Those new, stronger batting helmets are now mandatory

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The press release is out and with the games starting this weekend, new batting helmets will be on every head:

– Beginning with the start of this week’s Spring Training exhibition games, Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc. … and its new S100® Pro Comp™ batting helmet will become the standard throughout Major League Baseball®. The mandatory implementation of Rawlings’ technologically-advanced batting helmet is outlined in the 5-year collective bargaining agreement signed in November 2011 by MLB and the MLB Players Association™. Rawlings is the Official Batting Helmet of Major League Baseball.

In non-press release speak, those are updated versions of the carbon fiber helmets which were introduced a few years ago and were worn by players like David Wright, who were coming back from concussions. But there’s a big difference: they are much smaller than they used to be, back when people called them “Great Gazoo” helmets or whatever. Even last year, when they weren’t yet mandatory, the helmets were smaller.

Ken Belson of the New York Times has an in-depth story on the helmets. How they’re better, how they’re made and all of that.

Good for baseball for trying to stay ahead of the game in player safety.

Dan Straily suspended five games, Don Mattingly one for throwing at Buster Posey

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Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Marlins pitcher Dan Straily has been suspended five games and Don Mattingly one game for throwing intentionally at Giants catcher Buster Posey on Tuesday in San Francisco. Straily plans to appeal his suspension, so he will be allowed to take his normal turn through the rotation until that matter is settled.

Everything started on Monday, when the Marlins rallied in the ninth inning against closer Hunter Strickland. That included a game-tying single from Lewis Brinson, who pumped his fist and yelled in celebration. Strickland took exception, jawing at Brinson who was on third base when the right-hander was taken out of the game. Strickland went into the clubhouse and punched a door, breaking his hand.

The next day, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez hit Brinson with a fastball, which prompted warnings for both teams. The next inning, Straily hit Posey on the arm with a fastball, which led to immediate ejections for both him and Mattingly.

Neither Rodriguez nor Giants manager Bruce Bochy were reprimanded, which is ludicrous because it was plainly obvious Rodriguez was throwing at Brinson. But neither team had been issued warnings. Essentially, Major League Baseball is giving free reign for teams to get their revenge pitches in. Furthermore, Straily’s five-game suspension is hardly a deterrent for throwing at a hitter. The Marlins could simply give Straily an extra day of rest and it’s like he was never suspended at all.

Beanball wars are bad for baseball. It puts players at risk for obvious reasons. When players have to miss time due to avoidable injury, self-inflicted (in the case of Strickland) or not (if, for example, Posey had a hand or wrist broken from Straily’s pitch), the game suffers because it becomes an inferior product. That’s, of course, second behind the simple fact that throwing at a player is a tremendously childish way to handle a disagreement. When aimed intentionally at another human being, a baseball is a weapon. That’s especially true when it’s in the hands of someone who has been trained to throw anywhere from 90 to 100 MPH.

Commisioner Rob Manfred has spent a lot of time trying to make the game of baseball more appealing, such adding pitch clocks and limiting mound visits. He should spend some time addressing the throwing-at-batters problem.