Major League Baseball’s “Disaster Waiting to Happen”

June 30, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

I don’t want to be in the stands or watching on television the next time someone gets speared with the sharp end of a shattered baseball bat.

I say “next time” because, although umpire Brian O’nora didn’t get speared, he got hit in the head by a stray bat in a Rockies/Royals game on June 24, 2008.

I don’t want to witness the imminent tragedy that’s awaiting someone at a Major League Baseball stadium-be it player, fan, umpire or stadium staff.

It’s something that can be avoided and what makes it so frustrating is that it seems Major League Baseball’s “powers to be” don’t care and haven’t done anything, besides put on a “dog and pony show,” to address the situation.

It seems that almost every time one watches a game these days, and for about the last five years, there is one or more instances of a bat shattering and a jagged edged portion sails out as far as the outfield grass.

One constantly sees a player making a play while having to take precautions to avoid the oncoming spear.

This happened to Boston shortstop Nick Green in a game against the Washington Nationals last week.  Both the ball, and the barrel of a bat, came towards Green and in an effort to avoid the bat, the ball went between his legs and made it to the outfield.

According to Andrea Thompson, of Live Science, the controversy started when maple bats became popular and replaced the long-preferred bats made of hickory and ash.

She said, in an article dated 7/15/08, “Babe Ruth’s hickory bats are long gone.”  Thompson goes on to explain that “Barry Bonds’ affinity for maple bats” encouraged more players to start using maple and today half the bats are made out of this type of wood.

Just last year, Atlanta’s manager Bobby Cox told the Atlanta Constitution Journal that “It’s really dangerous.”

Apparently ash bats are lighter and weaker than the traditional hickory and ash.  Ash bats crack and flake while maple bats fractures.

Maple bats also have narrow handles that their predecessors didn’t and this adds to the danger.

In the June 28 edition of the Palm Beach Post, Carlos Frias said the play involving Nick Green “marked a year since Major League Baseball commissioned a study” to investigate the problem.

Frias continued “the study led to stricter guidelines for bat makers and to a “CSI” like program to autopsy shattered bats this year.”

According to a Major League Baseball spokesman, there has been a 20 percent reduction in bats breaking into more than one piece. 

The study involved 2,232 bats and concluded that maple bats are three times more likely to break than ash but there is currently, according to Frias’ article, “no talk of barring maple.”

The issue of the maple bats can easily lead one to a number of conclusions about Major League’s effort to stop the problem.

First, with the tarnished reputation Major League Baseball received in reference to the “steroid problem,” one has to ask oneself “are they doing it again?”

Is Major League Baseball so interested in pushing runs across the plate and seeing balls fly out of stadiums that they are turning their heads again in an effort to pacify the fan?

Are they turning their collective head, both officials and players, because they realize that maple bats are adding more home runs to the game?

Isn’t ironic? Maybe it wasn’t steroids that pushed up the power statistics?  Maybe the maple bat had the biggest effect.

That, however, is another argument for another day because the problem, the current danger, has to do with bats being turned into spears and the danger this causes.

Baseball is a dangerous game.  We are never going to stop players getting hit with the ball and it’s pretty easy for a pitcher to get hit with a line drive-it happens more than most fans realize.

It’s the shattering of maple bats that is the issue here.  It makes one wonder if Major League Baseball is doing anything about it.  It makes one wonder if they are waiting for a tragedy to happen.

It’s going to happen.  It’s just a matter of time.

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