Nate McLouth's Contacts: Probably a Red Herring

I've avoided commenting on the story about Nate McLouth's eyes and the Pirates not figuring out he needed contacts, and the reason is that I just don't think it's a big deal. This, to me, is a little bit like the "best shape of his life" stories that come out of Spring Training every year--nine times out of ten, the player goes right back to playing the way he always has. There are occasionally stories of these sorts of things legitimately changing a player's career: for example, Denard Span of the Twins looked like a complete bust before the 2007-2008 offseason, when he had LASIK surgery and immediately started hitting far better. But these stories are the exception, rather than the rule, and I have trouble believing that McLouth's vision was really holding him back, since his plate discipline has always been very good. Ultimately, McLouth could hit better, or worse, this year for lots of reasons, including random statistical variance, but my guess is that his contacts will have little to do with it. Unfortunately, if he does hit well, for whatever reason, he's setting the Pirates up for a round of criticism that they probably won't deserve.

Bob Smizik, by the way, talked to Frank Coonelly about McLouth's comments, and Coonelly was pretty upset. I have no way of knowing whether the Pirates' eye tests are adequate or not (and just to be clear, they should have good eye testing and they deserve the criticism if they don't), but the idea that the Pirates would be anything less than thorough seems strange to me. There are lots of things you can legitimately criticize Coonelly's Pirates for, but a hands-off management style isn't one of them.

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