Aaron Harang thinks his struggles are 'bad luck'

Leave a comment

After dropping to 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA with an ugly start yesterday, Aaron Harang said: “It’s bad luck. This game’s about luck. I’m going through a bad spell right now.”
Of course, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer points out, the “spell” of “bad luck” doesn’t just include this season. Dating back to May of last season Harang is 1-13 with a 5.41 ERA over the span of 20 starts, during which time he’s served up 23 homers in 119.2 innings while allowing opponents to hit better than .300 against him.
And going back even further, to the start of 2008, he’s 12-34 with a 4.74 ERA in 368 innings spread over 60 starts. Now, someone with a 4.74 ERA certainly doesn’t deserve a 12-34 record, so Harang is right that he’s been unlucky in that respect, but in terms of his actual performance it’s tough to call 60 starts and 368 innings worth of below-average pitching a “spell.”
However you want to classify Harang’s terrible start to this season or 12-34 record and 4.74 ERA since 2008, manager Dusty Baker was unsure about what to do with his Opening Day starter. Baker did say that moving Harang to the bullpen like the Cubs did yesterday with Carlos Zambrano isn’t an option and finding a taker for him via trade figures to be nearly impossible unless the Reds are willing to eat a bunch of salary.
Harang will make $12.5 million for this season and his contract also has an option for 2011 that becomes $14 million or a $2.5 million buyout if he’s traded.

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

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.