Jonathan Papelbon compared the cultures of the Red Sox and Phillies

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Losing never feels good, even if you’re the most well-compensated player at your position. Following the conclusion of the 2011 season, the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to the richest contract ever for a closer — a four-year, $50 million deal with a fifth-year option that can vest at an additional $13 million.

Papelbon has generally had good results, posting a 2.67 ERA in his two seasons with the Phillies, but he hasn’t been a beloved figure in Philadelphia the way he was in Boston. One reason is that Papelbon has been a rather outspoken critic of the Phillies. Last February, he said of the team’s clubhouse, “I haven’t seen any leadership.” In June, he questioned the team’s fundamentals. In July, he complained that he “definitely didn’t come [to Philadelphia] for this” after the Phillies lost their eighth game in a row.

On the air with WEEI’s Rob Bradford and guest host John McDonald on Thursday, Papelbon discussed the differences in culture between the two teams. He said:

“Look at the Red Sox last year. John [McDonald] will probably tell you the moment he walked into the Red Sox clubhouse there was an entirely different feel from when he left Philly. I’m not putting those words in John’s mouth by any means, but when you have a group of guys who go for 162 games plus spring training plus the playoffs, you have to have each other’s backs and know what he’s going to do before the next guy from you is going to do before he does it.”

Then he added:

 “Then I go to Philadelphia and it wasn’t necessarily that way, and I know that I’ve gotten a bad rap, some of the guys will say I’m not a good clubhouse guy because I’ll get upset and I’ll say something, but I’ve always said what’s on my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever shied away from my beliefs. But I think some of it reporters in Philly maybe take a little bit different because I was used to saying that, hey, this is how I feel, we’re not winning and I’m not happy.”

With the exception of Jimmy Rollins, who has drawn as much criticism in Philly as Papelbon for being willing to speak his mind, the Phillies have had a comparably quiet core of players, choosing to lead by example rather than by words. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, and Jayson Werth have all at one point or another been seen as a source of leadership on the team over the years and they’re not the type to be expressive on the field or through the media. It just doesn’t seem like Papelbon has fit in with the Phillies or in the city of Philadelphia at large.

That being said, the bigger concern is that he lost 3 MPH on his fastball since his last season with the Red Sox, which caused his strikeout rate to drop from an elite 34 percent to a pedestrian 22 percent. The Phillies can deal with a player who likes to talk a bit too much, but they cannot justify paying $26-39 million over the next two to three years to a player whose arm is on the way out.

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.