Via Chad Cushnir of FirstCoastNews.com:
First Coast News sports director Dan Hicken has learned that Ryan Freel, a Jacksonville native and former Major League Baseball has died at the age of 36. The cause of death is suicide.
There aren’t many details available at this time.
Freel batted .268/.354/.369 with 143 stolen bases over parts of eight seasons in the major leagues. He played for the Blue Jays, Reds, Orioles, Cubs and Royals before finishing his career with the independent-league Somerset Patriots in 2010.
Freel, who began working with youth baseball players after his retirement, was 36 years old.
UPDATE, 11:05 PM: A couple things to add …
- SB Nation’s Red Reporter notes that Freel, who had just been named the head baseball coach at St. Joseph Academy in Florida, was a father and a husband.
- Known for an aggressive, go-all-out style of defense, Freel told reporters in June 2007 that he had already suffered “nine or 10” concussions.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.