When St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran snatched away a potential David Ortiz grand slam in extremely nonchalant fashion in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday, it was initially hailed as a potential game-changing catch. As the game went on however, it became clear that while this catch would not change the 8-1 rout for the Boston Red Sox, it will have a huge effect the rest of the series for all the wrong reasons.
The reason why Beltran looked so nonchalant while tracking the ball and swinging his arm over the fence to catch it is that he simply did not see the impending wall. As a result, the right fielder’s body hit the wall while he was still running back, throwing something loose in his midsection. Manager Mike Matheny took him out of the game before he had another chance to bat, and the outfielder required a trip to the hospital.
One would normally write this injury off as an outfielder not being aware of his surroundings near the wall, but in the case of the right field fence at Fenway Park, it is becoming clear that this is not the case. Throughout the season, fans have watched multiple outfielders with great defensive acumen slam into it at high speed and receive injuries that would alter their team’s fortunes.
The first player to get injured courtesy of the right field wall in 2013 was Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino, who slammed into the fence while tracking a home run in May. Even at a rather small height of 5-foot-9, it was clear that Victorino simply had no clue the wall was there, and he paid for it with cracked ribs and an injured back.
This injury would hamper Victorino for nearly the entirety of the regular season, and although some would say it paid off by keeping him from switch hitting, it is clear he would rather not have to deal with having to crash into the wall again.
Next up in the line of injuries was Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter, who ran into the wall at full speed in Game 2 of the ALCS while running after another Ortiz fly ball. Hunter ultimately did not catch the ball, flipping over the fence that he did not know existed and landing over his head in what turned out to be a magical grand slam for the Red Sox slugger.
The moment was clearly not quite so magical for Hunter, who was noticeably shaken up after the game even if he did not want the press to know it.
After watching not one or two, but three players become victims of a short right field wall in Fenway Park in 2013, it is clear that something must be done. The common sense thing to do in response to this would be to raise the fence by a foot and a half, therefore ensuring that it would be at eye level with nearly every player in baseball.
Doing so would in effect make sure that no player is at risk of getting injured from an outdated fence that no outfielder can honestly claim to see while tracking balls in the outfield.
A decision like this would surely be met with some eye rolls and statements that it detracts from the history of Fenway Park, but health triumphs history at some point. After all, if health did not matter, we probably would not have helmets yet; because hey, who needs those?