The Detroit Tigers were eliminated from the postseason Sunday evening, but one player was not around to see the disappointing season reach its climax.
Call to the Pen
Alex Avila was deep in the bowels of Comerica Park undergoing medical testing after leaving the game after a foul tip struck his mask. The diagnosis? His third concussion of the season.
Three concussions on their own is bad news, but within a six-month time frame? That is downright scary. We know that Alex is tough, but now people are starting to worry about him as a person, not just a player.
I am no doctor, but I do know once you receive one concussion, it gets easier to sustain them frequently. We know that Avila has suffered concussions in past years and has taken more foul tips, bats to the mask, and general mayhem behind the plate than probably 10 starting catchers combined.
So what does a doctor have to say about concussions?
"It is very important to protect yourself from repeated concussions, as the cumulative damage to the brain can be a major problem. First of all, if you are an athlete, the most important step is to never return to play after a concussion until all of your concussion symptoms are 100% resolved. This is because the risk of more serious brain injury is higher if you have a second concussion before being completely recovered from the first concussion. Over the long term, there is evidence that repeated concussions can cause permanent damage to the brain. The clearest evidence of this is from studies of professional boxers, where there is a clear association between head injury and dementia later in life. Although the evidence is not as strong, there is some data that similar problems, including chronic memory and cognitive impairment can occur in other sports, such as in football players who have multiple concussions. The bottom line is that it is important to protect your brain! Never put yourself at risk of a head injury if you are still recovering from symptoms of a concussion. Follow up with your primary care doctor if you are having headaches, memory problems, or other cognitive symptoms.Source: https://www.zocdoc.com/answers/10251/what-effect-do-multiple-concussions-have-on-the-brain"
Alex Avila himself has no plans of abandoning his baseball career. During the sad postgame conversation in the losing locker room last night, Avila pledged that he knows concussions are serious business. He also admitted that he was dizzy, although he spoke clearly and seemed otherwise fine.
"“Unfortunately, I’ve had a few concussions over the last few years and it’s something that I have to monitor and be aware of. It’s nothing to take lightly, and something I’ve obviously thought about. It’s always in the back of my mind. I love playing this game. And I’m going to keep playing as long as I can and as long as there’s no risk to my health.” – Alex Avila"
Detroit fans know concussions all too well. Fans of the Detroit Lions will remember promising rookie Javhid Best leading the Lions to a 5-0 record in 2011 and then he went out with a concussion in the sixth game and never returned to the field. Best is suing the NFL over concussions and has estimated that he suffered five concussions while a member of the Lions (and suffered countless others while in college).
Best has five he remembers or admits to during his NFL career–Avila has three this season alone.
Where does that leave Avila as far as playing? He is an above average defensive catcher, but a below average hitter. He would not be valuable to a baseball team at any other position, unless he could perhaps develop into a good defensive infielder like Brandon Inge‘s transition several years ago. The Tigers have a young third basemen in Nick Castellanos.
The lack of a bat would preclude him from being a DH. Should Victor Martinez move on this offseason, perhaps the Tigers could make Miguel Cabrera a full-time DH and move Avila to first, but a light-hitting first basemen is never attractive for an American League team.
Avila is entering the final year of arbitration and will be a free agent following the 2015 season. Sadly, it seems his long-term future in baseball, if he has one, is not in Detroit.
While I certainly don’t want to see Alex Avila retire, it would be nice to see him around and mentally active 40 years from now. He is married, has an 18-month old daughter, and has made a good living during his baseball career.
Some things are bigger than sports.