Joe Girardi's indecision leads to Kendry Morales' game-icing homer

8 Comments

Kendry Morales homer.jpgA curious thing happened in Anaheim yesterday, as Joe Girardi decided to
have Damaso Marte pitch to Kendry Morales in the bottom of the seventh
with two on and two out, the Bombers down by one.  Fair enough. I hate
intentional walks anyway, but especially hate them when first base isn’t
open or when the pitcher isn’t coming up to bat. And especially when
you have a favorable matchup such as a lefty facing Kendry Morales. Good
job going after it, Joe!

Except in this case there was only one
problem: Girardi’s decision to pitch to Morales came after he had first
decided to walk the guy, with Marte already having delivered intentional
ball one.  Really, Girardi just changed his mind mid-walk and said
“forget it.” The outcome of the at bat: Kendry Morales homered, Angels
took an 8-4 lead which would hold up.

That this was a poor
decision was clear even before the homer, as Marte — now actually
trying to get Morales out — threw two additional balls, running the
count to 3-0.  Take
it away Joe Girardi
:

“He got to 3-0 and I could
have put four (fingers) up again,” Girardi
said. “I probably should have put four there.”*

But
he didn’t, Morales had the green light and he deposited a fat 89 m.p.h.
fastball over the wall.  The Angels already had the lead, but at that
point the game was over.

To Girardi’s credit he totally owned the
decision after the game, but that doesn’t make things any better. 
Pitching to Morales may or may not have been a good idea in an absolute
sense, but once the decision was made to walk him, you have to stick
with it. Ask yourself: ever have some work taken off your plate at the
office, only to have the boss come back a few minutes later and say
“Know what? I’m going to need you to do that anyway.” It’s deflating. It
would have been better if the guy had never told you that you didn’t
have to do it in the first place.

Damaso Marte probably felt that
way too, having cleared his mind, however temporarily, of his plan of
attack for Kendry Morales. Then Giradi plopped that file back on his
desk.

*I know managers have been calling for intentional walks
forever, but the whole notion of the manager calling each individual
pitch in an at bat grinds my gears. While the outcome could have been
better if Girardi had put the free pass back on when it was 3-0, I
almost would have been more angry if he had, at least on a philosophical
level. Make up your mind and let your pitcher and catcher get the job
done.  If an idiot like Terry Bradshaw was able to call his own plays,
certainly Frankie Cervelli can call a pitch or two, can’t he?

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

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
2 Comments

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.