Spec­ta­tors need pro­tec­tion

Los Angeles Times - - INSIDE BASEBALL - BILL SHAIKIN ON BASE­BALL bill.shaikin@la­times.com Twit­ter: @Bil­lShaikin

The pain has not gone away, seven years later. Nei­ther has the metal in­side her body. Sur­geons needed that metal to put her jaw back to­gether, af­ter a way­ward frag­ment of a bro­ken bat slammed against the left side of her face.

Su­san Rhodes has made what progress she can since that aw­ful night at Dodger Sta­dium. Af­ter that hor­ri­fy­ing scene at Bos­ton’s Fen­way Park on Fri­day night— awoman in­jured by a bro­ken bat, put on a stretcher and rushed to a hos­pi­tal, where she­was in se­ri­ous con­di­tion Satur­day— it is past time for base­ball tomake all the progress it can on keep­ing fans as safe as pos­si­ble.

It is past time for an in­dus­try that takes in $9 bil­lion a year to buy a few­more nets.

The league man­dates pro­tec­tive net­ting be­hind home plate. If net­ting had been ex­tended to the end of each dugout, where plenty of line drives and bro­ken bats land, nei­ther Rhodes nor the woman at Fen­way Park­would have been in­jured.

In 2008, the year Rhodes was in­jured and bro­ken bats be­came an epi­demic, base­ball iden­ti­fied the core con­cern as the rise of maple bats— three times more prone to shat­ter­ing than the tra­di­tional ash bats— and im­posed design stan­dards in­tended to minimize the risk of bro­ken bats.

Since then, the num­ber of bats break­ing into mul­ti­ple pieces has dropped by half, MLB spokesman Mike Tee­van said Satur­day. Based on the 2008 num­bers, that­would mean about 750 bats would snap into pieces this sea­son. They would not all fly into the stands, of course, but why would MLB op­pose ad­di­tional net­ting that might save a fan from se­ri­ous in­jury or death?

In Ja­pan, that net­ting is man­dated. In 2008, Com­mis­sioner Bud Selig said hewould not or­der ad­di­tional net­ting be­cause he did not con­sider it a “prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion” and pre­ferred to fo­cus on what he called “the root cause” of the bro­ken bats. Within the in­dus­try, there is some con­cern that more nets could mean less in­ter­ac­tion be­tween fans and play­ers, and that some fans might be dis­grun­tled with the aes­thet­ics.

Rob Man­fred, who re­placed Selig as com­mis­sioner this year, is ex­pected to re­view whether ad­di­tional net­ting might be in or­der, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with his think­ing but not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss it. The only of­fi­cial com­ment from MLB on Satur­day came in a state­ment of­fer­ing thoughts and prayers for the­woman in­jured at Fen­way Park and grat­i­tude for the first re­spon­ders.

“Fan safety,” the state­ment con­tin­ued, “is our fore­most goal.”

Rhodes sued the Dodgers, at the very least to re­coup her med­i­cal costs.

“She ended up with a whole lot of noth­ing for her trou­ble,” her at­tor­ney, Alan Ghaleb, said Fri­day night.

The law stood firmly be­hind the Dodgers, un­der the “as­sump­tion of risk” doc­trine. Trans­la­tion: We warned you of the risk, on your ticket and at the ball­park, and you de­cided to take that risk.

“That is ab­surd,” Ghaleb said. “It could be lethal.”

As base­ball em­braces tech­nol­ogy, its le­gal po­si­tion could be­come in­creas­ingly pre­car­i­ous.

Teams want fans to bring smart­phones to the ball­park, not just to scan a bar code in place of a ticket, but to en­hance the nine in­nings.

Want to or­der food that can be de­liv­ered to your seat? Look down. Want to take ad­van­tage of in-sta­dium spe­cials on con­ces­sions and mer­chan­dise? Look down. Want to see all the re­plays, just like the fans at home? Look down.

That is dif­fer­ent froma fan not pay­ing at­ten­tion. That is the team di­vert­ing the at­ten­tion of the fan.

Andthat could be an enor­mous fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity for base­ball, and a po­lit­i­cal one too. As Man­fred well knows, there is no short­age of elected of­fi­cials who would love to gen­er­ate a few head­lines by sum­mon­ing him to ex­plain why the league does not take a rea­son­able con­sumer safety mea­sure. Think of the chil­dren!

Or the league could just go buy a few­more nets.

