And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Nationals 5, Marlins 3: So I decided I needed to get my life in order a couple of weeks ago. I sit in front of a computer all day and, due to the strange circumstance of having a job I actually love, all of the “free time” I thought I’d have to exercise and stuff when I started working at home has just sort of disappeared. I haven’t gained any weight since I started this gig — I’ve actually lost about five pounds because I’m not eating office donuts and restaurant lunches —  but I feel even unhealthier than I did before due to the sloth. I mean, at least at the law firm I used to have to walk a block or three for some reason a couple times a day. Here? Nothing.

So I bought I treadmill. And I figured that I’d do it up right and proper, so I got a TV and a Roku player to sit in front of the thing so I can watch MLB.tv. So far: it’s awesome. I use the treadmill every day and aside from some extra creak in my knees I feel fabulous. And watching baseball has never been better. Last year it was a pain to switch back and forth between the game and what I was doing (i.e. typing up these recaps), but now I pay way more attention to the games. I added a second TV and Roku next to the computer here so I can continue watching whatever game I get into once the jogging is over.

But there are some parts of my dysfunctional self-maintenance that I can’t shake. Like, given a choice of games, I always pick crappy ones, no matter what I do. Last night is a great example. Only two games were going on: the  Tigers vs. the Orioles and the Nats vs. the Marlins. Easy choice, right? Wrong! Something in my addled skull compelled me to watch the Nats-Marlins game.  A National League affinity? Maybe. A dirty, secret love of ugly baseball in front of small crowds, drilled into my psyche by watching, like, 700 horrifyingly bad Braves games between 1985 and 1990? That might be it actually. So I watched several innings of this thing as I, appropriately enough, got nowhere fast on my new treadmill.

And it was kind of ugly. Josh Johnson’s defense betrayed him. He gave up the homer to Werth, but the other two runs that scored on his watch were thanks to Hanley Ramirez and John Buck screwing up. With good defense Johnson and the Fish get the win. Of course, Nats’ pitchers had bad luck too, as the run that tied things up in the bottom of the sixth was helped along by Rick Ankiel muffing one in center, even though it was ruled a double. Eventually this one went extra innings with Adam LaRoche winning it on a two-run jack in the 11th.

Bad D. Low energy. Four miles on the treadmill. My kind of game! It’s gonna be a great season.

Indians 1, Red Sox 0:  I wrote this one up yesterday, and I still maintain that the Sox will be competitive in the AL East sooner rather than later. But let us at least acknowledge that there will come a point — and it could come by Sunday evening if this weekend series against the Yankees is disastrous — where it will not be panicky to write off the Red Sox.  Because yes, “losses at the beginning of the year” is something of an artificial construct. But if the losing streak gets much worse it will become the kind of streak that can kill a season no matter when it happens.

Yankees 4, Twins 3: Chamberlain in the seventh, Soriano in the eighth, Rivera in the ninth and everyone giving postgame quotes afterward. Just like nothin’ ever happened! For Minnesota things were terrible. Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s broken leg is not only bad for his health and playing time, but it likely bummed out his parents, who were flying in from Japan to see his home debut this weekend. Now what? “Look mom, it’s Minnehaha Park! The American Swedish Musuem! Mom! Wait! Don’t go!”

Phillies 11, Mets 0:  The Mets were shut down on offense and beat up on D. The only downside I see in this game for Phillies fans (or Roy Halladay fans, which I am) is if the Cy Young race is close in the fall and someone says “well, Halladay got X runs support a game!” in an effort to discredit his case. Of course, if he keeps shutting people out, I suppose that’s not going to really be a problem.

Rockies 7, Pirates 1: Troy Tulowitzki goes yard again, his third on the season. Not bad considering he only has five hits in all. Esmil Rogers was fantastic on the mound. Putatively a number five starter, he had ace stuff yesterday, allowing hits to the first two batters and retiring 22 of the last 23 he faced while striking out seven.

Brewers 4, Braves 2: Tommy Hanson’s velocity is down in his first couple of starts, so that’s scary. Even more scary is the fact that the Braves can’t score any runs right now and they get to face Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in the next three games.  This trendy pick in the NL East is not looking so trendy right now, is it?

Athletics 2, Blue Jays 1: Oakland salvages one behind a great game from Trevor Cahill. Efficient (105 pitches in eight innings) and effective (one run on three hits with no walks), Cahill talked after the game about how his curve ball — previously just a show-me pitch for him — was key. In his first start he struck out eight guys in four and two-thirds. In this one he struck out seven guys in eight innings. For a guy whose K-rates haven’t been fabulous, this could be a major, major step forward for him.

White Sox 5, Rays 1I hit this one up yesterday too. The Rays have not held a lead all year. They’ve scored 1 run in five of their six games.  Given the decade of futility they endured after the launch of the franchise, it’s amazing that this is their worst start in team history, but yep, it is.

Astros 3, Reds 2: Houston gets its first win — they have more than Boston and Tampa Bay combined! Oh noes! — and Cincinnati gets its first loss. The Astros got the winning run on a Matt Downs double off Nick Masset in the top of the ninth.

Orioles 9, Tigers 5: Just like there must come a time when we consider the Red Sox to be in serious trouble, there must come a time when we acknowledge that maybe — just possibly — the Orioles are for real. Not saying they’re fabulous, but they’re legit. They’ve shown that their young pitchers are capable of good things. In this one they showed that they can bash the ball around a bit.  I sense a very frisky team that, even if it won’t be in it at the end, is going to be a gigantic pain in the ass for a lot of people this year.

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.