Baseball is ready to institute two big changes to the game in the 2014 season, so might as well make it three. Protective headgear for pitchers could be ready for use next year, says Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who suffered a skull fracture and needed brain surgery after being struck in the head by a line drive in 2012.
It's McCarthy's belief that the headgear would be optional —that makes sense — but nonetheless it would be a big change for baseball, which is also instituting a new instant replay/challenge system and working to ban home-plate collisions.
McCarthy has been involved in the work to develop headgear for pitchers since his injury. Last season, he said there was nothing acceptable. Sounds like there have been advances, though, because now McCarthy tells Fox Sports' Jimmy Traina:
"They're coming," McCarthy said of the headgear. "From everything I know they'll be available this year. I don't believe they're going to be mandatory. Actually, I'm almost certain they won't be mandatory.
"I did get a chance to sit down with the head MLB doctor last year during spring training, who's overseeing the whole thing, and it has been a high priority for them. It's just that there has been very few answers. We both agreed on it not being mandatory at the time, there's just no need to do that. But whatever gets proposed has to be correct or we're not really doing too much."
An MLB spokesperson then told Fox Sports:
"One product that has passed the testing standards should be available to players for next season. We are still evaluating a number of other potential products. Our conversations with the MLBPA are ongoing. We expect this issue to continue to evolve, but we believe this is an important first step."
Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie shared this picture on Twitter after the news spread, which at first glance looks comical. But it sounds like it's actually one of the proposed products:
— Jeremy Guthrie (@TheRealJGuts) December 19, 2013
There are a number of sports fans who will be upset by this turn of events. They'll say the game is losing its way. Or they'll join the chorus of upset football fans who think we're going too far to protect players (geez, imagine that). McCarthy heard the outcry immediately — might as well watch T-ball, one complainer said — and sent out a tweet with his typical sardonic humor.
Apologies in advance to all the people who will be put out by something that has absolutely nothing to do with them.
— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) December 19, 2013
After watching McCarthy get hit with the liner, then seeing similar things happen to J.A. Happ and Alex Cobb last season, it's obvious that something needs to be done to protect players, or at the very least give them an option to protect themselves. Allowing the headgear to be elective makes such a drastic change easier to swallow. But in 2013 in pro sports — be it MLB or the NFL — it's clear that we need to pay more attention to head trauma.
If that means people at home will groan because pitchers will have the choice to wear headgear or because the league has banned violent collisions, then groan away.
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