Bill Baer

FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2013 file photo, author Stephen King poses for the cameras, during a promotional tour for his latest novel, 'Doctor Sleep', a sequel to 'The Shining', in Paris.  King's latest novel is out. "Revival" is being released Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, and King will be in New York City to mark the event. His six-city book tour travels from New York City to Washington; Kansas City, Missouri; Wichita, Kansas; and Austin, Texas, before wrapping up on Nov. 17 in South Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
AP Photo/Francois Mori

Stephen King doesn’t like the netting at Fenway Park


Author Stephen King penned a column for the Boston Globe, published on Sunday, in which he argues against the protective netting installed at Fenway Park. As a result of some recent incidents in which fans have been severely injured by foul balls and shattered bats, Major League Baseball recommended that teams extend the netting at their ballparks.

The change wasn’t met with a warm welcome, but players seem to like it. King’s concerns about the netting echo what has already been said by scores of fans and ultimately I find his arguments not very compelling. I’d like to address his arguments.

According to a Bloomberg News report, 1,750 fans are injured in game-related incidents every year. That’s more than the number of batters hit by pitches (about 1,500, according to the Elias Sports Bureau). But almost 74 million fans attended MLB games in 2015, so the chances of being struck by a piece of bat or a foul line drive are pretty slim. Right up there with getting struck by lightning, I’d say.

The risk may be low, but it’s non-zero. Perhaps King doesn’t feel like it’s worth taking precautions for such a low-risk event, but his risk tolerance — in general, or just on this particular issue — may be greater than others’. The odds of transferring a life-threatening illness with unwashed hands is relatively low, but we still as a society expect each other to use soap and water after visiting the restroom.

There are questions inherent in the decision to net, and I think they’re bigger than baseball. Like when does protection become overprotection? Is the safety of a fan at a public event like a baseball game the responsibility of the organization putting on that event? (According to the back of every MLB ticket sold, the fan is responsible.) When do safety precautions begin to steal away the pure joy of being there?

We could let the free market decide, right? I’m no free market advocate, though most seem to be. If fans stop showing up because the netting makes the viewing experience so unpleasant, then teams will take down the netting. Most likely, though, fans will complain about it for a short while, but then they won’t even notice it. One typically has a screen behind paned windows in a house — how noticeable are the grids on those screens when you’re looking through them, even close-up? Same thing.

Also, Craig wrote about the “back of the ticket” issue a couple years ago. It’s a legal “safe harbor”, to use Craig’s term, that’s gradually been made weaker, especially with all of the prompting to use your cell phones at ballparks these days. Get out your cell phone to check out the MLB app, or order food, or take a picture of your ticket to enter a raffle, or provide feedback about your experience. Hey, check out what’s on the big screen in the left field bleachers! Hey, look at that dancing mascot! What game? The ballpark experience is one of myriad distractions and it’s quite unfair to pin all of the responsibility for that distraction on the fan.

That netting may be a fine mesh, but you’re still looking through a barrier instead of right at the thing you came to see. Which means you’d do almost as well to sit home watching the game on TV.

Isn’t it selfish to say that other fans should have to endure risk to preserve King’s pristine viewing experience? Why can’t he sacrifice an infinitesimal amount of viewing pleasure to keep his neighbors — the ones he wrote about glowingly in the second paragraph of his column — assured of their safety?

But if we are not to be a nation of overgrown children being cared for by various forms of the MLB brass (“for our own good,” of course), we have to take at least some responsibility when we attend a public event.

This is the most-cited argument used by netting detractors. In a perfect world? No one is distracted at baseball games because they got a text message or needed to get another level in Candy Crush. In the real world, though? Sometimes people have loved ones in the hospital and they’re getting status updates, or the boss sends an urgent work e-mail, or the nephew just wanted to say hi. Sometimes your neighbor in the seat next to you wants to chat about the Patriots or show you a picture of his son in a Little League game. Just because one looks down at a phone for a couple of seconds doesn’t mean one deserves to be hit in the skull by a line drive foul ball. King didn’t say this explicitly, but it’s the implication of every “personal responsibility” argument.

Sometimes parents bring their young kids to games. Should we expect a five-year-old to sit still and focus on the game for three and a half hours? Should we expect those parents to never break focus when their kids try to scamper off elsewhere, or spill a soda, or get mustard all over their coats? You can take all of the personal responsibility you want, sometimes you’re still going to get distracted. You should be able to be distracted without fearing that a life-threatening missile could soon be headed your way.

