June 19, 2013
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Monday, September 10, 2012
I’ve always been reluctant to make it mandatory for pitchers to wear protective headgear, especially helmets, which are clunky and might not stay properly in place due to the violent nature of the pitching motion. But now, after the Brandon McCarthy situation, I’m ready to change my mind, at least partially.
McCarthy, a talented right-hander who has been part of Oakland’s surprising starting rotation, is now in stable condition after undergoing brain surgery to relieve an epidural hemorrhage, a brain contusion, and a skull fracture. Yet, he remains in a potentially life-threatening situation several days after being hit in the head with a line drive off the bat of the Angels’ Erick Aybar. Given the seriousness of his injuries, it is time for Major League Baseball to seriously consider protective headgear for pitchers.
Pitchers are fewer than 60 feet, six inches away from home upon delivery of the ball; the reaction time is incredibly small, even for elite athletes like major league pitchers. Based on a sampling of opinion from other writers at The Hardball Times, the average line drive comes back at the pitcher at about 80 to 85 miles per hour. The line drive that caromed off the right side of McCarthy’s head last Wednesday could have been going even faster, perhaps 90 or more mph. (The speed of a home run ball is generally 100 mph or faster.) Given that many pitchers are off balance and not in fielding position at the conclusion of their motions, it is unrealistic to expect most pitchers to be able to evade a line drive targeted for the head.
I’m still concerned about the awkward nature of a helmet, especially one that could shift during the process of winding up and throwing, and so could affect the pitcher's line of vision. Perhaps a better solution would be to fit pitchers with a protective liner worn under the cap. It’s true that the liner wouldn’t protect the face or the ears, but it would at least cover the top part of the skull.
Jackie Robinson wore a leather liner under his cloth cap during the '40s and '50s, out of fear that some headhunting pitchers had racist motivation. More recently, fiber or plastic liners were worn by a few position players in the 1970s: Bob Montgomery, Tony Taylor and Norm Cash come to mind as the last three players to bat without helmets. Though I’m not sure if any of the three were actually hit in the head with pitches during their careers, the bottom line is that all three escaped the game without serious injuries to their heads.
I think it’s time to do something before one of today’s pitchers has to endure what McCarthy is experiencing. Or worse. One of these days, we’re going to see another fatality related to an on-field happenstance, something that will be a tragic sequel to Ray Chapman in 1920. And right now, the pitchers are the most vulnerable people on the field; they are the ones that need the most help.
Rays 6, Rangers 0: That, my friends, is B.J. Upton. Three homers for big brother and a two-hit shutout for James Shields. This will make Rays fans feel really good until Texas bounces them easily in the Division Series again.
Marlins 8, Nationals 0: The Nats have not won a game since they shut down Stephen Strasburg!!! OK, we'll wait a couple of days to go all-in with that, but believe me, we're ready. Anyway, Ricky Nolasco with the four-hit shutout. It's the second time he's shut out the Nats in two weeks. And he also -- everybody now! -- helped his own cause by doubling in two runs.
Cubs 4, Pirates 2: This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper. Been a nice season anyway, Pirates, but if you get swept by the all-but-dead Cubs, yeah, sorry.
Cardinals 5, Brewers 4: Norichika Aoki hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth to force extras, but the Cards avoid the sweep with an RBI single from Allen Craig in the 10th. Carlos Beltran hit a homer, ending an 0 for 14 slump. The Brewers are still surging overall, winners of 15 of 20.
Angels 3, Tigers 2: Six straight for the Angels, who are now within one game of a Wild Card slot. Detroit: 4.5 out, though still only two behind the White Sox in the division. Two days in a row with a leadoff homer for Mike Trout, who is going to be on the cover of every single baseball preview, fantasy review, etc. next winter and spring.
Athletics 4, Mariners 2: Tommy Milone struck out 10 in six innings and Jonny Gomes hit a three-run homer. Oakland continues to stay atop the Wild Card standings avec Baltimore. Speaking of Baltimore ...
Yankees 13, Orioles 3: The O's got whupped. Curtis Granderson pulled a Dante -- he wasn't even supposed to be here today -- but came off the bench to homer and drive in five. Only thing better would be if his number was 36. Wait, 37.
Braves 3, Mets 2: Chipper Jones pinch hit in the ninth, walked and was lifted for a pinch runner, and then the Mets fans cheered for him. Very classy move. The man in the blue and gray pajamas, Dude.Worthy f*&%$8n' adversary. A Brian McCann homer in the 10th secured the sweep. Atlanta has won five in a row.
