Ike Davis is the NL’s second-best first baseman?

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With Albert Pujols and now Prince Fielder following Adrian Gonzalez to the American League, the NL has bled some remarkable talent at first base the last two winters. That’s one sure Hall of Famer and two more legitimate possibilities switching leagues while still in their primes. Left is Joey Votto and, well…

Reds: Joey Votto – .990 (2012 projected OPS)
Mets: Ike Davis – .864
Cardinals: Lance Berkman: .860
Phillies: Ryan Howard – .850/Ty Wigginton – .739
Braves: Freddie Freeman – .823
Rockies: Todd Helton – .815
D-backs: Paul Goldschmidt – .814
Marlins: Gaby Sanchez – .809
Astros: Carlos Lee: .787
Dodgers: James Loney: .776
Nationals: Adam LaRoche: .776
Brewers: Mat Gamel: .761
Cubs: Bryan LaHair: .756
Giants: Aubrey Huff: .739/Brandon Belt: .782
Padres: Yonder Alonso: .725
Pirates: Garrett Jones: .710/Casey McGehee: .728

In his MVP season of 2010, Votto only made the NL All-Star team by winning the final vote for the 32nd spot. I’m going to take a stab and say he’s not going to have much to worry about this year.

Davis and Freeman are potential All-Stars and new Cubs acquisition Anthony Rizzo might also have that kind of potential, but the list above simply isn’t very inspiring. Howard is likely to miss two months or more with his torn Achilles’ tendon, leaving Wigginton as the Phillies’ primary first baseman. I don’t understand why the Pirates decided to spend $15 million on Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes and Erik Bedard, only to get gunshy on reupping Derrek Lee. He’d be a big upgrade for them and a somewhat lesser one for the Brewers.

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.