Puig, Dodgers have a meeting to clear the air, all claim things are positive

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Yesterday, before I wrote that post about how Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times and others are continuing to beat the “Yasiel Puig is a team cancer” drum, I spent a good couple of hours on Twitter having mildly-contentious back-and-forths with some reporters about All Things Puig.

The upshot: People on the outside (like me) are contrarian jerks who can’t possibly know what goes on inside the clubhouse, and that we should really listen to the people inside who know for a fact that everyone on the Dodgers hates Yasiel Puig, and that because they all hate him he’s detrimental to the team. A sampling of that conversation:

So that was the setup, and the back and forth between Jones, Knight, myself and some others basically had me saying that, if Puig is not actively harming his team who cares if he’s a “five tool a-hole,” and those on the inside telling me that “oh yeah, he’s harming his team, his teammates hate him.” I asked how we can know that he’s harming the team. The answer: it’s self-evident, isn’t it?

And on and on.

Some of these disputes (like those with access vs. those without) are larger than the subject of Yasiel Puig and aren’t about to be resolved. But if we take the arguments of those with whom I was conversing yesterday at face value, they have to boil down to this: “It’s better to believe what those in the clubhouse are reporting about Yasiel Puig’s relationship with his teammates than to just assume that we know better.”

OK, then, how does this fit in?

So before the latest controversy with Puig had a chance to mushroom, manager Don Mattingly called a team meeting Tuesday to clear the air, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com.

A source described Puig as “very open” during the meeting and receptive to what was said.

A positive, constructive meeting in which Puig came away saying all the right things about wanting to be a better player and a good teammate and a manager saying that it’s all good and that everyone is heading in the right direction. No teammates, on the record or off, are saying they have continuing problems with Puig. It’s a sourced and reported story of a team nipping a problem in the bud.

But this all happened on Tuesday. Before Bill Plaschke wrote a column in which Puig was a cancer and all of the same things about Puig being receptive and Mattingly saying there are no issues between the team and Puig were spun as things that were negative and not to be believed. Likewise, my Twitter correspondents — the ones who told me that I must listen to and believe the people who live in and report from that clubhouse rather than think I know better — were essentially dismissive of it too. No, Puig’s a jerk, they say. He’s bad news for that team.

Why is it that all of us have to believe what the reporters and people on the team have to say and the reporters themselves do not? And why do those folks get to assert their superior authority — I’ve been there, I know, you haven’t, you don’t! — and totally dismiss the actual statements of the principals involved? It’s almost as if it’s someone besides me “telling people how it is” without any basis for doing so.

In any event: until someone wants to actually report and explain what they assert is so obvious — Yasiel Puig is a big a-hole who is hated by his teammates and that dynamic has harmed the Dodgers — I’m going to choose to believe what Don Mattingly and the Dodgers say about the situation. And here’s what they’re saying about the situation:

“It was good for everybody. Donnie just wanted to squash this, and it did,” one veteran, who asked not to be named, told ESPN.com.

Puig said he understood his teammates “wanted to help me get better” and encouraged them to approach him directly anytime they had something to say to him.

“Puig’s a good kid. He just didn’t come up through the system like we all did,” a veteran teammate said.

Afterward, Mattingly addressed the media and said of Puig, “We’re good. I’ve got no issues with Yasiel.”

I assume this will be dismissed by the Plaschkes and Joneses of the world as mere PR, spin, etc. Which, sure, happens a lot. But if it is, tell us why it is. Report something which gives us a reason to believe that everyone here is lying and that, in reality, Puig is still a malignant force who is going to bring the Dodgers down. Don’t merely assert it and expect us to believe you.

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.