Miles: It's time to extend netting at MLB parks like in Japan

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs' Albert Almora Jr., center, takes a knee as Jason Heyward, left, and manager Joe Maddon talk to him after hitting a foul ball that hit a little girl in the stands off left field Wednesday in Houston.

    Chicago Cubs' Albert Almora Jr., center, takes a knee as Jason Heyward, left, and manager Joe Maddon talk to him after hitting a foul ball that hit a little girl in the stands off left field Wednesday in Houston. Associated Press

  • The Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. hit a foul ball that struck a young girl in the stands Wednesday in Houston. Almora was visibly shaken and talked to by Jason Heyward, manager Joe Maddon and Javier Baez.

    The Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. hit a foul ball that struck a young girl in the stands Wednesday in Houston. Almora was visibly shaken and talked to by Jason Heyward, manager Joe Maddon and Javier Baez. Associated Press

  • A young child is carried from the stands after being injured by a foul ball off the bat of Chicago Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. during the fourth inning Wednesday in Houston.

    A young child is carried from the stands after being injured by a foul ball off the bat of Chicago Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. during the fourth inning Wednesday in Houston. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/30/2019 4:42 PM

The Cubs traveled to Japan in 2000 to open the regular season with a pair of games against the New York Mets.

One of the things I noticed right away about the ballparks there was that some sort of protective netting extended on both sides of the field, from foul pole to foul pole.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Given what happened in Houston Wednesday night, it's high time for Major League Baseball to extend the netting in their ballparks.

By now you know that a ball off the bat of the Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. struck a little girl at Minute Maid Park, sending the child to the hospital and causing Almora to become understandably distraught.

It's been only recently that MLB has seen fit to extend protective netting from dugout to dugout. Initial complaints were that the netting would impair the view of fans in high-priced seats.

Actually, the netting is so good that by the time you get used to it, you barely notice it.

It's easy to say that fans should be paying attention to the game at all times, but there are just so many distractions -- not to mention that the pace of games slows to a crawl many times -- that it's impossible to expect fans to direct their attention on the batter 100 percent of the time.

And these days, with baseballs being as lively as they are and players being stronger than ever, sitting in unprotected areas has become more dangerous than ever.

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It's time to extend the netting now.

A word about Almora: His concern about fans in good times and in bad is genuine. When he played for the Kane County Cougars, he would sign autograph after autograph. When asked why he spent so much time doing that, he said he was happy to do it as part of his duties as a member of the Cubs organization.

Starts with the starters:

The Cubs head into St. Louis this weekend not exactly on a roll. They are 6-9 in their last 15 games and have a record of 31-23.

Kyle Hendricks proved to be the stopper Wednesday night when he pitched 8 innings in a 2-1 victory that ended a three-game losing streak.

Forget about the bullpen for a minute. Most teams' success begins and ends with starting pitching.

Over the past 15 games, Cubs starters have an ERA of 6.09 and just 4 quality starts. For the season, the Cubs have 25 quality starts (at least 6 innings and no more than 3 earned runs). In those games, the team is 20-5, and the starters' ERA is 1.44.

When the Cubs don't get a quality start, the team is 11-18, and the starters' ERA is 6.97 in those games.

One-third of the way home:

After finishing their series at Houston, the Cubs are exactly one-third of the way through the season, having played 54 games.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If we want to have some fun with "on pace," we can see that:

• The Cubs are pace to win 93 games, well ahead of their PECOTA projections that caused so much fuss during spring training.

• Kris Bryant has as many home runs (13) as he did all of last season, when a shoulder injury derailed his 2018. He's on pace for 39 as is Javier Baez. Anthony Rizzo is on pace for 45 homers, Willson Contreras for 36 and Kyle Schwarber for 30.

Cubs sign 'Cargo':

The Cubs have signed veteran outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to a minor-league deal. Once a huge offensive star for the Colorado Rockies, the 33-year-old three-time all-star was released by Cleveland recently after putting up a line of .210/.282/.276 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI. For his career, Gonzalez has a line of .285/.343/.502 with 233 home runs.

It's possible the Cubs could activate him as early as next week to provide a left-handed bat off the bench. Gonzalez also could make some spot starts in the outfield. He is a three-time Gold Glove winner.

The Cubs have been without veteran infielder-outfielder Ben Zobrist, who has been on the restricted list for personal reasons since May 8. It's unknown when or if Zobrist will be back.

A jolly good time:

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the Cubs and Cardinals will play in London June 13 and 14, 2020. The Cardinals will be the home team for the games at London Stadium, home of soccer team West Ham United of the English Premier League. A preliminary look at the schedule has the Cubs playing at Philadelphia June 8 to 10 and having two days without games before the London games. They will have an another off-day June 15.

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