YES Network’s Michael Kay blasts Robinson Cano for not hustling

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Leading off the top of the eighth inning with his team trailing the Padres 6-3, Robinson Cano weakly grounded out to second baseman Logan Forsythe, who handily threw him out at first with plenty of time to spare. Cano lightly jogged down the first base line before turning back towards the dugout.

Michael Kay, leading today’s broadcast on the YES Network, took a few minutes to take Cano down a few pegs, criticizing the superstar for not going 100 percent down the line. Shortstop Derek Jeter was brought up, as usual, as the paragon of hustle. The camera panned to him as he reverently stood on the top step of the dugout, sitting out the second of two expected games off due to a calf injury. During the break between innings, Kay tweeted this:

The instinct to praise Jeter for his hustle while he continues to battle injury after injury is interesting to me, since the hustle is one of several reasons the future Hall of Famer has battled so many injuries recently. The same goes for Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, one of a handful of players known for going 100 percent down the first base line now matter how routine of an out it is. Utley has battled lower-half injuries dating back to 2010.

One must do some risk-reward math when talking about the need to bust it down the line every time. There is a non-zero chance that the infielder makes an error attempting to make the play at first base, but there is also a non-zero chance that Cano injures himself going too hard down the line. The benefit is that, in those rare times an error is committed, you get a free base or two you wouldn’t have otherwise had. The consequences, when a player is injured, are manyfold: A) you may lose the player for X amount of time: it could be a day, or a week, or the rest of the season; B) you have to use a less-qualified player in his stead for as long as he is out; C) you risk losing more than one game; and D) in the case of the player not missing time, he still may compensate for his injury, increasing the risk for other issues, or he may simply play hurt, reducing his effectiveness.

The smartest players are the ones who don’t seriously run on routine outs. What little benefit there may be is far outweighed by the injury risk.

As for Kay, he is doing a good job of giving Cano a reason not to continue his career with the Yankees as he is eligible for free agency after the season. Why play for a team whose broadcasters, and subsequently the fan base, think you’re lazy and don’t care about the outcome of the game?

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.