Ryan Braun makes history by joining 40/30 club

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The Brewers lost 7-6 to the Astros last night and now sit five games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot with five games left to play. While the Brewers’ playoff hopes are hanging by a thread, Ryan Braun is busy making history.

Braun doubled in the sixth inning last night before stealing third base. He now has 30 stolen bases on the year to go along with a career-high 41 home runs. This is just the 11th time in MLB history that a player has amassed at least 40 homers and 30 stolen bases in one season.

Here are the others:

2006: Alfonso Soriano – 46 home runs and 41 stolen bases

1999: Jeff Bagwell – 42 home runs and 32 stolen bases

1998: Alex Rodriguez – 42 home runs and 46 stolen bases

1997: Barry Bonds – 40 home runs and 37 stolen bases

1997: Larry Walker – 49 home runs and 33 stolen bases

1997: Jeff Bagwell – 43 home runs and 31 stolen bases

1996: Barry Bonds – 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases

1996: Ellis Burks – 40 home runs and 32 stolen bases

1988: Jose Canseco – 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases

1963: Hank Aaron – 44 home runs and 31 stolen bases

Braun won the National League MVP award last season by hitting .332/.397/.597 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI, 33 stolen bases and a .994 OPS. He has a strong case for the award again this year on pure numbers alone, delivering a .319/.391/.602 batting line to go along with a .993 OPS. His 41 homers and 112 RBI currently lead the National League. Of course, the chances of a repeat are likely pretty slim. The Brewers are almost certainly going to miss the postseason and we’ll probably see quite a few voters dock him for his overturned PED test. Not saying it’s fair, as he should be assessed on his 2012 contributions alone and not the controversy that followed him into spring training, but that’s the reality of the situation.

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.