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Stop being slaves to baseball’s stupid macho orthodoxy

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Just to review, my take on the Braves-Brewers thing last night is that while Carlos Gomez was certainly out of line, Brian McCann and the Braves were too and that they are the ones responsible for what should have been a minor thing turning into a fight that caused punches to be thrown and a player (Aramis Ramirez) to be hurt. McCann’s walking up the baseline to confront Gomez was pretty damn provocative and immature, frankly, and the playoff-bound Braves should be both smarter and better than that.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, Gomez made a full public apology for his behavior after the game. I’ve yet to hear McCann or his teammates do the same.

But the larger takeaway here is my continued amazement at the pro-Braves, pro-Brian McCann sentiments among commenters and Twitter folk.  The sentiments basically hold what a commenter said in this morning’s And That Happened:

Brian McCann was just acting the team leader on the last home stand of his 8 yr career on a team struggling to get going before the playoffs. The player quotes show the team loved the move. A blogger may not like making the stand but obviously you’ve not speaking for MLB players.

I can’t tell you how many people responded to me with some variation of this last night. “NO ballplayer would stand for Gomez’s taunting!” they say. “This is how it has always been in baseball!”  There’s an added dose of “How can you not defend the team you root for,” which is beyond stupid, but I’ve come to accept the fact that most fans have a double-standard when it comes to their team’s behavior compared to that of other teams.

As for the “team leader” jive, well, that’s pretty stupid too. A team leader doesn’t do things which harm his team’s chances to win games, and by instigating a fight that’s what McCann did. He should have been ejected and is lucky he wasn’t. Freddie Freeman was. Reed Johnson and McCann probably face suspensions now, which will further hurt the team at some point. All for what? To protect the Braves honor? Against what? Carlos Freakin’ Gomez? 

Fact is, if the Braves had just let Gomez taunt his head off, the only conversation afterward and into today would’ve been how childish and immature Carlos Gomez is. No one would’ve cared. No one would’ve thought less of the Braves. The only people who believe otherwise are the sorts of people who are far too hung up on honor and ego to begin with. The sorts of people who are so hung up on baseball’s hidebound unwritten rules and codes of conduct that they probably wake up each morning and say a brief prayer to a candlelit portrait of Tony La Russa embracing Chris Carpenter.

Spare me. Spare me the “no player would stand for that!” and the “you must not know anything about baseball if you think the Braves were out of line” baloney, tough guy. There are all sorts of things people do because they’ve always been done. That doesn’t make them right or proper or mature even if does make them something less than unexpected.

If you want to defend McCann and the Braves’ increasing fixation on the proper behavior by opponents when they hit home runs (see, Jose Fernandez and Bryce Harper) make an argument for such behavior being reasonable on the merits without reference to tradition. And if you do, tell me if you act like that — if you get in people’s faces, preach what is proper and what is not and push things to the point of fisticuffs — when you confront the abundant immaturity all of us see every day in real life.

And if you say that baseball is different and that baseball is not “real life” and is thus subject to its own rules, explain why that should be so.  Because I see no reason why it should be that way, even if everyone has always assumed that it is. And even if Brian McCann, Tony La Russa and whoever else protects these brain-dead codes says so.

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.