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What, exactly, are we supposed to do to prevent Aroldis Chapman-style injuries?

Mar 20, 2014, 8:53 AM EDT

aroldis chapman getty Getty Images

The scene from Arizona in which Aroldis Chapman was smacked in the face by that Sal Perez comebacker is simply awful. He had literally no time to react and, while the latest reports from the hospital are encouraging, it may be a while before Chapman is pitching again. And there is no guarantee that the injuries and the experience won’t change him. Just terrible stuff.

Baseball fans and commentators haven’t had much time to react either, but they’re reacting all the same. Here’s a column from 2AM this morning — just a couple hours after the incident — from Fox’s Jon Paul Morosi:

But the sad reality is, as a practical matter, pitchers aren’t much safer now than on Sept. 5, 2012 — when Brandon McCarthy, then with the Oakland Athletics, was hit in the head by a line drive . . . Whatever engineering expertise needs to be mustered — and however large the checks that need to be written — an $8 billion industry should be able to find the answers . . . And so the next step is both obvious and imperative: Baseball must find a way to offer its pitchers a little more protection, to lessen the chances of our national pastime witnessing the worst kind of tragedy.

I sympathize with the sentiment, but I’m not sure what exactly is so obvious about the next step. At least in any specific terms. As Morosi himself notes, a helmet wouldn’t have protected Chapman here and even if it would have, pitchers have uniformly rejected the new reinforced cap that was introduced this spring. If we can’t easily or practically put helmets on guys in the line of fire (and I acknowledge the difficulties in doing that) it’s not going to be any easier to develop or mandate things like masks, face guards, reinforced rec-specs or whatever else may cut down on the risk to pitchers.

And if they were to mandate such measures, it’s not like we’d see a safer game overnight. Practical considerations would mean that any significant new equipment — especially ones that would mess with a pitcher’s comfort, vision and range of motion — would mean that they’d have to be grandfathered in. Kids who pitch with face masks in little league now would probably be the first generation that could reasonably be expected to do so when they’re 25 years-old and playing in the bigs. You can’t expect Clayton Kershaw to wear one of these next week.

I’m not one of those people who just blithely throw up their hands and say “accidents happen, that’s life in baseball!” But I do believe it’s way easier to say “we must do something!” than it is to actually solve a problem like this. Or, really, to even define a problem like this. Believe me, if it was, it would’ve been addressed long before now.

  1. theebbandflow - Mar 20, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    Put a one way force field in front of the pitcher that vapourises and comebacker. Only make it as high as the pitcher on the mound though so they can catch pop-ups.

    I bet the US Navy already have this technology. Come on Bud – pull some strings.

  2. coffeeblack95616 - Mar 20, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    This is one of the reasons why they are paid so much! Some jobs just have more risk. We try to manage it, but simply put: accidents happen. Luckily these days we have the medical expertise to heal from such injuries. Bottom line is that this is and has been for over 100 years part of the risk. Deal with it.

  3. bchagnon - Mar 20, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Just use one of these:

  4. stercuilus65 - Mar 20, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    White ball hits black player…. Craig should into this. Inanimate racism is a seriously under looked problem.

  5. motobus - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:02 AM

    who’s we?

  6. csiegert4 - Mar 21, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    This drives me nuts. Has a death EVER occurred in the MLB from someone getting hit? I mean that’s over God knows how many pitches. There is absolutely no reason to legislate based on statistical anomalies. This almost never occurs. The other part, is that it’s going to be pretty much impossible without putting up an L screen. You can’t pitch in a mask, that would cause more problems with getting hit elsewhere when you would have originally been able to defend yourself via the glove. It’s just not possible. We live in a world where overreaction is commonplace when something bad happens. Sometimes bad stuff happens…and yes, it would be awesome if we could stop it from happening, but it’s impossible. Player injuries from getting hit with a baseball are not common, AT ALL, so let it go and chalk it up to a freak accident.

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