ALDS Preview: Orioles vs. Yankees

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You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Orioles and Yankees have in store for us in the American League Division Series.

The Teams

Baltimore Orioles (93-69) vs. New York Yankees (95-67)

The Matchups

Game 1 Sunday in Baltimore: CC Sabathia vs. Jason Hammel
Game 2 Monday in Baltimore: Andy Pettitte vs. Wei-Yin Chen
Game 3 Wednesday in New York: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Hiroki Kuroda
Game 4 (if necessary) Thursday in New York
Game 5 (if necessary) Friday in New York

Analysis: Everything about this series points to a Yankees sweep, from the pitching matchups to the lineups to the payrolls. Sabathia allowed just four runs over his final 24 regular-season innings and is capable of keeping that run of dominance going throughout the month of October. Hammel, meanwhile, hasn’t appeared in a game since aggravating his surgically-repaired knee on September 11. He was the Orioles’ most reliable starter this summer, but it seems doubtful that he’s back to full health after just four weeks of rest.

Pettitte looked great after returning in mid-September from a leg fracture and has logged 263 career postseason innings. Chen is a 27-year-old rookie from Taiwain who might be in over his head.

The Storylines

  • The teams split their 18 regular-season meetings 9-9. New York was outscored 92-90.
  • Kuroda, the Yankees’ Game 3 starter, hasn’t been given nearly enough credit for his fantastic regular-season performance. He was a rock in that ever-changing starting rotation, posting a solid 3.32 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 167/51 K/BB ratio across 219 2/3 innings (33 starts) for the AL East champs.
  • Camden Yards should be jamming for the first two games of this five-game set. One of MLB’s most aesthetically-pleasing parks, it hasn’t hosted postseason play since 1997, when the roster included the likes of Brady Anderson, Roberto Alomar and Cal Ripken, Jr. Tickets sold out swiftly last week.
  • Orioles center fielder Adam Jones had a breakout regular season, batting .287 with an .839 OPS and 32 home runs while appearing in all 162 games. He’ll be looking to shine on the big stage.
  • Manny Machado, the Orioles’ 20-year-old third baseman, was promoted to the majors from Double-A Bowie on August 9 and quickly made it known that he’d be up to stay. He showed great awareness on defense down the stretch while slugging seven home runs, eight doubles and three triples in 51 games. The youngster can be a difference-maker. Truth be told, the O’s need him to be.
  • Alex Rodriguez had one of the least productive regular seasons of his 19-year major league career. And he tallied just two hits in 23 plate appearances last October as the Yankees were ousted in the ALDS by the Tigers. If his recent struggles continue, the boo birds will be out at Yankee Stadium.

Prediction

The Yankees have too much hitting and too much pitching for Baltimore to keep up. You could say that about probably every matchup the Orioles faced this summer, but it feels like the magic is finally ready to run out. Look for the Bronx Bombers to advance easily to the ALCS with a clean sweep.

YANKEES WIN THE SERIES 3-0

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.