In 2008, Mets outfielder Ryan Church was concussed sliding into the knee of Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar. He was back in the lineup 10 days later. Soon, though, he was placed on the disabled list with aftereffects. Since then, he has played for the Braves, Pirates and Diamondbacks. Still just 32, he went unsigned this season.
On July 7, 2010, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau suffered a concussion while trying to break up a doubleplay against the Blue Jays. Since he had missed 10 days after being hit in the head by a pitch 5 years earlier, he thought he knew what to expect.
"Not even close to what I had before," he told reporters. "I think it's more being on the cautious side."
The 2005 American League MVP was listed as day-to-day . . . and missed the rest of the season.
Look, every injury is unique. It could turn out that the 91-mph pitch that conked Chase Utley on the batting helmet Wednesday night will turn out to be no big deal after all. Yesterday, he was examined by Dr. Rob Franks, the Rothman Institute concussion specialist.
For one thing, studies show that the effect of concussions are cumulative. Both Church and Morneau had incurred head injuries before. As far as we know, this is Utley's first.
But no matter what the ultimate diagnosis is, no matter how soon the Phillies' second baseman thinks he's ready - and he has earned a reputation for beating the clock in these situations - this is not something to be taken lightly.
Listen to what Morneau said last summer: "I'm pretty aware of what can happen if you don't take care of it. You can play through a sore knee or a banged up wrist, but the head's something you don't want to mess with."
Major League Baseball, to its credit, quietly implemented tougher concussion protocols in March. A 7-day disabled list was created specifically for players with head injuries, giving teams the option of not rushing players back, but also not losing them for a full 15 days. And there is mandatory paperwork that has to be evaluated by the league's medical director before a player with a head injury can be cleared to play.
Immediately after Wednesday night's game, before the Phillies flew to Milwaukee with Utley scratched from the passenger manifest, both general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel downplayed the seriousness of the injury. Which is understandable. Information was sketchy at the time and, besides, it's human nature to hope for the best, particularly when talking about a player as important to the team's hopes of winning another World Series as Utley.
At the same time, obviously, no trophy is worth a lifetime of serious medical issues. Earlier this year, Dr. Richard Ellebogen, neurosurgeon at the University of Washington School of Medicine, stated his approach on concussions to CNN: "If you're in doubt, take the player out."
He was talking about football. But the same principle applies to baseball. Utley may be out for a while. And that's not all bad.
AROUND THE BASES
THE OTHER GUY: Rookie Brett Pill homered on Wednesday night, becoming the second Giants player to go deep in his first two big-league games. The first: John Bowker, now with the Phillies after being acquired from the Pirates to add a lefthanded bat to the bench 10 days ago, who did it in 2008.
LATE NIGHT WITH JOE GIRARDI: When the Orioles and Yankees began playing at 11:08 Tuesday night in Yankee Stadium, it was the latest first pitch for a major league game since the Phillies and Nationals got under way at 11:32 p.m. at RFK Stadium on Sept. 28, 2006.
WILD THING: Yankees righthander A.J. Burnett has thrown 23 wild pitches in 172 2/3 innings this season. Teammate Mariano Rivera has 13 wild pitches in 1,205 career innings.
OUT OF THE FRYING PAN: It was bad enough that the Braves were swept in a three-game series by the Phillies. Even worse for a team whose grip on the wild-card spot is suddenly a little shaky, their next three starting pitchers - Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado - had a total of 24 big-league starts and seven wins among them.
NO SALE?: The Houston Chronicle reports that the $680 million sale of the Astros from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane seems to be on hold. Approval had been expected by now but has been postponed at least twice because of a series of questions about Crane's past that might seem relatively minor taken separately but have raised red flags when taken in aggregate. The latest guess is that the sale will finally go through in November . . . or not at all.
FINALLY: We often hear that teams will do anything to win. It turns out that there are limits.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Giants manager Bruce Bochy weaned himself off a decades-long dependence on smokeless tobacco through hypnosis. His therapist then offered to put a curse on the division-leading Diamondbacks, but also warned that it could boomerang back on the sender.
PHAIR AND PHOUL
AS OTHERS SEE US: From Reds manager Dusty Baker, after being swept by the Phillies last week: "They are where we want to be. They haven't been there forever. It took them a while to build that team."
And from Marlins manager Jack McKeon, who has faced this team the last two weekends: "I don't think anybody can match the Phillies' pitching. It's almost like a guide. We want to get where they are."
ON THE OTHER HAND: Not everybody is so impressed. Writing on the Grantland website, Rany Jazayerli notes the age of the lineup and the fact that the Phillies already have more than $100 million committed to contracts next season and sees trouble coming.
"So long as [Roy] Halladay and [Cliff] Lee and [Cole] Hamels are competing with each other for Cy Young Awards, the Phillies are almost guaranteed to be competitive. But for a team on the verge of its greatest season ever, the future is murky at best. The Phillies have climbed to the top of the mountain. There may be a cliff up ahead," he wrote.
BULLPEN CHRONICLES: Mike Pelfrey is having a disappointing season for the Mets and, as Lloyd Carroll noted in the Queens Chronicle, a visiting fan didn't hesitate to let him hear about it.
It seems that while Pelfrey was warming up before his start in the Citizens Bank Park bullpen during New York's last trip here, the fans leaned over the railing and hollered, "You're the main reason why my team stinks. You're probably going to give up a lot of runs today and start licking your fingers like you always do when you're in trouble."
Give Pelfrey credit. He didn't acknowledge the heckler . . . but licked his fingers just to let him know that he had been heard.