Also, there’s something almost ludicrous about wrapping America’s baseball stadiums in protective gauze when any idiot with a grudge can buy a gun and shoot a bunch of people. I’d much rather see some action taken on that little problem.

This is a false choice. They’re not even related, and we can tackle both issues!

King closes out his column saying that he’s still going to show up to Fenway Park everyday anyway. If the netting is really such a big deal, speak with your wallet. Don’t attend games. If most fans feel the way King does, then this should make teams take notice. My guess is that King won’t even notice the netting a couple weeks from now.

Video: Chris Davis nails game-winning homer, helps Orioles to record start

Baltimore Orioles' Chris Davis watches his three-run homer along with Boston Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart in the ninth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Monday, April 11, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

For the first time in team history, the Orioles have begun a season 6-0, and they can thank Chris Davis.

The Orioles went into the top of the ninth inning at Fenway Park tied 6-6 with the Red Sox and had the unenviable task of facing closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel, however, was having trouble finding the strike zone as he walked two batters while getting two outs. He went ahead 0-1 to Davis, but left a 97 MPH fastball over the plate and Davis demolished it to straightaway center field, 449 feet away, to put the O’s up 9-6.

The Red Sox didn’t go down quietly, as Mookie Betts led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run off of closer Zach Britton, but it wasn’t enough and the Orioles won 9-7.

There was an awkward infield fly rule situation in the Padres-Phillies game

Philadelphia Phillies' Darin Ruf hits a two-run home run off New York Mets relief pitcher Sean Gilmartin during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Remember in 2012 when the Wild Card game between the Braves and Cardinals was decided in part when the infield fly rule was invoked? Here’s a refresher video:

A similar situation happened in the sixth inning of the Phillies’ home opener against the Padres on Monday. The Phillies had the bases loaded with no outs when Darin Ruf stepped to the plate against lefty reliever Brad Hand. Ruf swung at the first pitch and hit a fly ball to shallow left field. Wil Myers couldn’t see where the ball was, so shortstop Alexei Ramirez ventured into the outfield to attempt to catch it. He didn’t, but he quickly picked the ball up and fired to third base where Odubel Herrera was tagged out.

The infield fly rule, however, had been invoked. Not only was Herrera out, but Ruf was out too. The play was reviewed to see if Herrera was indeed tagged out and the ruling was upheld. The only problem was that the infield fly rule never should have been called.

Also, as Phillies broadcaster Ben Davis pointed out, Herrera likely never heard third base umpire Will Little, which is why he went into third base standing instead of sliding. So not only should Little not have made the call, but since he did, he should have been very emphatic about it. The Phillies wound up scoring just the one run in the inning.

That being said, the Phillies have also not shown great base running in the early going. Herrera hit a pop-up on Friday against the Mets and the infield fly rule was correctly invoked. Cesar Hernandez, however, was caught in between first and second base, helping the Mets turn a double play.

Jose Bautista isn’t sure if a hot dog is a sandwich

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

With the Blue Jays off on Monday, outfielder Jose Bautista went to Twitter Canada and took questions from fans on Twitter. Because it’s the Internet, people used the opportunity to ask him about anything other than baseball, including my personal favorite, “Is a hot dog a sandwich?”

Bautista doesn’t know if a hot dog qualifies as a sandwich or not. He said, “I don’t really know if it matters. All I know is they’re delicious and they sell ’em at stadiums. I don’t think it matters if they’re a sandwich or not.”

A hot dog is most certainly a sandwich, Jose.

Cubs acquire Geovanni Soto from the Indians

Cleveland Indians pitcher Giovanni Soto throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning during an exhibition spring training baseball game in Goodyear, Ariz., Friday, Feb. 22, 2013.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

The Cubs announced the acquisition of pitcher Geovanni Soto from the Indians in exchange for cash considerations. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Cubs transferred Kyle Schwarber to the 60-day disabled list.

Soto, 24, made his major league debut last season and made six appearances spanning 3 1/3 innings. He recorded neither a strikeout nor a walk. Soto spent most of the season with Triple-A Columbus, compiling a 2.68 ERA with a 51/29 K/BB ratio in 53 2/3 innings.

Schwarber, sadly, suffered a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee when he collided with teammate Dexter Fowler in the outfield on Thursday against the Diamondbacks. He’ll miss the entire 2016 season.