Twins 8, Indians 7: A walkoff jack for Justin Morneau. It was his second homer of the game. Three hits for Joe Mauer. It's almost like those two could form the core of a contender.
Padres 8, Diamondbacks 2: Chase Headley hit a grand slam -- his 27th homer of the season -- and Andrew Werner gave up one run over six. Headley passes Ryan Braun for the NL RBI lead with 102. It'd really be somethin' for a Padre to lead the league in RBI.
Astros 5, Reds 1: The Astros may be deadsville, but they beat up both Aroldis Chapman and Johnny Cueto in this series, and not a lot of people can say they did that this year. Matt Dominguez hit a three-run homer. He has three home runs this year. All of them have come against the Reds.
Royals 2, White Sox 1: Chicago dropped two of three to Kansas City and now goes on to play the Tigers. It seems like neither of them wants to win the AL Central this year.
Phillies 3, Rockies 2; Phillies 7, Rockies 4: John Mayberry hit the game winning single in the ninth, but he had to wait at first base before he knew it was official because Carlos Gonzalez dove for it, looked like he caught it, but then it squirted out of his glove. Took a minute to get the call right, but the umpires ruled that, yes, it was a hit. They also called Mark Teixeira out at first base. They take the nightcap too. Philly has won four in a row and is six back in the Wild Card race. I guess stranger things have happened.
Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3: I took the kids to see "Paranorman" on Saturday. There were fewer walking dead in that flick than there are on the Red Sox roster now. The Jays swept the Red Sox. The go-ahead run was on an Omar Vizquel sac fly. Omar Vizquel, by the way, is not getting gifts at every park he visits on his last go-around like Chipper Jones is.
Giants 4, Dodgers 0: Six and a third shutout innings for Barry Zito, and the bullpen continued the job for the rest of the game. Buster Posey hit a homer, but really dude, you need to shave that thing you think is a beard. It's all neck. It's OK to have a baby face. No one thinks less of you.
One hundred years ago today, on Sept. 10, 1912, a pair of Hall of Famers made their major league debuts: pitcher Stan Coveleski and shortstop Rabbit Maranville.
The day was much more successful for Coveleski. Pitching for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s squad, Coveleski appeared in relief against the Tigers in a game the A’s lost, 8-6. I have no idea how he did on that day, but two days later he came back and threw a complete-game shutout against the Detroit Tigers featuring stars Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford.
Though Coveleski had a nice day, he wasn’t able to repeat his success. He had two starts and three relief appearances on the year and, aside from the Sept. 12 shutout, allowed nine runs in 12 innings. Yeah, that ain’t getting it done.
Dissatisfied, Mack released all claims to Coveleski and let him return to the (then independent) minor leagues. Coveleski would kick around for three full seasons before getting a shot with the Indians in 1916. This time, Coveleski made the most of it and stuck around to stay, winning over 200 games including four consecutive 20-win seasons.
Unlike Coveleski, Maranville didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy on Sept. 10, 1912. He got his feet wet, and that was about it. Then again, also unlike Coveleski, Maranville stuck around.
He’d play in 26 games in 1912, and though he barely hit above the Mendoza Line for the Boston Braves, his glove was so good, the team kept him around. Maranville ended up playing 2,670 games in the majors for several National League teams, and people considered him the best fielder of his generation.
As it happens, five other players debuted 100 years ago on this day, but the others are entirely unremarkable. Of that quintet, the most substantial career belonged to Willie Jensen, who appeared in six games. In fact, Jensen was the Detroit starting pitcher that beat Coveleski’s Philadelphia team. Until 1916, Jensen looked like a bigger success in baseball than Coveleski.
The other debuting athletes all played for the Indians. The Indians fell down 8-0 by the middle of the third in an 11-2 loss, so they felt they could spend time looking at their kids. Two of the debuting players—both pitchers—never made it into another big league game: Ernie Wolf and Jim Neher.
Wolf had a rough outing, allowing six of Washington’s runs. Neher actually did well, retiring every batter he faced in a scoreless inning of relief. But the Indians had no use for him, anyway. In fact, neither man even pitched in the minors after 1912. Life took them in other directions, I guess.
But for Coveleski and Maranville, life took them to the Cooperstown after their big league debut, and that first game for each was exactly 100 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversaries or “day-versaries” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things:
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