Indians part ways with .222-hitting Johnny Damon

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Cleveland gave Johnny Damon three months to show he still had some gas left in the tank, but the 38-year-old hit just .222 with four homers and a .610 OPS in 64 games and today the Indians designated him for assignment.

Damon has actually been fairly decent since a brutal start, hitting .280 with a .711 OPS in 29 games since mid-June, but even during that stretch his .302 on-base percentage and .409 slugging percentage are hardly solid production for a poor defensive left fielder.

This may be the end of the line for Damon, who hasn’t cracked an .800 OPS since 2009 and no longer has the on-base skills or top-notch speed to really be an asset atop the lineup even when he’s hitting for a decent batting average.

Damon, who has 2,769 hits, 408 steals, and 235 homers during his 18-season career, earned $1.25 million in guaranteed money as a part of a contract signed in mid-April. Cleveland recalled Ezequiel Carrera from Triple-A to replace him.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.