At this rate the MLB will signify “major lacerations and bruising” and not Major League Baseball.
Another unprotected child — a 4-year-old girl — was hospitalized last week when she was hit by a line drive foul by Cubs’ outfielder Albert Almora Jr. as she sat in the field level seats at a Houston Astros game. She was sitting about 10 feet past the protective netting that extends to the end of the dugout.
The girl, who was conscious but in tears, was quickly whisked to a hospital, but we haven’t seen a condition update. Almora, the father of two boys, was in tears, too.
He dropped to his knee and had to be comforted.
“As soon as I hit it, the first person I locked eyes on was her,” Almora said. “I want to put a net around the whole stadium.”
So do we. From foul pole to foul pole.
So should baseball. And they should extend that down to the minor leagues as well. Another child, this one a young boy, was hit in the face by a foul ball just a couple of days later during an Indianapolis Indians game on Saturday night as he was sitting along the first base line.
He, too, was carted off to the hospital on a gurney.
And there will be more such carnage this year, we guarantee it.
Last year we lauded MLB for ordering all teams to expand protective netting from home plate to the end of the dugouts. That came after other episodes of serious fan injury and two unsuccessful efforts by the MLB Players Association to get ballparks to extend netting to the foul poles.
The Cubs-Astros game underscores the need for that.
Club owners and executives have been slow to move on this, in part because they have long been financially protected against lawsuits by the “assumption of risk” doctrine.
That’s the fine print on your baseball ticket that says the bearer of the ticket — that’s you — assumes all risks and dangers in watching the game.
It dates to 1913 and is nicknamed the “baseball rule.” Under it, lawsuits against ball clubs rarely succeed.
There are fans opposed to expanded netting, too.
Some think it obscures the view of the action on the field, but the protective netting — while effective and durable — is so fine that it’s not uncommon for baseball fans to wonder aloud if they are actually behind netting.
Some don’t want to give up the chance for a souvenir — a free baseball. There will still be plenty of souvenirs to be had from the pop-ups and fly balls that carry over the nets — but they won’t be the potentially lethal line drives that put people in the hospital.
And some say it is the fans’ fault for not paying attention to the game as they sit with their heads locked into cell phones and not on the field.
Others blame parents for taking a young, easily-distracted child into seats close to the field.
But the fact is, too, that the ball clubs have bought into the cell phone craze with their own apps that provide updates, live streaming and other information to augment the “fan experience” at the ballpark. They also have loaded stadiums up with jumbotrons, electronic zippers and other signage to keep fans entertained. Baseball has always been a game built on numbers and statistics — particularly now in the “Moneyball” era. So here are some statistics to add to the argument over extended netting: An analysis by Bloomberg five years ago found that 1,750 fans are injured each year by foul balls and broken bats.
That study also noted that the previous year 1,536 batters were hit by pitches.
To put the fan injury rate in perspective, that means there are almost two fan injuries for every three baseball games. The stats also tell us that with $8 beers and seat prices that average $33, Major League ball clubs can probably afford to protect their fan base and keep them out of harm’s way by running the nets to the foul poles.
If they need cash for that, they could probably take it out of the jumbotron account or maybe skip a bobblehead night giveaway or two. If a fan is so intent on getting a souvenir baseball, he can probably pick one up in the ballpark gift shop. That way it won’t have blood on it.