Mac Williamson is back with the Giants and it’s off to a good start. His first and only game with the club so far this year saw career numbers for him, with four RBI and a home run. You’ll likely recall Williamson’s hot start to 2018, before his season was tragically derailed by a concussion. That same fate could be avoided for future players, if only the bullpen mounds were moved off the field. And Williamson appeared to be trying to make that a priority from the moment he rejoined the team in Colorado on Tuesday.
It’s often noted that one of the most unique features of Oracle Park is that the bullpen is not isolated away from the rest of the team, due to the on field mounds where relievers can jaunt to quickly from the dugout. This allows them to sit with the rest of the team, which is rare. But as nice as that is for the home and visiting relief pitchers, and for the fans who may enjoy getting to see those same pitchers up close, Williamson doesn’t think it’s worth the risk, noting the following, per Kerry Crowley’s reporting in The Mercury News earlier this week.
“Every park has its unique dimensions, unique design,” Williamson said. “I think (Oracle) Park has a view of the bay. It’s very special. It has a lot of unique features about it. In my opinion, I don’t think any feature is unique enough to put a player at risk. It’s not that cool or special or fun.”
He’s right, and it’s not just the injuries that have happened, but the ones that still could happen. It’s a threat to everyone involved, from the fielders attempting to make plays to the pitchers and catchers themselves who are warming up there. The potential for tripping, collisions, or a stray foul ball to the head, or really any number of things isn’t really worth it.
They’ve taken steps to ensure the safety of fans by putting up nets. They’ve taken steps to ensure the safety of players on the field by making rule changes for things like home-plate collisions and neighborhood plays.
So why not make changes that could prevent injuries to outfielders? They shouldn’t be willing to write off the outs that could be made there. Nor should they be willing to accept injuries that come with covering that territory. So the logical next step is to just move the bullpen.
Even if the organization may have said in the past that they don’t think they can, Williamson disagrees:
“What’s it going to take? Is it going to take somebody to seriously, seriously get hurt? Break a neck or something? For me, there’s room. Somewhere. If you take out some seats. Yeah, it sucks. You’ve got less capacity for fans, but you’ve got safety for players. You can’t say you don’t have room, in my opinion. There might not be an ideal spot for it. But at the end of the day, if it’s important enough to you, you’ll find it.
And he has a very real point. Here is the play that injured him last year. If the video doesn’t automatically start around 0:55, go ahead and skip to that:
My initial reaction while watching that play was “HOLY SMOKES DID HE BREAK HIS NECK???” because it very, very easily could have been a lot worse than it was. And it was bad. Williamson details his lengthy and difficult recovery process in an article from The San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year.
The good news is that the organization now seems willing to make the changes, but likely not until the off-season, which makes sense. That would be quite the undertaking to try to change while games are still being played.
But at least it seems possible, now, that no one else will have to go through the ordeal that Williamson did.