Jorge Soler
AP Images

Video: Jorge Soler takes AL lead with home run no. 47


With Mike Trout ruled out for the season, the only American League player left to challenge his spot on the AL home run leaderboard was Royals designated hitter Jorge Soler. Entering Saturday’s game, Soler was tied with Trout at 45 homers apiece, still a significant number above the second-place Alex Bregman, with 41, and third-place Nelson Cruz, with 40.

He rectified that during the Royals’ 4-3 loss to the Twins, however, not only snapping the tie with his 46th blast of the season, but moving ahead with his 47th as well. In the bottom of the first inning, he worked a 2-2 count against Minnesota right-hander Cody Stashak, then punched a 93-m.p.h. fastball out to deep center field for a 1-0 lead:

Several innings later, against a 3-1 deficit, Soler pounced on a first-pitch slider from reliever Tyler Duffey and returned it to the left field stands to tie the game — and all but cement his place as the 2019 AL home run leader.

With home run no. 47 under his belt, Soler moves into third place in the league, tied with Cody Bellinger (47) and just a hair below Eugenio Suárez (49). The overall league leader is still Mets’ rookie Pete Alonso, who broke the all-time rookie home run record with his 52nd blast against the Braves on Friday.

Although he’s unlikely to capture the league title at this point, the Royals’ slugger still hit an impressive — and career-best — mark. Prior to Saturday’s contest, he boasted a .263/.352/.555 batting line with 113 RBI, a .907 OPS, and 3.3 fWAR through 671 plate appearances. His 47 home runs still stand as the single-season franchise record.

Evan Gattis says he is ‘done playing’ baseball

Evan Gattis
Bob Levey/Getty Images

In a recent appearance on the 755 Is Real Podcast, hosted by The Athletic’s David O’Brien and former Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty, catcher Evan Gattis confirmed he is “done playing” baseball. Gattis said back in October that he didn’t have any desire to continue playing the game, so this news comes as no surprise.

Gattis, 33, hit .226/.284/.452 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI for the Astros in 2018. The Astros did not extend him a qualifying offer, then $17.9 million. Though reporting on specific offers is scant, it is hard to imagine he received zero offers, or would have received zero offers if he were still interested in playing.

Gattis has one of the more interesting stories out there. He was a well-regarded college baseball prospect, but he battled anxiety and substance abuse. He checked into rehab and, temporarily, abandoned his baseball-related pursuits. Gattis eventually resumed playing college baseball but suffered an injury, prompting him to drop out of college. He went on to take on some not-so-glamorous jobs, including working in a pizza shop, as a parking valet, a ski-lift operator, and a janitor. Gattis battled more mental health issues, suffering from insomnia and depression, resulting in suicidal ideation. He checked into an inpatient psychiatric ward for several days. Afterwards, Gattis roamed around the west coast, going from Colorado to New Mexico to California to Wyoming.

In 2010, Gattis returned to baseball, playing for the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He performed rather well, resulting in his being drafted by the Braves in the 23rd round that year. He worked his way through the minors quickly, debuting in the majors in 2013. The rest, as they say, is history. Gattis retires with a career .248/.300/.476 batting line along with 139 home runs, 410 RBI, and 299 runs scored over 2,662 trips to the plate.

The story of Gattis is an important one because mental health in general was not taken seriously, especially among men. It still isn’t, to a large degree, but it’s better now than it was 10 years ago. Due to social taboos and gender norms, men are much less likely to seek help for mental health issues. That Gattis — a burly avatar of testosterone — was willing to be vulnerable about his struggles with his mental health was important.