Maybe it would have happened anyway. Maybe if Brandon McCarthy hadn't suffered a life-threatening injury when struck on the mound by a line drive, pitchers would be considering protective headgear anyway. Or maybe not. What we do know is that we'll probably see such headgear this spring. From FoxSports.com Thursday morning:
"They're coming," McCarthy said of the headgear. "From everything I know they'll be available this year. I don't believe they're going to be mandatory. Actually, I'm almost certain they won't be mandatory.
"I did get a chance to sit down with the head MLB doctor last year during spring training, who's overseeing the whole thing, and it has been a high priority for them. It's just that there has been very few answers. We both agreed on it not being mandatory at the time, there's just no need to do that. But whatever gets proposed has to be correct or we're not really doing too much."
When reached for comment on this possibility, an MLB spokesperson said, "One product that has passed the testing standards should be available to players for next season. We are still evaluating a number of other potential products. Our conversations with the MLBPA are ongoing. We expect this issue to continue to evolve, but we believe this is an important first step."
The only problem with the headgear? How it looks.
"It looks ridiculous and we get so used to the way things look," said McCarthy, who recently took a picture of himself with the headgear on and sent it to other pitchers in the league. "You mentioned the new football helmets and batting helmets, everything looks silly until it doesn't look silly anymore."
Well, yes ... but those silly-looking new batting helmets? The silliest of them were mandated in the minors in 2010, but few major leaguers ever wore them. It wasn't until last season that new, significantly safer helmets were required in the majors ... and those were significantly less silly-looking. Catchers have largely adopted the hockey-style masks, but I suspect that's because of their appearance, not despite it.
But headgear for pitchers is coming, and eventually it will probably be mandatory, and yes we'll get used to it. Someday it's going to save a pitcher's career or even his life, even if we don't know it. And McCarthy deserves a great deal of credit for taking the lead on this things.