On Tuesday night, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ took a Desmond Jennings line drive off the head and had to be carted off the field. We asked our panelists if this incident will finally lead to action on MLB's part in terms of regulating the use of protective headgear by pitchers.
1. Should pitchers wear protective headgear?
David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield), SweetSpot: I don't believe they should be required to wear headgear. The number of incidents is still relatively few. Once practical headgear is available, give the pitchers the option to wear it, sort of like helmet visors for NHL players.
Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick), ESPN.com: I think it's difficult to force them to wear it if they're not comfortable with it. I was in spring training when Brandon McCarthy made his comeback, and he said he doesn't think any of the inserts available right now are very good. Once a manufacturer devises a product that protects pitchers without being intrusive, they'll start using it of their own accord. As McCarthy so aptly put it, "I just want something that's functionally approved by me.''
Eric Karabell (@karabellespn), ESPN Fantasy: I think it should be up to the individual pitcher if they choose to wear headgear. It could be as simple as donning a batting helmet in the field, much like John Olerud used to. It might not prevent serious injury, but let's be clear, this is a rare result, too. I hope Happ is fine, but it's a predictable conversation when the truth is there's little evidence baseball has a major issue on its hands.
2. Whether you think they should wear it or not, is it inevitable that it happens?
Schoenfield: Inevitable? Sure, maybe in 30 years. But even then, headgear won't protect the face or jaw. I was at a game years ago when Kirby Puckett hit a line drive off the jaw of Mariners pitcher Steve Shields, shattering his jaw. You could hear the impact in the second deck. Headgear wouldn't have helped him. So unless you're talking about a full-on plastic shield or NFL helmet -- which seems unlikely -- injuries are still going to happen.
Crasnick: Yes. While headgear might reduce the number of incidents, some injuries are inevitable. Bryce Florie took a line drive off the face and suffered multiple broken bones and a serious eye injury. A protective insert wouldn't have helped him. Unless pitchers throw from behind a screen or wear face masks, there's only so much baseball can do to protect them.
Karabell: I don't think it's inevitable at all, though it can't hurt to have extra safety measures. It took a tragic result to first base coach Mike Coolbaugh to change minds and result in headgear rules for base coaches, so getting ahead of the game to prevent this for pitchers is wise. But again, there will be backlash from some as well. It's part of the game, they'll claim.
3. Will Bud Selig's lack of action on this issue mar his legacy?
Schoenfield: I don't think so. I would suggest that figuring out a way to outlaw home-plate collisions is the more important issue for baseball. Line drives up the middle can be dangerous, but they're part of the game. Home-plate collisions don't have to be part of the game.
Crasnick: No. I can understand Selig taking some heat for the PED era or baseball lagging on instant replay. But players have to sign off on something like this, so the union and its membership would have to meet MLB halfway. It's simply not in the commissioner's purview to issue a mandate requiring all pitchers to wear protective headgear.
Karabell: No, this issue will have little to do with Selig's legacy. Frankly, there are many other things more prominent, and it's tough to tell what the player's union really wants.