On August 12th, the New York Times published an article detailing the new Rawlings S100, which offers better protection than current helmets. They feature dual earflaps, and can withstand 100 MPH impacts (hence the name), compared to current helmets which can only withstand a 70 MPH fastball before being compromised. As you can imagine, the player response to this new helmet is mixed.
David Wright was one of the player's who endorsed the helmet, saying:
"If it provides more protection, then I'm all for it. I'm not worried about style or looking good out there. I'm worried about keeping my melon protected."
I bet he wished he had taken his own advice after he took a 94 MPH fastball from Giants pitcher Matt Cain just above the earflap. Wright lay dazed on the field for several minutes before leaving the field in an ambulance. While CT scans were negative, the Mets have admitted that he may miss the rest of the season. This is not surprising considering Padres second baseman Edgar Gonzalez is still having severe post-concussion symptoms three weeks after taking his own 93 MPH heater to the noggin.
While you never want to see anyone get injured on a play like this, hopefully it will serve as a wakeup call to some players. With all of the attention recently given to intentional bean balls and guys getting hit in the head, players may reconsider a bit of extra protection. They seem to have no problem wearing body armour on their arms and legs, but anything that protects their brain is considered wussy. I do not get it. Take for example Wright's teammate Jeff Francoeur:
"No, I am absolutely not wearing that. I could care less what they say, I'm not wearing it. There's got to be a way to have a more protective helmet without all that padding. It's brutal. We're going to look like a bunch of clowns out there."
Even after the game Francoeur seemed set in his ways. I guess ballplayers are their own special breed.
The final thing I want to discuss that is relevant to this is the way the Mets reacted. In the seventh inning Johan Santana threw behind Pablo Sandoval in retaliation (who has been the target of multiple bean balls recently). Sandoval then took Santana deep, so he plunked Bengie Molina. Unbelievably, Santana was not ejected. I do not understand how a pitcher who throws behind one batter and then hits the next can stay in the game, even if he is a respected guy like Johan Santana. The intent was obviously there as once again Jeff Francoeur shot his mouth off, saying "When the third-hole hitter gets dosed in the head, you got to comeback at them a little bit." I think home plate umpire Brian O'Nara made the wrong call on that one, but I doubt the issue will go any further with MLB.
Bottom line, all of this throwing at guy's heads needs to stop, and the players need to turn down the macho attitude and start protecting themselves better. It was only two years ago that Rockies minor league base coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed by an errant foul ball, and I hope we do not have to see the day when a batter is killed by a fastball to the head, like Indians shortstop Ray Chapman almost 90 years ago.