Here’s the worst take you’ll likely ever see on netting at the ballpark

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There has been much discussion about extending the protective netting at major league parks over the past few years. Many teams have, in fact, extended their netting either voluntarily or in response to Major League Baseball’s “guidelines” encouraging clubs to extend it, issued a few years ago.

There has been no mandate for clubs to do so, however. MLB isn’t requiring extended netting. Some local governments, such as the city of New York, have made noises about requiring extended netting, but as of yet nothing has come of it. Courts which for decades have held that fans assumed all risk of foul balls and flying bats, have started to soften that stance on that somewhat, but there has yet to be any sort of definitive ruling which has forced clubs’ hands.

In light of all of that, it’s wholly inaccurate to characterize the topic of netting at the ballpark as some sort of nanny state or top-down authoritarian effort. It’s a largely organic movement inspired by many factors. Partially it’s about seats being closer to the field and some high profile incidents involving batted balls and flying bats. Partially it’s about the concern of liability on the part of teams resulting from those things. Mostly, though, it’s the result of everyone involved — teams, clubs, players, fans, public officials — realizing that it’s not a good thing for people to be injured by flying projectiles and seeking, in fits and starts, to find the best way to deal with it. Almost all efforts to this end have originated, in fact, with the clubs or leagues themselves, which are of course private entities, not the government or the courts.

But don’t tell that to Johnathan Tobin of The Federalist. He believes that extending netting is tyranny, to be blamed on “smart phones, trial lawyers, and the rise of the nanny state.” He argues that  the effort is depriving fans of good views and depriving teams of revenues from expensive seats which he believes to be depleted once those seats are placed behind nets and made less desirable. He does not, however, note that the most expensive and desirable tickets in ballparks are those behind home plate, which have been protected by netting for over a century. Guess that would mess with his argument.

Most of his argument, though, seems to hinge on (a) fans being responsible for their own injuries at ballgames; and (b) those injuries being an acceptable cost of doing business. It’s a dumb argument on one level, in that he and people who parrot this stuff vastly overestimate their ability to focus on the game 100% of the time and their ability to react to a ball traveling at 100 m.p.h.

It’s also a shockingly callous argument, especially given his acknowledgment of the dire consequences being hit by flying projectiles can have for those who we do not, legally, expect to assume the risk like everyone else and who we’d never expect to pay attention as much as we do or to react to the ball even as quickly as we do: children.

No decent person can look at a picture of an injured child, or anyone else who absorbed the impact of a ball or bat, without compassion. But at the heart of this issue is whether the state ought to regulate voluntary conduct because of the chance that someone might be hurt, particularly when the chances of a mortal injury are statistically insignificant. Records indicate that only one spectator has ever been killed by a ball or bat while attending a professional baseball game. But if you believe it is the obligation of government to prevent even one fatality every half-century, that decides the question.

That’s what happened in ice hockey when a freak accident in which a child was killed by a flying puck in 2002 forced the National Hockey League to erect vast nets at both ends of rinks. There had been no fatalities before that and none since, but it also meant that a great many spectators must now put up with viewing the game through an obstruction.

While it has become cliche to offer “won’t someone think of the children?!” arguments in response to every potential risk, Tobin’s explicit dismissal of the risk to children — including the death of Brittanie Cecil, the girl he references in that second paragraph who died when hit by a puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game — is twisted. They’re not the ones hiring lawyers or looking at cell phones during games. Tobin’s blanket “hey, you should just pay attention, folks” argument does not speak to them nor should it.

Beyond that, it’s impossible to read this piece as anything other than paint-by-numbers ideological conservatism which cares little for the reality on the ground. It’s all here, really:

  • Fear-mongering about the “nanny state” despite 95% of the effort of extended netting at ballparks being driven by private companies making relatively informed decisions and weighing tradeoffs;
  • Fear-mongering over “out of control trial lawyers” — note his ignorant shoutout to the McDonald’s coffee case at the end, a sure sign of a man who does not know what he’s talking about — despite there being little if any successful litigation related to batted-balls;
  • Rejection of reality — reality in which people, in practice, rarely if ever complain about netting and which teams and players all like it — in favor of some theoretical impingement on “freedom,” which the author believes to be constantly imperiled;
  • Concern over the theoretical profits of corporations despite the fact that there is little if any risk to baseball teams’ profits due to the extended netting. Again: the most profitable and expensive seats at ballparks have always had netting in front of them.

