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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.

Police: Felipe Vázquez admitted to trying to have sex with a 13 year-old

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Yesterday’s news about the arrest of Pirates closer Felipe Vázquez was pretty disturbing. Today’s update from Jeff Passan of ESPN is even worse.

Vázquez has been charged with solicitation of a child and providing obscene material to minors, and yesterday’s report said that he texted a 15-year-old girl that he would meet up with her after the season for sex. According to police, however, Vázquez had already met with a minor in an attempt to have sex. When she was 13:

Yesterday Vázquez’s attorney, Jay Reisinger, issued a statement saying “We are in the process of reviewing both the Pennsylvania and Florida charging documents, as well as the underlying facts of the matter.  At this time, any comment would be premature.”

The Pennsylvania charges referenced involve an alleged statutory sexual assault of a victim who is at least 16 years old by a person who is at least 11 years older than the victim; unlawful contact with a minor; corruption of a minor by a defendant who is 18 years old or older; and indecent assault of a person less than 16 years old. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last night that the offenses allegedly occurred on Aug. 1, 2018.

Vázquez is still in Pennsylvania, where he was arrested, and is awaiting extradition to Florida. He was denied bail and was characterized by the arraigning judge as a flight risk. Likely because he is a native and citizen of a foreign country with substantial financial resources.

UPDATE: I had missed this previously, but the Pirates issued a statement about all of this yesterday afternoon: