Major League Baseball has approved of a padded baseball cap that will be available for all pitchers who choose to wear them. The cap is designed to protect pitchers from line drives that could seriously injure them.
Despite the best efforts of the MLB, it is impossible to keep pitchers safe because of the nature of the game.
Standing 60 feet and six inches from someone who can hit a baseball over 100 miles per hour is inherently dangerous, and a padded cap is not going to change that fact.
Just a week ago, Cincinnati Red’s flamethrower, Aroldis Chapman, was hit in the face with a liner that left him dazed on the mound. He needed surgery and will be out for two months because of damage to his eye socket and cheekbone. He also sustained a concussion. Brandon McCarthy and J.A. Happ both sustained serious head injuries in the past two years because of line drives that struck them in the head below the baseball cap. Even if the three players had been wearing the new padded caps, the damage would have been the same.
Isoblox, the company that produced the new caps, claims that the hat offers protection from line drives that are moving up to 90 miles per hour, which is similar to the speed a ball is thrown to home plate.
A baseball moving 90 miles per hour can be avoided, just as batters avoid pitches that come hurling toward their heads when they stand in the batter’s box. Pitchers don’t need protection from balls they can dodge.
If a baseball comes off of the bat at 90 miles per hour and goes directly at a pitcher’s head during a baseball game, the pitcher simply ducks and the ball sails into center field. The crowd may gasp, players on the bench may flinch and the pitcher may even take a slow walk around the infield to collect his thoughts, but essentially no harm is done to anyone.
The problem is with the liners that come off the bat so hard, no one can react, leaving the pitcher laying on the ground with a concussion while the batter stands in the box, shocked and unable to run to first, just like Chapman a week ago. Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate this horrific event from baseball. It is the worst part of the game, but a part of the game nonetheless.
The padded cap weighs three times as much as a normal baseball hat, and several players, including McCarthy, have said that the hat is uncomfortable and would hinder their ability to pitch effectively.
These guys make millions of dollars to get hitters out, which means they need to be as comfortable as possible on the mound. These padded hats are not going to help pitchers locate their fastball or catch the outside corner with an off-speed pitch. These padded hats are not going to help them dodge hard-hit balls and they are not going to protect a guy that gets hit by a ball moving fast enough to do any significant damage. A hat covers less than 50 percent of a pitcher’s head and most pitchers that are hit with line drives are hit in the neck or the face, not the top of the head.
The only thing that will keep MLB pitchers completely safe is retirement. Baseball is a dangerous game, and there is nothing we can do about it. For hundreds of years, guys have said a quick prayer, stepped on the mound and hoped for the best. A hundred years from now they’ll be doing the same thing, whether they are wearing padded caps or not.
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