While baseball adopted rules in 2002 to curb players adorning themselves as if they were about to enter a jousting match, players are still very much able to protect themselves to the extent they can hover over the plate without much trouble.
Such an ability puts the pitcher at a disadvantage to establish the inner part of the plate. Barry Bonds, the official home run king, crowded the plate with impunity thanks to a piece of gear that made it near impossible to verify he had an actual arm instead of a robot one.
Boston's own David Ortiz has a big piece of armor on his arm as well. While he's playing by the rules and should be taking advantage of the ability to strap up and hold his own on a 90-plus mph fastball barreling into the inside, it's not clear that the rules are working.
If the rules aren't working, the game doesn't become fun to watch. As Bryan Curtis of Slate Magazine puts it:
"The confluence of [body armor and the crackdown on hit-by-pitches] has slowly drained the game of its most important element: terror. The fundamental battle in baseball is the one between the pitcher and the hitter, and the pitcher's best weapon is a tightly wound white spheroid that he throws at autobahn-plus speeds. If the batter doesn't fear the pitched ball — and the injuries that can result from it — then baseball will not only become too easy, it will become exceedingly dull to watch."
On the other hand, why should we deny hitters the ability to protect themselves? While the pitchers lose the ability to throw hard inside, hitters no longer have to worry about broken forearms derailing theirs — and the team's — season.
In addition, baseball's crackdown in 2002 seems to have stemmed the tide. While players no longer fear the hard, inside pitch like they used to, you don't see the monstrous plates strapped to players' arms anymore.
The crackdown on performance-enhancing substances seems to have had far more impact on offense than slimming body armor.
But has baseball cracked down enough? Are hitters still getting away with too much?
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