out there, I’m out there. That’s just the way I am,” Mauer said. “There are times I’ve gone up to the plate and I just couldn’t pick up the ball. That’s part of the frustration because I’m trying to do everything I can to get back. It just takes time.”

There are more quotes along those same lines and Mauer’s numbers in night games were much better than his numbers in day games last season.

I live in Minnesota and it has been incredibly frustrating to see such a large (or at least vocal) segment of the Twins fan base treat Mauer’s steep decline as if it has nothing to do with the significant brain trauma he suffered. I’m hopeful that Mauer going public about literally struggling to see the baseball while at the plate will convince people to treat him more humanely, but that’s probably wishful thinking at this point.

What a shame, on every level.

Masahiro Tanaka can’t say for sure if he’ll be ready by Opening Day

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka said today that he “can’t say for sure” whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Tanaka underwent arthroscopic surgery in late November to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October and, while healthy, may be behind other pitchers.

Tanaka posted a 3.51 ERA and a 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season. He also has a partially torn UCL he’s been pitching through for some time which is always something the Yankees have on their mind when it comes to schedules and workouts for their ace.

Denard Span, not Angel Pagan, will be Giants’ center fielder and leadoff hitter

Denard Span
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Making official what was assumed when the Giants signed Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month, manager Bruce Bochy announced that Span will start in center field and bat leadoff.

That means 34-year-old Angel Pagan, who’s been the Giants’ starting center fielder and primary leadoff hitter for the past four seasons, will slide to left field and bat further down in the lineup. About a month before the Span signing Bochy said Pagan would remain in the center fielder/leadoff role, but the situation obviously changed.

It’s a move that makes sense, because Span–if healthy following hip surgery–is a superior defensive center fielder with better on-base skills. And if Pagan doesn’t bounce back following a rough 2015 season then having him in left field will make it easier for the Giants to platoon him or bench him in favor of, say, Gregor Blanco or a bigger bat.

Pitchers to receive new visor-like protective headgear

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MLB/MLBPA
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For the past few years MLB, the MLBPA and cap and helmet manufacturers have been working on various models of protective headgear for pitchers. Some of the models have been unworkable, some of them have not met the satisfaction of pitchers and others have, well, looked a little odd. At present the only pitcher who routinely wears any headgear is Alex Torres, who wears the bulky isoBLOX helmet.

Now, however, there is a new option. And, as you can see above it’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before. It’s more or less like a visor, which will have a nylon top on them to give a full cap-like appearance. The ear flaps will be lefty and righty-specific, given that righties are more likely to be hit on the right and lefties on the left given their follow-throughs.

The new caps will be given out to players this spring and, like the old ones, will be used or not used at the choice of the players. You can read more about the new helmet at ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.