ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote about this today and Tom Verducci has, too, for Sports Illustrated. At this point, it’s dereliction of duty not to write about it.
Baseball needs to do something about the crisis with maple bats.
There was a meeting in New York yesterday of the player-management safety committee to discuss the situation and they did what all committees seem to do: nothing. There will be tests and studies and then further discussion.
As with all things baseball, it’s a bargaining point. Players have the right in the collective bargaining agreement to use whatever bats are approved. Bud Selig can’t simply ban them.
A few hours after the meeting, umpire Brian Oâ€™Nora was hit in the head by a shattered piece of Miguel Olivoâ€™s broken maple bat, sending blood streaming down his face and forcing him out of the game between Colorado and Kansas City. Several players in the game immediately put down their maple bats and started using ash.
Know this about the players: They all want an edge. Now that PEDs are banned, the players are turning to technology. If you told them apple trees made the best bats, they’d all line up in an orchard.
Maple bats are supposedly harder and drive the ball better. Barry Bonds was among the first to use them. The problem is they tend to break more often and when they do, the pieces fly out like blades of a helicopter.
I have no idea what the statistics are. But I’ve never seen more broken bats than I have this season. Johnny Damon estimates he broke 40 maple bats before giving them up last week.
O’Nora escaped with a cut on his head. But eventually somebody won’t be so lucky. A coach, umpire or fan will be seriously injured or killed. At this point, it would be borderline irresponsible to bring a child to a game and sit in the first 20 rows between the dugouts.
Think about watching baseball. What do you watch? The ball, of course. The pitcher throws it, the batter hits it. As pieces of jagged wood fly around, it’s a disaster waiting to happen because we’re not trained to follow the bat.
Baseball went to sleep on steroids and the game paid a price. That was on everybody, players, management, the union and the media. But this is something that can be fixed in five minutes.
Selig needs to talk to MLBPA executive director Don Fehr and some prominent players and announce that maple bats are banned until they can be made safe.
The alternative is the commissioner sending a nice letter to a family who buries somebody.