Oven Mitts? That's what the Washington Nationals are using to protect both Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, essentially. With Harper coming back on Monday after missing eight weeks rehabbing from thumb surgery, it appears he's wearing the mitt to protect his hand on the bases, though nothing is known about why Zimmerman is also wearing it. Dan Steinberg has a good picture, but there's not enough of a look to tell what this is or why.
A few weeks ago, Billy Hamilton wore something like this that was more of a sliding glove. He was asked to take it off by an umpire and I haven't seen it since, so I can't tell if this is similar. Harper and Josh Hamilton accentuate the risk of sliding, though Hamilton is more old school, reminding us that stealing bases like Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman does come with a toll on the body.
If the new mitts or sliding gloves or Alex Torres' hat are a sign, it's that we are at least seeing a little safety innovation on the field. It may be a very early stage, but there are a few new things out there that with some iteration could make the game better. Losing one of the top stars for two months isn't good for the game. Perhaps the next commissioner will put together some sort of X Prize for safety, putting a bounty up for anyone who can put together something that can save the game millions.
For now, we have plenty of injuries to look at as we continue on the record pace of pitcher and overall injuries. As we near the halfway point of the season, the injury stats are stark that this is perhaps the one area of the game where innovation and creativity could have a real impact. Are we at a tipping point? I can't tell, but I do feel more awareness. For now, let's look around the league...