Baseball should ban smokeless tobacco

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After Tony Gwynn — Stephen Strasburg’s college coach — was diagnosed with parotid cancer, Stephen Strasburg decided to give up smokeless tobacco:

“I’m still in the process of quitting,” Strasburg, 22, said. “I’ve made a lot of strides, stopped being so compulsive with it. I’m hoping I’m going to be clean for spring training. It’s going to be hard, because it’s something that’s embedded in the game … I’m not going to sit here and be the spokesperson for quitting dipping. I’m doing it for myself. I’m not saying anything about anybody else – it’s their personal choice. For me, it’s the best decision.”

Good for him. I wish him luck.  And I agree with his sentiments about having to do it for himself as opposed to this being some larger principled stand.  It’s really hard and sometimes counterproductive to shame people into quitting tobacco. My mom smoked, and God knows how hard we’ve all tried to stop her. I wish it wasn’t the case, but the fact was that it wasn’t until she wanted to stop that she did. I think most people are that way with tobacco and other addictive substances.

Not that baseball shouldn’t try.  While direct appeals didn’t help my mom quit smoking, the fact of restaurant and workplace bans made it way harder for her to keep it up.  Smokeless tobacco is banned in the minor leagues. It should be in the majors too, at least at the ballparks and when players are on the clock, as it were.  As Strasburg himself notes, kids definitely emulate the habit after seeing major leaguers do it.  What’s more, smokeless tobacco is way more dangerous for players’ health than steroids are and is way more easily obtainable for kids than steroids are.  Plus, it’s totally disgusting, yo.  How do these guys manage to keep girlfriends with that crap in their mouths?

As the article notes, the union believes this to be a matter for collective bargaining.  I think, however, that this is an issue like steroids was: protecting the players’ rights to use — be it directly or indirectly — is worse for the players in the long run than simply agreeing to a ban would be.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.