Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte and the Van Doren Gene

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That would be Charles Van Doren, the infamous game show contestent who cheated his way to stardom, in large part because everyone wanted to believe that a nice, handsome and polite guy like him would never do such a thing.

Joe Posnanski thinks that there are a lot of players in baseball like that — players people want to like and, when necessary, forgive — and that Andy Pettitte is one of them:

We want to think the best of him. Everybody does. People seem to see Pettitte as a generally honest and minor character in baseball’s PED scandal. Ask a moderate baseball fan who was named in the Mitchell Report — Sammy Sosa or Andy Pettitte? I’m thinking most will say Sosa, which is the wrong answer. Ask any baseball fan which pitcher denied using HGH, admitted using only twice but never more, admitted later than he actually used it another time, and I suspect Pettitte will not be the first guess.

Dead on. He doesn’t get any kind of heat for the PED stuff. Partially because people have chosen to forget it, partially because people liked his “aw-shucks” partial admission better than that of other players. As if the p.r. game is more important than the cheating everyone claims is the real issue.  A-Rod came clean when caught in 2009 and was instantly a pariah (and still would be even if the Biogenesis stuff never happened). Why? People want to like Pettitte. They want to hate A-Rod.

Posnanski goes way beyond the PED thing, of course, talking about Pettitte’s Hall of Fame resume too. I’ll admit I don’t know what to think about Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case. The other day on HBT Daily I waxed fairly effusive. Joe’s comps, though — Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina and David Cone do have better cases — give me pause. Truth is I haven’t considered it too deeply yet. Probably won’t until after he retires.

But I do know this much: no PED-connected player is going to get anywhere close to the amount of forgiveness Pettitte will get when his candidacy is up. And, apart from the Van Doren Gene, I have no idea why that is.

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.