A (very) brief moment to cut Mets some slack

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By my unofficial count, the two most entertaining pastimes these days are (a) spotting Tiger Woods lookalikes and (b) picking on the New York Mets.

We’ve done plenty of the latter just today. Here, here and here, in fact, for those of you who missed out on the fun.

But isn’t it all starting to get a little old? Do we really need to spend the whole offseason picking at the scabs of a destitute franchise that hasn’t been to the World Series since way back in 2000? (That’s pre-9/11 folks!) A team that hasn’t been in a pennant race since 2008, and which has no exciting stars to watch (aside from Johan Santana, David Wright, Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran)?

OK, maybe the Mets don’t have it so bad after all, and I imagine the poor folks in places like Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Washington (if they cared) are rolling their eyes at the massive sound of wringing hands emanating from Queens.

So the Mets aren’t the best-run franchise in the league. And maybe they have hired these guys to head up their medical staff.

But on the bright side, they have a beautiful, almost-brand-new ballpark that probably won’t fall down for another few years, the injured Beltran should be ready to play by May, and Oliver Perez only has two more years and $24 million left on his contract. (repeat after me: the glass is half full, the glass is half full)

On top of all of this comes the good news that Johan Santana is going to take his arm for a spin on Tuesday.

Santana is scheduled to pitch Tuesday during the Mets’ three-day minicamp at their spring training complex. He expects to ready for opening day after having bone chips removed Sept. 1.

“I’m feeling good. Time will tell, but I am feeling good,” the two-time Cy Young winner said Monday. “We did a pretty good job with the offseason, working out and doing all the rehab, and I’m feeling good. Everything is on schedule.”

*So you see there is reason for hope, and there will be a new spirit of Sunshine, Lollipops & Rainbows in Mets-land if Santana looks sharp on Tuesday. Remember, they were only 10 or 20 injuries away from contending last season.

*The author — and CTB in general — reserve the right to resume poking fun at the Mets without notice whenever it is deemed necessary.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.