Joe Girardi didn’t use A-Rod last night because he flirted with those women? Really?

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Ask yourself: do you really believe that Joe Girardi is the type of guy who would base an in-game decision on some fluffy nothing of a story in the New York Post before he’d base it on baseball considerations? If the answer is no, you’re not Bob Klapsich.

Klapisch’s column today tells the story of last night’s game and focuses, like so many others have focused today, on Girardi’s decision to not use A-Rod as a pinch hitter in the ninth.  Klapisch discounts any baseball rationale and says the real reason is tabloid silliness. He references the Post story and says:

A-Rod and GM Brian Cashman refused to discuss the story, but the organization was deeply embarrassed by it, especially since the Yankees were in the midst of getting swept in the first two games at home … So while Girardi insisted his decision to bench A-Rod was strictly a baseball-related move, his refusal to use the slugger in the ninth inning was unquestionably a smack-down for his behavior in New York.

Sorry, even if you claim it was unquestionably a smack-down, I’m gonna question it. I’m gonna question it because Girardi’s own explanation was that to pinch hit A-Rod would cause Leyland to bring in a righty, and there is nothing — not an anonymous quote or even a “sources say” — suggesting otherwise. I’m also going to question it because Girardi has never, as far as I can recall, gotten sucked into the New York tabloid drama, so why would he start now?

I’m sure Girardi wasn’t pleased to have a tabloid story floating around like that. I don’t doubt Klapisch’s report that the team as a whole was embarrassed.  But to believe Klapisch’s hypothesis, you’d have to believe that Girardi legitimately felt that punishing A-Rod for it was more important than putting his team in the best position to win last night. And there is nothing here suggesting such an astounding and unprecedented thing.

What is here is Girardi’s strategic analysis of the platoon problem and, most likely, his gut feeling that Rodriguez has absolutely no game at all right now. While one may reasonably disagree that Girardi’s call was the right one — I would have brought in Swisher, who would’ve eliminated platoon splits from the equation — that’s neither here nor there. Girardi said why he did what he did. To believe that there was more to it than that takes a bit more than someone’s assertion that it was “unquestionably so.”

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.