Is the end here for Jeff Francoeur?

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Maybe someone will pick Jeff Francoeur up for their bench after the Giants designated the 29-year-old outfielder for assignment on Tuesday, but it’s far from a given. His former habit was to hit like gangbusters whenever he joined a new team, but in San Francisco, he came in at .194/.206/.226 with no homers and four RBI in 62 at-bats.

Francoeur has played nine seasons in the majors with a .263/.306/.419 line. That’s not too shabby for a middle infielder, but for a corner outfielder, it’s certainly not getting the job done. In fact, of all the guys to last so long in the bigs, one could say he ranks among the worst corner outfielders of all-time.

By OPS+, here are the worst corner outfielders to amass 4,000 plate appearances:

88 – Don Mueller (4,593 PA from 1948-59)
90 – Shano Collins (7,045 PA from 1910-25)
91 – Jeff Francoeur (4,959 PA from 2005-13)
92 – Cliff Heathcote (4,972 PA from 1918-32)
93 – Glenn Wilson (4,468 PA from 1982-93)
95 – Michael Tucker (4,686 PA from 1995-2006)
96 – Jim Rivera (4,008 PA from 1952-61)
97 – Juan Encarnacion (5,095 PA from 1997-2007)
98 – Johnny Wyrostek (4,785 PA from 1942-54)
98 – Pete Fox (6,169 PA from 1933-45)

Baseball-reference’s WAR, which factors in defense and baserunning, isn’t a whole lot kinder. It rates him as the 14th worst corner outfielder to amass 3,000 PAs and the 6th worst to amass 4,000 PAs. Here’s the list with the 4,000 PA cutoff:

3.6 – Don Mueller (1948-59)
5.6 – Dante Bichette (1988-2001)
6.0 – Al Zarilla (1943-53)
6.4 – Jose Guillen (1997-2010)
6.9 – Jim Rivera (1952-61)
7.4 – Jeff Francoeur (2005-13)
7.6 – George Browne (1901-12)
7.6 – Tommy Griffith (1913-25)
8.0 – Michael Tucker (1995-2006)
8.8 – Juan Encarnacion (1997-2007)

Both the raw stat and WAR rate Mueller as the worst of the corner outfielder. Mueller was actually a two-time All-Star for the Giants in the ’50s. He led the league in hits with 212 in 1954, his age-27 season, but he quickly fell off the table from there and was particularly dreadful in his last two seasons as a regular. Plus, since he never walked and had limited power and speed, he was never all that valuable in the first place.

Francoeur has also had his moments. In fact, he’s been a three-win player three times of his career, according to WAR. Unfortunately, his WAR for his other six seasons is a -2.2. These last two years, he’s at -3.6. His power has deserted him on offense, and he lacks range in the outfield, though he still possesses a very good arm. At this point, there’s nothing to recommend him over a dozen veteran outfielder scattered around Triple-A. He’s going to have a difficult time landing more than a minor league contract this winter, and he might find that his best bet to continue playing is to head to Japan.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.