Rafael Furcal announces his retirement after 14 seasons

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Three-time All-Star shortstop Rafael Furcal has decided to retire at age 37 after injuries derailed numerous comeback attempts in recent years.

Furcal debuted for the Braves in 2000, winning the Rookie of the Year award, and spent the next decade as one of the league’s best all-around shortstops, but he last topped a .700 OPS in 2011 and has played a grand total of just nine games in the big leagues since 2013.

A switch-hitting, 5-foot-8 speedster with good on-base skills and a rocket arm, Furcal batted .281 with a .346 on-base percentage and .402 slugging percentage in 1,614 games, stealing 314 bases and smacking 113 home runs.

Among all MLB shortstops since 2000 he ranks fourth in Wins Above Replacement with 39.0, trailing only Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, and Miguel Tejada. He played 14 seasons for the Braves, Dodgers, Cardinals, and Marlins, earning $97 million in salary and winning one World Series with St. Louis in 2011.

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.