This seems to be a recurring issue in baseball as of late – a pitcher getting hit in the head by a line drive that they simply cannot react to. This has already happened twice this year in games the Rays were involved in; the first when J.A. Happ got drilled by a line drive off the bat of Desmond Jennings, which resulted in a fractured skull. Last night, Alex Cobb got hit with a line drive from Eric Hosmer, again on a play that he had virtually no chance at reacting to.
The events of the past month have not been isolated incidents. Brandon McCarthy was hit by a line drive last season, and also had a fractured skull. He required emergency surgery to stabilize the break and to alleviate epidural hemorrhaging. And he is still suffering the effects of the injury, having had a seizure in a restaurant on June 10th, which was directly related to getting hit last season. In 2011, Juan Nicasio, making just his thirteenth start, was hit by a line drive, then hit his head on the mound. He suffered a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain and a fractured C1 vertebra for which doctors had to implant a permanent metal plate., but was somehow ready for the start of the 2012 season.
The list continues. In 2000, Bryce Florie was hit in the face with a line drive, fracturing his right cheekbone and orbital socket, and damaging the retina. he made it back, and got hit in the wrist by a line drive in his third appearance. He made seven more appearances in the majors after that, and was never the same. Herb Score had a promising career get derailed after getting hit in the face by a line drive. Dizzy Dean had his career effectively ended after getting hit in the foot by a line drive, which caused him to alter his mechanics, causing injuries to his elbow and shoulder.
Major League Baseball needs to implement some sort of protection for pitchers. After years of base coaches getting hit with foul balls, they finally made it mandatory for them to wear batting helmets after Rockies minor league third base coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed when a foul ball struck him in the head. Does someone need to die on the mound before this happens?
Even though Alex Cobb only suffered a mild concussion and is expected to be released today, it was still a frightening incident that occurs far too often. Enough careers have been derailed, and enough pitchers have been hit by line drives where something needs to be done. Granted, the MLB is looking into a padded lining to put in pitcher’s caps, but that is still considered to be some time away from being implemented. Yet, this is something that baseball may not be able to wait upon for much longer. It is time to figure out a viable way of protecting the pitcher before a situation such as what happened last night turns tragic.