No suspensions coming for Canada-Mexico WBC brawl

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According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, World Baseball Classic officials have decided that no players will be further disciplined for the benches-clearing brawl that broke out Saturday between Team Canada and Team Mexico. The fight brought seven ejections, but that’s as far as the punishment will go.

“We are extremely disappointed in the bench-clearing incident that marred the conclusion of today’s game between Canada and Mexico,” reads a written statement released early Sunday morning by World Baseball Classic, Inc. “The episode runs counter to the spirit of sportsmanship and respectful competition for which the World Baseball Classic has stood throughout its history. After communicating with both the Mexican and Canadian baseball federations this evening, we are aware of the perspectives held by both sides in a competitive environment.  Nevertheless, we relayed to both teams that such an altercation is inappropriate under any circumstances and has no place in baseball. Because at least one club – and potentially both – will not advance to the second round, WBCI has determined that disciplinary measures would not have a meaningful corrective impact.  Thus, discipline will not be imposed beyond today’s seven game ejections.  It is our firm expectation that the members of Team Mexico, Team Canada and all the tournament’s participating teams will learn from this incident and set a better example – one that befits the sport they share – in the future.”

It’s great news for Mexican third baseman Luis Cruz, who incited the entire fracas when he directed teammate Arnold Leon to plunk Canada’s Rene Tosoni after Chris Robinson’s successful ninth-inning bunt single. Cruz, who is expected to open the 2013 season as the Dodgers’ starting third baseman, also threw the first punch when the two teams rushed toward each other. A suspension that would bleed into regular-season MLB games seemed likely for him. But here we are.

Canada (1-1) plays Team USA (1-1) today at 4 p.m. ET in Arizona. The winner of that game will advance out of Pool D along with Team Italy (2-1). Mexico (1-2) has already been eliminated and has no games remaining.

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.