Cancer cells

Cancer and the Kansas City Royals

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Bob Tufts is a longtime reader of this blog (and my old blog), as well as an email and Twitter correspondent and fellow Primate over at Baseball Think Factory.

He also happens to be a former major leaguer who played for the Kansas City Royals.

He also has been undergoing cancer treatment for a long while and, in light of the news about Harmon Killebrew and his former teammate Paul Splittoroff, is wondering what the hell the deal is with former Royals and cancer:

This news hits me pretty hard and very close to home. Paul was a teammate in 1982 and 1983 in Kansas City, and I also have been afflicted with cancer. As of now I am doing well in my post-autologous stem cell transplant battle with multiple myeloma thanks to the good doctors at Weill Cornell/New York Presbyterian Hospital.

I immediately thought about many other members of the circa 1980 Royals team that had died due to cancer. Manager Dick Howser died in 1987 from a malignant brain tumor, reliever Dan Quisenberry died in 1989 from a brain tumor, reliever Ken Brett (albeit only in KC from 1980-81) died in 2003 after a prolonged battle with brain cancer. Now Splitt – and me. And Killebrew actually played his last season in the majors in Kansas City in 1975.

While acknowledging that he doesn’t and can’t have access to any more than anecdotal information, Bob notes that there seems to be an abnormal number of cancer diagnosis among ballplayers, especially former Royals.  He suggests that the MLBPA and Major League Baseball study cancer rates and types among former major leaguers.  It’s not a bad suggestion.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.