Pu­jols: Star watch

For the third time in four sea­sons, Mike Trout could be the An­gels’ lone All-Star rep­re­sen­ta­tive. That ap­pears bit­terly ironic, given that this is Al­bert Pu­jols’ fourth sea­son with the An­gels.

Pu­jols’ re­cent surge— six home runs in six games, tied with Trout for fourth in the Amer­i­can League in home runs, through Fri­day— sparked de­bate about whether Pu­jols might rep­re­sent the An­gels in the All-Star game for the first time.

“If that time comes, it comes,” Pu­jols said. “I’m not go­ing to worry about it. My­main fo­cus is on try­ing to help this club win. That’s it.”

But then Pu­jols said some­thing quite com­pelling, given the na­tional per­cep­tion that he has evolved from one of the great­est hit­ters in base­ball his­tory with the St. Louis Car­di­nals, with whom he was an All-Star nine times in 11 sea­sons, into a pretty good but no longer elite hit­ter with the An­gels.

“Look at the num­bers over the past four years, just the time I’ve been here,” Pu­jols said. “They’re right there with any­body else.”

Fromthe start of the 2012 sea­son, there are17 play­ers with at least1,000 at-bats whose pri­mary po­si­tion is first base, through Wed­nes­day. Miguel Cabr­era ranks first in ba­si­cally ev­ery­thing.

Pu­jols gen­er­ally fares bet­ter in tra­di­tional sta­tis­tics, the so-called “count­ing stats,” than in mod­ern mea­sures. The pri­mary dif­fer­ence: In St. Louis, af­ter his rookie sea­son, Pu­jols walked more than he struck out ev­ery year. In Ana­heim, he has struck out more than he has walked ev­ery year.

Of those17 first base­men, Pu­jols ranks sec­ond in dou­bles, third in hits and at-bats, fourth in runs, home runs, runs bat­ted in and slug­ging per­cent­age, sixth in bat­ting av­er­age, 11th in on-base per­cent­age and sev­enth in OPS.

Pu­jols has gone out of his way to men­tor Trout and to praise him as the kind of player that comes along once ev­ery 25 years. Trout said hewould love to have Pu­jols join him at the All-Star game.

“I’m pulling for him,” Trout said. “He’s a great team­mate and an un­be­liev­able player. He de­serves to be there.”

Short hops

Han­ley Ramirez made the most sense last off-sea­son as a des­ig­nated hit­ter. He­can no longer play short­stop in the ma­jor leagues, and the value of his bat is tem­pered by his fragility. But the Bos­ton Red Sox had David Or­tiz at DH, so they threw $88 mil­lion at Ramirez and sent him to left field at Fen­way Park, one of the most chal­leng­ing out­field spots in the ma­jors. Ramirez leads the team in home runs but, af­ter 45 games in left field, the re­views are in. “Han­ley Ramirez looks atro­cious in left field,” Peter Abra­ham of the Bos­ton Globe wrote last­week, “worse than even the most pes­simistic of pro­jec­tions.” And from Gor­don Edes of ESPN Bos­ton: “It can be ar­gued that Han­ley Ramirez is the­worst left fielder the Bos­ton Red Sox have ever had, tak­ing Manny Ramirez off the hook for eter­nity.” . . . The coolest thing about the Oak­land Athletics call­ing up switch-pitcher Pat Ven­ditte? MLB has Rule 5.07(f), ti­tled “Am­bidex­trous Pitch­ers.” The rule man­dates Ven­ditte an­nounce to each bat­ter whether he will pitch righthanded or left-handed, then de­mands the bat­ter to de­cide whether he will hit right-handed or left-handed through the at-bat. Ven­ditte threw two score­less in­nings in his ma­jor league de­but Fri­day; the A’s are in Ana­heim nex­tweek­end. . . . Con­grat­u­la­tions to Arn Tellem, the Los An­ge­les agent who has agreed to be­come vice chair­man of Palace Sports and En­ter­tain­ment, the par­ent com­pany of the Detroit Pis­tons. Tellem would have be­comethe Dodgers’ pres­i­dent three years ago had Steven Co­hen and not Mark Wal­ter posted the win­ning bid to buy the team.

Pa­trick Smith Getty Im­ages

PEO­PLE TRY to avoid get­ting hit by a fly­ing bat at a Bal­ti­more Ori­oles game in­May at Camden Yards.

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