Wally Backman

Would hiring Wally Backman set a bad precedent for the Mets?

5 Comments

Buster Olney said something interesting about Wally Backman this morning:

Wally Backman remains under consideration to be the Mets’ manager. Look, I don’t know how good of a manager he is; he might be a great major league manager. But I’m not sure if the Mets have come to grip with the box they would put themselves in if they hire Backman, given his history of domestic violence. If a player has a domestic violence incident, as Francisco Rodriguez did, and the team wants to take a stand, they won’t be in a great position to do that having picked Backman.

Is this really so?  I suppose if you take an unbending, zero tolerance approach it could be the case that Backman hamstrings the Mets efforts to punish or part ways with players who commit violence.  But why must a team take such an approach?

Backman’s domestic violence arrest came in 2001. It was pleaded down to a harassment conviction.  I’m not understating the seriousness of that incident — my personal views on domestic violence are not that different from Bud White’s in “L.A. Confidential” —  but is it not possible that an organization can, if it wishes to, make a reasonable distinction between a nine year-old conviction followed by mostly good behavior and public contrition on the one hand, and an incident that just occurred today — or might occur tomorrow — on the other?

In more concrete terms, why would Backman’s history stop the Mets from taking a hard line against a player who commits domestic violence now? If the Mets were to DFA that player and publicly condemn him, and then were to be accused of having a double standard, would it not be fair to say (theoretically anyway) “Player X can call us back after paying for his transgressions and spending nine years learning from his mistakes out in the professional wilderness.”

I guess the point here is that no matter how sketchy Backman’s history is, it is history, not something that happened yesterday. If there is no reason to think that now, in 2010, he’s a bad seed, and if he is able to reasonably address his past and proceed with his job in a way that doesn’t set a bad example, I don’t see the problem here.

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

Joe Mauer
5 Comments

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

tanaka
Leave a comment

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
4 Comments

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

Headgear
MLB/MLBPA
12 Comments

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.