Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Since a whole lot hasn’t happened in the last week thanks to the All-Star Game, the comments accompanying the rankings this week focus less on the overall state-of-the-ballclub and more on what they need, both at the trade deadline or otherwise.

1. Yankees: The Bombers need A.J. Burnett to quit flaking out, Andy Pettitte to make a quick return and no one important to the organization to die for a little while.

2. Rays: A big bat at DH would be nice. B.J. Upton to remember that he used to be good would be useful as well.

3. Padres: A little offense wouldn’t hurt. The Padres could also do without the Boston media continuing to treat them like roadkill whose only purpose in life is to trade Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox.

4. Braves: An outfielder who can hit. And while they really don’t want it or need it, it would probably do the Braves some good as an organization to see Yunel Escobar thrive for Toronto in the second half. I mean, yeah, the corporate culture has usually worked for Atlanta, but Bobby Cox and his gravitas aren’t going to be around next year and eventually the team is going to have to figure out how to get the most out of talented but flawed players rather than ship them out at the first sign of trouble.

5. Rangers: An owner would be nice, but that’s crazy talk. Otherwise the Rangers have pretty much made their moves this year. Maybe they can shore up the bench a bit with a bat who could cover for Chris Davis in the event he goes into a deep slump. Mostly it’s time to think about playoff roster optimization, though, because I don’t see the Angels being able to mount a sustained threat.

6. White Sox: A DH and a starter. Though really, given that one of their most talked about trade chits — Gordon Beckham — is starting to heat up, does Chicago really have the ability to land one? Maybe if they can convince Roy Oswalt to come to Chicago and agree to pick up the bulk of his salary they could get him for a song in terms of players going south.

7. Rockies: The healthy return of Troy Tulowitzki is important, but if Brad Hawpe and/or Todd Helton can’t hack it going forward, they’re going to need a corner infielder. Oh, and they need someone to silence Jon Miller before he gets too close to the shocking truth!
 
8. Cardinals: A starter would be nice, as would a mild but temporarily debilitating case of food poisoning to circulate through the Reds’ clubhouse for a couple of weeks. Those guys are pesky.

9. Reds: Some help in the bullpen, mostly. And if they’re really auditioning Jason Isringhausen, they need some help with looking in the right places to look for such help.

10. Giants: Pablo Sandoval to remember that he knows how to hit. Short of that a big outfield or first base bat. For his part, umpire Phil Cuzzi needs the Giants to either make the playoffs or at least to finish more than one game out of the running, or else someone’s likely to put a bounty on him.

11. Red Sox: For like five minutes to pass without someone pulling, straining, breaking, tweaking or rupturing something. And they totally need the Padres to realize that they have no choice but to abort their own feeble playoff run and hand over Adrian Gonzalez as God and Nature intends them to.

12. Tigers: Some relief help. The ability to NOT go on a swoon at the same time either the White Sox or the Twins do. Really, it’s like they want to play in a game-163 again this year.

13. Twins: They need a starter. They also need Joe Mauer to repudiate the bargain he made with his mother, Lara, to have the rays from the red Kryptonian sun drain him of his powers to that he could be with the love of his life, Lois Lane. By the way, in this little flight of fancy, I envision Ozzie Guillen in the General Zod role, which I think he’d find hilarious.

14. Mets: Like everyone else, a starter. Though a long-lasting but ultimately non-violent kidnapping of Oliver Perez may be the most useful thing for roster management purposes.

15. Phillies: A time machine to undo the Cliff Lee trade. Chase Utley to accidentally stumble into the faith-healing tent at some country revival except, in his case, have it actually work.

16. Dodgers: Frank McCourt to loosen the purse strings and allow Ned Colletti to make a move for some pitching. Well, hell, maybe not. Last time he let Colletti go out and get a veteran he traded Carlos Santana away.

17. Angels: A rent-a-first baseman. An exorcist who specializes in Scott Kazmirs.

18. Blue Jays: Another team to unload a “problem” player as good as Yunel Escobar.

19. Athletics: Bud Selig to get off the pot on the whole Oakland/San Jose thing. I mean, the A’s are almost certain to continue alienating the current Oakland fans, but it would at least be nice if they could start to woo the future San Jose fans to make up for it.

20. Marlins: For Selig and MLBPA head Mike Weiner to accidentally knock heads and suffer amnesia long enough so that Larry Beinfest can trade away all of the players who make money before anyone remembers that the Marlins agreed to keep payroll up.

21. Cubs: Derrek Lee to get cool with the idea of going to Anaheim. Ted Lilly giving them the go-ahead-and-trade-me-but-don’t-worry-I’ll-come-back-to-Chicago-in-free-agency-this-winter wink in return.

22. Brewers: Prince Fielder to go on on 20 for 30, 12 home run tear, thereby convincing someone that, price aside, THEY MUST HAVE HIM.

23. Nationals: The Nats need everyone who can’t get in on Prince Fielder to realize that Adam Dunn is a better option.

24. Royals: Kansas City needs everyone who can’t get in on Prince Fielder and Dunn to realize that David DeJesus, while not as good as either of those two, is a hell of a lot cheaper and is probably way more useful in the very short term.

25. Indians: The Tribe needs all of those teams who claim they need pitching to at least pretend to be interested in Jake Westbrook. Because really, I can’t think of an obviously available starter who has had less chatter about him these past few weeks than Westbrook.

26. Astros: Houston needs Roy Oswalt to broaden his horizons a bit in terms of where he’d agree to go, but more than that they need to realize that Oswalt makes way too much for most teams to stomach and consider kicking in more cash in order to get a deal done.

27. Mariners: With Lee gone they don’t have much to sell, and they sure as heck aren’t buyers. I think, more than anyone, they need to simply close their eyes and pray for October to come as quickly as possible.

28. Diamondbacks: Arizona needs yet another team to talk themselves into the whole “Adam LaRoche is a second half god” thing. And having Edwin Jackson shape up a bit so they can shop him without people thinking that A.J. Hinch killed his arm in that no-hitter would be nice too.

29. Orioles: For the “Ty Wigginton is everything you could possibly need” meme that has been circulating lately to last for another ten or eleven days before everyone comes to their senses.

30. Pirates: Steelers camp to open.

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.