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New helmets on the way

9/1/2009

Well, that certainly didn't take long:

    David Wright will return to the New York Mets lineup tonight, and he isn't taking any chances. He's planning to wear Rawlings' bulky, new S100 batting helmet if it arrives in time for the game at Denver's Coors Field.
    "If it provides more safety, then I'm all for it," the all-star third baseman told the Associated Press.

    The new helmet features a composite insert and an expanded, thicker liner. Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster wore it and said it felt like "my own bobblehead day."

    Minor League Baseball yesterday announced it will be required in the minors beginning next season, and Rawlings sent six new helmets to each major-league team for players to try it this year.

So then, that's it. Major League Baseball can't force the players to wear the new helmets. But (oddly enough) Major League Baseball can force minor leaguers to use the new helmets, and when the minor leaguers arrive in the majors they'll not feel any need to use anything different. Most of them won't, anyway.
Which is a good thing. Only one major leaguer has ever been killed by a pitched ball, and he wasn't wearing any helmet at all. Only a few major leaguers have been seriously maimed by pitched balls, and most of them weren't wearing helmets, either. But a fair number of players wearing helmets have been hurt badly enough to miss some days or weeks or even months, and this is just a slightly better world if nobody gets hurt that badly.

My only concern -- and this is just the necessary price -- is the moral hazard that comes along with better helmets. If pitchers believe that hitters' skulls are now almost perfectly protected, will they throw a few more fastballs up and in? Fastballs that will hit chins and cheekbones and eyesockets?

Yeah, they probabaly will. But it's a trade worth making, just as the trade was worth making in the 1950s and 1960s when batters finally started wearing the flimsy plastic helmets of the day.