Time To Do Something About Broken Bats

June 2, 2010 – 12:25 pm

If you watched the end of the Yankee’s 7-3 win on Sunday against Cleveland, you saw one of the more incredible athletic plays ever when Mariano Rivera somehow managed to jump to avoid getting hit by a shattered bat, and yet still managed to field the ball and make the put out at first base. You always hear about what an amazing athlete Rivera is, and that one play just confirms it.

But that play just emphasized a point I have made for a long, long time — when is the MLB going to do something about all the broken bats that end up in the field of play and thus interfere with the player trying to field the ball? Most of the time it just ends up being good theater, and the fielder is able to make the play. But inevitably at some point in a critical game a flying bat shard is going to be the difference in the game. Or worse, it’s going to cause a serious injury to a player. And then there’s the case where the hitter loses his grip on the bat and it flies in to the stands. Every time I see that happen, I’m just amazed that there hasn’t been a very serious injury to a fan. At least the players are concentrating 100% on the play and thus see what’s headed their way — with fans in the stands, it’s a totally different situation.

All these broken bats are a somewhat recent phenomenon, starting somewhere in the late 1990’s. And the reason for them is apparently a simple one — the switch from ash to maple. It seems like an easy solution — just go back to all ash bats. Plus, here’s another idea that occurs to me — why not add some rules discouraging the use of bats that shatter easily, as well as encouraging players to keep a good grip on the bat? Why not have a rule that says that if any part of the bat ends up in the field of play, it’s an automatic out? That seems reasonable enough. And here’s another one — if any part of the bat ends up in the stands, it’s an automatic game ejection, plus maybe a game or two suspension. With just some rule changes, I bet you could get players to think twice about the type of bats they are using and how they use them. Bat shards ending up in the playing field is one thing, but when bats end up in the stands that’s a totally different thing. Something needs to be done about the latter before some fan gets seriously injured.

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