I am the last person who will ever tell someone to stick to sports or to politics or to whatever subject in which the author happens to claim expertise. But if you’re going to inject your political obsessions into a sports story, you had best know what the hell you’re talking about first. Tobin obviously doesn’t in this instance and obviously doesn’t care. And as such, he should be ignored on this topic.

McCutchen’s sacrifice fly lifts Pirates to 5-4 win, extends Athletics’ road losing streak to 15

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PITTSBURGH – Andrew McCutchen’s tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth inning lifted Pittsburgh to a 5-4 victory over Oakland on Monday night, extending the Pirates’ win streak to six games and sending the Athletics to their record-tying 15th consecutive road loss.

The 15 straight defeats away from home matches the Athletics’ record since they moved from Kansas City in 1968. Oakland set that mark in 1986.

The major league-worst Athletics (12-50) have lost five games in a row overall. They are on pace to finish the season exactly 100 games under .500 at 31-131.

“It’s tough,” Athletics manager Mark Kotsay said. “Tonight’s game, we didn’t play well enough to win the game. I don’t want to say we gave the game away but there were a lot of instances where we had a chance to capitalize on opportunities and didn’t do it.”

McCutchen also singled and drew three walks to go with two RBIs. The 2013 NL MVP now has 1,998 career hits.

With the score tied at 4, Ji Hwan Bae led off the decisive eighth inning with a single off Sam Moll (0-3) and advanced to third on Austin Hedges’ one-out single. McCutchen’s sac fly plated Bae.

“I was just trying to get the job done. I understand the situation there,” McCutchen said. “We just need to get the run. I was trying to bear down against a hard thrower and trying to get that run in as much as I can, and I was able to do it and have a good at-bat.”

Angel Perdomo (1-0) retired both hitters he faced. and Colin Holdeman pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his first career save. It was an eventful inning for Holderman as the first three batters reached base, but he struck out Carlos Perez with runners on the corners to end it.

“I began my career as a starting pitcher in the minor leagues but ever since I was switched to relief, this has been the goal, to get a save in the big leagues,” Holderman said.

Pittsburgh starter Johan Oviedo gave up three runs and four hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

Oakland left-hander JP Sears did not allow a hit until Mark Mathias’ leadoff single in the fifth but was unable to make it through the inning. Sears was charged with one run in 4 2/3 innings while allowing two hits, walking five and striking out six.

Sears has not allowed more than two runs in five consecutive starts. His nine no-decisions are the most in the major leagues.

Ryan Noda and Brent Rooker had two hits each for the Athletics.

The Athletics tied the score at 4-4 in the eighth inning on pinch-hitter Aledmys Diaz’s run-scoring double. Oakland left the bases loaded, though, when Nick Allen hit an inning-ending flyout.

Consecutive bases-loaded walks keyed a three-run sixth inning that put the Pirates 4-3. McCutchen and Bryan Reynolds each worked bases on balls off Shintaro Fujinami to tie the score at 3-all and pinch-hitter Jack Suwinski followed with a sacrifice fly.

The Athletics opened the scoring in the first inning when rookie Esteury Ruiz reached on catcher’s interference, stole his MLB-leading 30th base of the season and scored on Noda’s single. Seth Brown doubled in a run in the third and came home on Perez’s sacrifice fly to push Oakland’s lead to 3-0.

Connor Joe hit an RBI double for the Pirates in the fifth.

The Pirates drew 10 walks, their most in a game in nearly two years.

“We had a bunch of opportunities that we didn’t capitalize (on), but the thing I think I was most proud of is we got down and we didn’t rush to get back,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “We were still patient.”


Athletics: LHP Kirby Snead (strained shoulder) is expected to pitch in the Arizona Complex League on Tuesday, which will be his first game action since spring training. … RHP Freddy Tarnok (strained shoulder) will throw a bullpen on Tuesday.


Pirates catching prospect Henry Davis was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis from Double-A Altoona. In 41 games at Double-A this season, the 23-year-old hit .284 with 10 home runs and seven stolen bases.

“He was performing offensively at a level where we felt like he was more than ready to meet the challenges,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said. “He improved as an offensive player even since spring training, focusing on the things we were challenging him on. Defensively, he’s made strides too.”

Davis was the first overall selection in the 2021 amateur draft from the University of Louisville.


Athletics RHP James Kaprielian (0-6, 8.12 ERA) will make his first start in June after taking the loss in all four starts in May and face RHP Mitch Keller (7-1, 3.25). Keller has eight or more strikeouts in seven consecutive starts, the longest streak by a Pirates pitcher in the modern era (since 1901).