The good news is that it sounds as though Brandon McCarthy is going to be ok. The news about his recovery, after having his skull fractured by a wicked line drive back to the mound has been generally positive and he's even back on Twitter being more or less hilarious. Disaster was, for a day at least, averted.
But what about the next screaming liner through the box? What about the next pitcher to get struck by a ball while he's vulnerable? Is he going to be so lucky? Odds are, eventually, someone's luck is going to run out and somebody is going to have their career permanently altered like Herb Score did back in 1957.
The injuries sustained by McCarthy have led Dustin Parkes and Craig Calcaterra both to wonder whether the "pitching helmet" is a realistic option in this day and age. There already is one on the market, but would players use it and what would its effects be on a pitcher's safety and mechanics? It's hard to argue with Craig's central point that, given the opportunity, Major League pitchers will eventually almost all be using one.
This is going to drive self-proclaimed purists crazy. We're sissifying the game, they'll argue, by placing our pitchers' safety above ascethetics (yes, the helmet looks a little silly). All of which is patentedly ridiculous.
Safety innovations have been a part of the game since the sport's beginnings. Players used gloves both to avoid errors and to protect their fingers from getting broken. Catchers made their gloves bigger and more padded, plus they added masks and chest protectors and shin guards. Players added baseball caps to reduce the glare and allow them to pick up the balls quicker. Batters used a plastic lining in their caps, then a helmet, then a helmet with ear flaps, and now a mega helmet, designed to help prevent concussions, is available. They also used batting gloves to protect their hands, elbow pads and knee braces, and ankle guards. Heck, even cleats are differentiated for use in dry weather and wet, in part to reduce injuries.
And then there's the difference in the field itself. Wood, brick, and concrete walls have given way to padding and owners have almost completely done away with artificial turf in favor of grass. Indeed, at every turn, Major League Baseball has taken steps to make its players safer and safer. So let's not pretend that allowing pitchers to wear a helmet of sorts is going to suddenly turn the game into rhythm gymnastics.
There's no doubt that pitchers are vulnerable on the mound. And there's no doubt that, for as dangerous as it is for a batter to get hit in the head with a pitch, it's many times more damaging when a pitcher gets hit. Pitchers have less time to get out of the way than batters do, are often in an exposed position, and the speed of the ball back to the mound combined with the pitcher's lack of safety equipment makes any potential injury they might suffer far more devastating.
And it's not as though we'd need pitchers to immediately make the change either. It could be a gradual process by which pitchers currently on 40 man rosters are allowed the choice to use them (while use is mandated in the minors). Or, even better, simply make them available to pitchers in the same way that elbow guards are available to hitters who want them, and allow the market to dictate whether pitchers will want them. Where is the harm in giving players the option to be safer if they want to take it? It's worked for every single other piece of baseball equipment that's been developed over 150 years, after all.
Pitcher of the Night: Kyle Kendrick, 7 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 R
Hitter of the Night: Alex Rios, 2-4, HR, 2B, R, 3 RBI
Rios is having his best year since 2008, which is only reminding me that Alex Rios is way older than I always think he is. He's 31. That's kind of amazing. If I'm not thinking about it, I'd instinctively say he's still 26. I have no idea why. The guy stopped aging for me at some point. Still, given his past, you have to be really nervous about him still having two more seasons at $12.5 million per.
Injuries of Note:
Lance Berkman, Knee surgery
This certainly sounds like the end of Fat Elvis's distinguished career. He was tremendous in 14 seasons, and far too often overlooked as one of the best hitters of his generation. He will finish 47th all time in OPS+ and 73rd in wOBP. And he's one of 17 players to finish his career with an OBP above .400 and a slugging percentage above .540. Nice job.
Mark Teixeira, Irritated calf
Nationals: Gio Gonzalez, 6 IP, 3 H, 5 BB, 6 K, 1 R
19 wins for Gio, and while pitcher wins are stupid, that's a stupid amount of wins this year. I did not see this season coming from him.
Twins: Samuel Deduno, 7 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 6 K, 2 R
Twins: Pedro Florimon, 2-4, 3B, 2B, 2 R, RBI
This is the curse of being out of contention and playing the kids, such as they are. Some of them are bound to do well. Deduno continues with his inexplicable success, and despite having walked 40 batters (and struck out 42) in 64 innings, has a 3.66 ERA and will almost certainly be penciled in for a spot in the 2013 rotation. Twins shortstops as a whole have hit .231/.284/.308 on the year, but Florimon has far exceeded that and may have worked himself into the team's plans in 2013, despite being a glorified utility infielder. If the Twins don't acknowledge reality (which history suggests they won't do), they'll tout both as major components of the club next year, and act all surprised and outraged when neither fulfills the unrealistically lofty expectations.
Rockies: Alex White, 4 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 R, 1-1, HR
White seems to have figured out this 4 man rotation business. Since August 1, he's got a 3.41 ERA. But, of course, he hasn't gone more than 4 innings in any start, and he has zero pitcher wins in that span. Arbitration is gonna but super fun for these Rockies pitchers if they keep using this system. White also hit his first career homer.
Brewers: Norichika Aoki, 2-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI
The probably futile run for the 2nd wild card continues, as Brewers have now won 16 of their last 21. Aoki has been huge in that stretch, hitting .316/.380/.532 with two homers, nine doubles, 16 runs scored, 11 RBI and six stolen bases. He also made a terrific throw to nab Martin Prado at 3B. Milwaukee is now five back of the Cardinals for that last spot.
Angels: Dan Haren, 6.1 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 4 K, 3 R
A's: Jarrod Parker, 7 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 R
Haren seems to have righted the ship, but the Angels are essentially done in the AL West. They'll have to hope for that last Wild Card spot, which they're currently a half game out of. Down both Colon and McCarthy, the A's soldier on.
Pirates: Pedro Alvarez, 0-6, R, BB, 4 K
I know he's played better of late, but this will always be the Pedro Alvarez I think of first. Four strikeouts, seven left on base, including three in the 14th, when the bases were loaded and he grounded into a 3-2 forceout. Thanks to the Padres, they're still only 2.5 games back, but dammit somebody has to step up other than Andrew McCutchen.
Padres: Cameron Maybin, 3-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI
.245/.312/.347 on the year. Someday, science is going to figure out what the hell, with Cameron Maybin. He should be so much better than he is.
Look, I respect you too much to talk about anything in the Cubs win over the Astros. You don't care and I don't care. They still play each other five times. Ponder that.