A little over a month ago, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ took a wicked line drive to the head off the bat of Tampa Bay Rays hitter Desmond Jennings. Fortunately, Happ suffered just a contusion and laceration to his left ear and was released after an overnight stay in the hospital.
With the latest injury suffered by Rays pitcher Alex Cobb, that time is now.
MLB can't afford to wait any longer.
In the top of the fifth inning in a game between the Kansas City Royals and Rays on Saturday, first baseman Eric Hosmer shot a line drive up the middle, striking Cobb in the area around his right ear. Cobb immediately dropped to the ground, grabbing the right side of his head.
He was carted off the field on a stretcher and taken to Bayfront Medical Center for evaluation.
#Rays announce Cobb was struck on right ear. He was taken to Bayfront Medical Center. He was concious the entire time.— RMooneyTBO (@RMooneyTBO) June 15, 2013
Within minutes, Twitter was flooded with calls for MLB to do more to protect pitchers.
Prayers go out to Alex Cobb... very scary scene at the trop in Tampa! MLB needs to do something to protect these pitchers!— Daniel Barrera (@d_barrera10) June 15, 2013
Said it before... Need to look at padded protective caps for pitchers. Maybe it can happen before someone dies? Prayers for Alex Cobb.— Eric Edelstein (@EricBaseball) June 15, 2013
Just saw the Alex Cobb injury. Would like to see MLB look into better helmets with face protection for batters + pitchers— Jacob Smith (@JTD_Smith) June 15, 2013
It seems obvious that fans are sick of MLB's relatively slow pace in taking action, especially considering the injuries suffered by Happ earlier this season and Brandon McCarthy of the Arizona Diamondbacks last September. McCarthy underwent brain surgery and has suffered from seizures as a result.
William Weinbaum of ESPN pointed out that MLB had been considering and testing padded caps. However, as of spring training, officials weren't satisfied with the designs being tested. Part of the problem, though, is that MLB must present options to the players union for approval first, and the testing of the caps at the time was said to be voluntary.
This shouldn't be voluntary—protective headgear for pitchers needs to be mandatory.
It took until the 1950s for MLB to require batting helmets—a full 30-plus years after Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was killed after taking a pitch to the head.
Modern-day baseball doesn't need to wait that long to institute mandatory protection for its pitchers. The incidents involving McCarthy, Happ and now Cobb should be more than enough evidence that the time is now.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.