Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New batting helmets

A few days ago, it was announced by Major League Baseball that Rawlings' S100 batting helmet, which has already been used in little leagues across the country, will now be required in the minor leagues starting next season. Six helmets have also been sent to each major league team to try out for the rest of this season. The helmet is designed to better protect players from head injuries caused by beanings and foul balls. In response to all of the star players - including Scott Rolen, David Wright, and Edgar Gonzalez - that have gone on the DL this season after being hit in the head, Major League Baseball felt like it needed to remedy the problem as soon as possible. The S100s are heavier and use an extra-thick layer of polypropylene foam on the inside to help withstand direct impact of fastballs up to 100 mph.

This story came to my attention when I was watching the FOX Saturday game and saw Ryan Dempster wearing a huge helmet that made him look even goofier than usual. He said that it made him feel like "a Smurf" and that it was "my own bobblehead day." Dempster, along with several columnists and players, feel that these helmets will not be received well because they are much heavier. A ballplayer spends his entire playing career perfecting his swing based on repetition of motion and constant factors, e.g. balance, hand position, weight - any disruption of this will take some getting used to. Football and hockey players probably felt that today's required padding was bulky and inconvenient at the time, but in hindsight it has probably saved hundreds of careers, if not lives.

The unfortunate part of the story is that as of right now, there doesn't seem to be anything being investigated for pitcher protections. Hitters at least have a helmet and are in a position to react. There have been many pitchers that have had their careers cut short after getting hit with a line drive, and Joe Martinez is lucky to still have his life after what happened to him on April 9th. It's also clear that catchers and umpires could use a new case study in their current padding. There are the sudden-impact cases like Mike Matheny's of 2006, but there are also many unofficial reports floating around about cases involving retired catchers and umpires that suffer head trauma from years of repeated glancing blows and foul tips, much like a boxer. The bottom line is that baseball will always be a very fast and dangerous game, and injuries will still occur, but for every Tony Conigliaro or Mike Coolbaugh case that can be prevented, these new helmets and any future equipment improvements will be worth it.

Brewers 64-66, -12.0, -7.5 wild card (3 @ Cardinals, 3 v. Giants, 3 v. Cardinals)
Reds 58-73, -18.5, -14.0 wild card (4 v. Pirates, 3 @ Braves, 4 @ Rockies)
Twins 62-63, -3.5 (3 v. White Sox, 3 @ Indians, 4 @ Blue Jays)

Erik - 41 (+21 worked)
Peter - 56

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