Around The Horn: Cancer, Comerica Park And Rafael Devers
The Major League Baseball off-season always bustles with the news. Here are three news items around the horn that caught my attention this week: A cancer diagnosis, needed changes to a ballpark, and a record long-term salary for a storied franchise.
Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks announced he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer with symptoms that include enlarged lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, weight loss, tiredness, bone pain, chest pain, and itching.
Liam Hendricks Sidelined by Cancer
Treatment can include chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplants, and surgery. Hendricks is 33. The disease normally afflicts those in the 65-75 age range.
It was Hendriks himself who made the announcement about his diagnosis on Instagram, saying he did it in part to publicize a fight many families are experiencing. “As a professional athlete,” he wrote, “I’ve always been mindful to try and use my position in the public eye to the most positive ends possible by shining a light on causes or issues that touch base close to home for myself, my wife, and my family.
It is in that spirit that I want to share some personal health news I have learned in the past few days, and do so on my own terms.” Hendriks also said in his Instagram post that he expects to make a full recovery. His treatment began Monday.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said the organization is more concerned about Hendriks the person and not the baseball player at the moment, but the club will have a big hole to fill in its bullpen until Hendriks returns to action.
Hendriks, who was born and raised in Perth, Australia, is a three-time All-Star (2019 with the Oakland Athletics and 2021 and 2022 with the White Sox), and he was the American League’s Reliever of the Year in 2020 (with the A’s) and 2021. He had 37 saves last season, along with a 4-4 record while pitching 57.2 innings in 58 games. His ERA was 2.81.
The White Sox won’t have any updates on Hendriks’ health until Opening Day at the earliest. Let’s hope the news will be good. In the meantime, it appears set-up man Kendall Graveman will inherit Hendriks’ closer role. Graveman was 3-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 65 innings with the White Sox last season. He had six saves.
Walls Lowered at Comerica Park
Continuing around the horn, onto Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. Tiger Stadium, the Tigers’ former stomping grounds, was a hitter’s park. Comerica Park has been a hitter’s nightmare since it opened in 2000. Statcast began tracking batted-ball distances in 2015.
Since then, Comerica Park has had 55 outs of 410 feet or more, the most of any Major League ballpark. Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, has had 48 outs of 410 feet or more since 2015. No other Major League ballpark has had more than 18. Comerica Park also has 13 of 38 outs league-wide of 420 feet or more since 2015.
That may change with the Tigers’ decision to change the dimensions in most of the Comerica Park outfield. The centerfield wall will move in from 422 to 412 feet and be lowered from 8 1/2 to 7 feet. The wall in right-center above the out-of-town scoreboard will be lowered from 13 to 7 feet. The rightfield wall will be lowered from 8 1/2 to 7 feet.
Safety issues have led to another change in the outfield. In response to player surveys and injury reports, extra padding will be added to the walls.
$331 Million for Rafael Devers
Final stop around the horn, let’s hear it for Rafael Devers, who signed a 10-year contract extension with the Boston Red Sox. At a reported $331 million over 11 years (including a $17.5 million deal for the 2023 season), the third baseman became the highest-paid player in Red Sox history in terms of a long-term contract.
With Devers set to become a free agent after the 2023 season, this was an important move for the Red Sox. Devers averaged 32 homers, 105 RBIs, and 44 doubles per season over the last three full seasons (throwing out the pandemic-shortened 2020 season). He’s been in the Red Sox organization since he signed in 2013 as an international free agent. He was 16 at the time.
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