Major League Baseball ‘will keep examining’ protective netting policy

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Yesterday a child was injured by a line drive foul ball at the Cubs-Astros game. It’s, unfortunately, an old story. Even more unfortunate is Major League Baseball’s old response. From the Associated Press:

Major League Baseball said Thursday it will keep examining its policy on protective netting at stadiums a day after a young fan was struck by a foul ball and hospitalized . . . MLB said in a statement it sends its “best wishes to the child and family involved.” It noted that clubs have “significantly expanded netting and their inventory of protected seats in recent years,” and the league will continue its “efforts on this important issue.”

A reminder on Major League Baseball’s “efforts” on this issue in the past.

In December of 2015 Major League Baseball released a recommendation — not a mandate, just a suggestion — that teams provide expanded netting. Teams were “encouraged” to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate. At the same time, they launched “fan education” guidelines about where to sit and whether or not they’ll be protected. While these recommendations were better than nothing, the fact that it (a) punted the matter to individual clubs; and (b) stressed the responsibility of fans to protect themselves as opposed to the league mandating protective measures, made those efforts to appear to be far more geared toward diminishing the liability of the league than actively protecting fans from screaming projectiles.

In the wake of the league’s recommendations only a few teams immediately extended their netting, primarily because if you ask a business to do something but say it is not required to do anything, it is not likely to do a thing.

It would not be until September 2017, after a baby girl, just shy of her second birthday, was severely injured after a foul ball flew off the bat of Todd Frazier and into the Yankee Stadium stands along the third base line where she was sitting. The girl suffered multiple facial fractures and had bleeding on the brain. The stitches from the baseball left a mark on her forehead and her eyes were swollen shut due to the impact. She spent five days in the hospital. That, rather than league action, inspired the rest of baseball to extend protective netting. All 30 teams had such extended netting by Opening Day 2018.

That expanded netting is certainly no panacea. There are still large areas of seats which are both unprotected and where screaming line drives may fly. Leagues in other countries, most notably Japan, have protective netting that is far more expansive than the typical Major League team. There is nothing requiring clubs to do more than that what they are doing. Indeed, there is nothing to require clubs to even do as much as they are doing. To the extent Major League Baseball policy has a policy to “keep examining,” it’s not much more than a suggestion.

In the meantime, Major League Baseball will continue to promote the sport by featuring the triple-digit exit velocities of batted balls and pushing fan entertainment and concession options through cell phone apps and video boards which, by design, take a fan’s focus off the field. No word on whether that will be “examined” as well.

 

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

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NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.