So here’s some bad news:
Mac Williamson will not be coming off the disabled list tomorrow. Bruce Bochy said he's still "woozy," which indicates he's still dealing with concussion symptoms.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) May 6, 2018
To recap Williamson’s situation very quickly, on April 24 he stumbled over a bullpen mound at AT&T Park while chasing down a foul ball and slammed hard into the wall, with his head taking the worst of it. In his next at bat, he hit the eventual game winning home run, but was eventually removed from the game. Over the next couple days he seemed fine, but developed enough symptoms for the team to place him on the 7-day concussion DL. Over the next week, reports were that he felt well, but as he was working out before the game Saturday, well, here’s another tweet:
Mac told Bochy he felt a little woozy after workout. So he’s not back soon. Back issue for Moronta. #sfgiants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) May 6, 2018
It’s a good thing that the concussion DL exists and it’s a good thing that the Giants put Mac Williamson on it. If you think, “They would have been cautious with him! He hit his head pretty hard, so I’m sure the team would have ensured his health by putting him on the regular DL instead.” I can understand why you would think that. But let me take you back to the heady days of June 2016, when Joe Panik got hit square in the helmet by a Matt Moore fastball and later won that game with a ninth inning home run. What did the idiot who recapped the game conclude after those two events?
Joe Panik didn’t get hurt after being hit in the head with a pitch
That idiot thought that Joe Panik was fine because he hit a home run several innings later. And so did the Giants! Panik started the next seven games, and eight of the next nine, before he finally went on the DL with clear concussion symptoms. It took him a month after going on the DL to get back to the majors, and he really wasn’t the same for the rest of the year.
And without the 7-day concussion DL, that could have happened again this year. Players have a way of gritting their way through some of the symptoms of concussions because they think it’s no big deal and they want to play. Take, as one example, 2016 Joe Panik:
“The entire time, I was having some concentration issues, especially with my vision ... I was kind of just playing on it, figuring the cobwebs would kind of shake. It never went away ... The vision started getting worse, headaches started getting a little worse ... everything really started to set in.”
Do you think Mac Williamson, who was swinging an incredibly hot bat and feeling fantastic at the plate, would have let a headache slow him down? No, if he had the option, he’d have said that he felt fine and he wanted to play, and the team would have let him, because as far as they would have known, he wouldn’t have any symptoms.
Instead of that happening, the team gave him a week off. Because the team gave him a week off, he didn’t exacerbate his concussion by participating in athletic activities with a concussion. Instead, he was closely monitored by medical professionals while taking care of his head as well as possible. I think we can all agree that that’s a much better scenario.
Obviously, not all of the credit for this progress goes just to the 7-day DL. It’s part of a general increased awareness of concussions and how serious their effects are, and without a commitment to taking concussions seriously, that new DL wouldn’t mean a thing. But as a symbol of how baseball is rethinking health, it’ll do nicely. And as a tangible way of prodding teams into action instead of leaving a guy on the roster for days and days while he heals, it is a positive step by itself.
In an ideal world, Mac Williamson would not have ever had a concussion at all. In this one, the best that baseball can do is minimize the incentive for him to play through it and hurt himself worse. It’s not perfect, but it sure is a lot better than things used to be.