Lance Berkman is retiring

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Lance Berkman was said to be leaning toward retirement all offseason and now Richard Justice of MLB.com reports that the 37-year-old switch-hitter has decided to call it a career after 15 seasons in the majors.

Berkman often gets lost in the shuffle when talking about the best hitters of this era, but he was a consistently excellent hitter for a dozen years and finished among the top five in MVP voting four times.

Berkman hit .293 with 366 homers in 1,879 games and also walked nearly as many times (1,201) as he struck (1,300), posting a .406 on-base percentage that ranks fifth among all active players. He made six All-Star teams and his .943 OPS is the second-highest in baseball history among switch-hitters, behind only Mickey Mantle (.977) and right in front of Chipper Jones (.930).

He seems unlikely to get a ton of Hall of Fame support from voters, but Berkman was a Hall of Fame-caliber player who combined big batting averages with huge on-base percentages and monster power. Helluva career. So long, Big Puma.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.