Home MLB The risk of injury

The risk of injury

by Matt Smith

On Tuesday night I noted on Twitter that it was good to see BT Sport finding space in their schedule for a live MLB game on an evening when their coverage of full Champions League football was beginning.

BT Sport’s coverage of the two sports this week contained two painful moments.

On Tuesday night I was watching the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates and occasionally dipping into the Champions League action. At one point I switched over to the PSV-Man Utd game to see the dreadful sight of a player – United’s Luke Shaw, it turned out – prone on the pitch surrounded by medical staff in what was obviously a serious incident.

Shaw had suffered a double fracture to his right leg following a tackle by PSV defender Hector Moreno. It was a very poor challenge, yet prompted the usual defence that he didn’t mean to hurt his opponent. I’m sure it is a true statement; however all it tells you is that Moreno isn’t a complete liability who shouldn’t be allowed on a football pitch again.

Still, that seems to be the way it works in football. So long as the offender is judged as ‘not that sort of player’, the outrage doesn’t last for long.

Moreno’s challenge was forceful and reckless and had it not resulted in a bad injury then it would have been purely down to good fortune. It’s amazing how often players get lucky in similar situations and there’s a potential skewed assessment of risk involved here. Players and fans put a lot of store in the likelihood of a bad injury occurring seemingly being small and therefore accept the fact that there can be a huge impact if that risk does occur.

Shaw will be out for many months and will face doubts as to whether he will fully recover and come back as the player he was (or was developing into). Here’s hoping that he does.

Then on Thursday, in the final game of the Cubs-Pirates series, Pittsburgh’s Korean infielder Jung Ho Kang suffered a fractured tibia and torn meniscus when he was taken out at second base on a slide by Chris Coghlan.

Kang has been a revelation in his debut MLB season, brushing aside doubts over how his excellent performances in his native country’s baseball league would translate. It’s a terrible blow for him – and the many baseball fans in Korea so excited about their star player – that he will play no part in the rest of the Pirates’ season.

However, few players complained about it much, including Kang himself. Charging into second base to disrupt a potential double-play is considered not simply part of the game, but part of playing the game ‘the right way’. If that occasionally sees a player end up with a bad injury then that’s just accepted as an unfortunate consequence.

I know I’m not the only baseball fan who doesn’t quite see it that way, but to a large extent that doesn’t really matter.

Call it ‘the right way’, the ‘spirit of the game’, the ‘unwritten rules’; every sport has a code that the players create, endorse and uphold. That’s the way it should be as they are the ones playing the game and whose profession it relates to. Some fans may disagree with it at times, but unless it’s something so out of kilter that a groundswell of opposition forces the governing body to reassess, that disagreement is a side issue. This is the game and how it is played, if you don’t like it watch something else.

The trouble is that these rules, like most other things in sport, tend to bend when they come up against the rather one-eyed view teams have depending on which side of the matter they are on.

The Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon lashed out at the St Louis Cardinals on Friday for retaliating after pitcher Dan Haren hit the Cards’ Matt Holliday with a pitch. Intentional or not – and as someone who supports neither team I’ll put my largely unbiased view in the not camp in this case – St Louis saw fit to respond by hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch soon after.

Maddon was unhappy and had every right to be, it’s a ridiculous custom that teams deliberately pitch at players in this way, but there are plenty in the game who see it as a key way in which teammates are protected.  Whether Maddon agrees with the act or not, there will be times when his team decides to do the exact same thing.

So long as a player doesn’t get badly hurt by the practice then the potential risk of serious injury from it will be overlooked, just like a diving tackle or a hard slide. Let’s hope there’s a good reason for people to keep turning a blind-eye to it for a long time to come.

You may also like


Jamie Crompton September 23, 2015 - 11:20 pm

Veering a little off-topic here, but BT/ESPN’s transition to and from commercial is also painful at times – in one of the Cubs-Pirates games from that series, they went to the ads after 2 outs (not a pitching change) and missed the 3rd out. I guess they must have an intern in for the summer. Not a fan of the trippy coloured circles either, the old ESPN idents with baseballs, stadiums etc were much cooler and more relevant. It is good to still have a UK channel showing so much baseball, but I do get the feeling that BT don’t quite know how to promote the game.

Matt Smith September 26, 2015 - 10:12 am

Hi Jamie – It’s a similar issue to what made the BBC Radio coverage of MLB – although enormously welcome – a bit of a pain to listen to. They had to constantly dive out of the commentary as the latest item – line-up details, pitching change etc – was tied to a company promo. A bit annoying, but much better to put p with than to not have at all



Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.