In 2005, umpire Ed Hickox was hit by a foul ball behind home plate. It knocked his mask off as it hit him in the jaw and caused broken bones and a concussion. Hickox sued Wilson, the mask’s manufacturer. Yesterday a jury returned a verdict in his favor to the tune of $775,000.
The key thing in Hickox’s favor, according to his lawyer, was that Wilson didn’t do any testing of the mask before distributing them — for free — to umpires. Rather, they depended on those umpires using the masks as defacto field tests. Hickox’s lawyer uses the phrase “human guinea pigs,” which I’m guessing was the theme of his case at trial too. Always gotta have a theme.
I’ve been thinking about injurious foul balls Since Luis Salazar got hit in the head last week. Yesterday I spoke with someone who works in the game who is convinced that it’s only a matter of time before someone is killed by one. Probably a fan. That’s another topic from this Hickox business of course — and I’ll be writing more about it soon — but all of this news combined with a week of walking on baseball fields close players as they hit and throw makes one realize that it’s damn dangerous down on that field. We don’t think about this very often as we see little white balls fly around on TV as though they are weightless, but a baseball can do a lot of damage.
Gives you a new appreciation for the batters who stand in there, the pitchers who stand in the direct line of fire — often unable by virtue of their follow through to defend themselves — and the catchers and umps who are nicked, banged, and battered multiple times a game.
Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.
While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.
Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”
Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.
If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.