Good Wood/Bad Wood & Peek at the Picks

Hello again everybody...

We're at the middle of the week again. It's finally starting to feel like summer here the the Twin Cities. I could've lived with a few more weeks of 70's myself, but you can't be picky with Mother Nature. So I'll enjoy the heat the best I can, and hold off on the A/C as long as humanly possible (damn you electric bill)!

Today I'll weigh in on my thoughts on the maple bat debate in baseball. Then it's time for this week's Peek at the Picks.

"I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat, and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn't my fault that I'm not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?"

- Yogi Berra (1925 - ), American Professional Baseball Player and Manager

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Yesterday the MLB Player-Management Safety Committe held a meeting to discuss the recent bevy of broken bats. Over the last 5 years, the incidents of broken bats have increased steadily. So the question being asked by the comittee is, what's primarily responsible, the material, or the dimensions?

Baseball bats have primarily been made of ash since hickory was banned in the 19th century. But in the early 90's, Toronto's Joe Carter was credited for beginning to use bats made of maple in addition to the traditional ash bats. Maple is preferred by many players because it's a harder wood than ash.

In Detroit OF Curtis Granderson's latest blog he says, "I really like maple bats over ash bats mainly because they tend to last a lot longer. This year, I am on my second batting practice bat since spring training. If I were using ash, even if I would tape my bat or bone it (apply pressure using something hard like a sink or an actual bone to eliminate the air and space between the grains to make it harder), it would still break or splinter much quicker than maple."

So what's the downside? When maple bats finally do break, as any wood bat inevitably will, they tend to splinter into many dangerous fragments. Last night, umpire Brian O'Nora was hit in the head by a piece of Kansas City C Miguel Olivo's broken maple bat. The piece opened a gash on the back of O'Nora's head which required a trip to the hospital to treat.

Players and umpires getting hurt is one thing, but the real concern for baseball would be a fan getting hurt. We'll see from time to time a bat slip out of a hitters hands and go spinning into the stands. And while having a 36 oz. piece of lumber hurled into the stands is plenty dangerous. Having a 15 oz jagged piece of lumber hurled into the stands is a serious concern.

But material isn't the only reason being cited for the rash of broken bats. Currently, MLB rules dictate that bats can have barrels no wider than 2 3/4 inches, handles no thinner than 16/19 of-an-inch and a length no greater than 42 inches. As baseball fans are well aware however, hitters are constantly tweaking and monkeying with their bats to gain whatever edge they can. Some hitters think that making the bat handle smaller allows them a stronger grip, which allows them to propel the barrel of the bat through the strike zone quicker. And increased bat-speed means increased power. Unfortunately decreased handle size means increased torque which is what causes a lot of bats to break.

So far Major League Baseball is taking a suprisingly prudent approach. They will begin immediate field and laboratory tests on bat strength and breakage patterns. They will also consult with experts and manufacturers. And finally they'll survey each of the 30 big league parks to determine what safety measures are in place for fans, players, coaches and umpires.

Simply instituting a ban on maple bats doesn't make sense until you can specifically determine that the material is the root cause of the problem. And instituting arbitrary rules on demensions is no good unless you can scientifically show what bat-tolerances actually are. So for once, I'm not going to be critical of baseball. They should take their time and determine what exactly is going on, and then take appropriate steps to correct the problem. If that means banning maple bats fine. Just show us exactly why it's necessary.

In the meantime, if you've got those prime seats behind a dugout? Do yourself a favor and keep your head up!

Now it's time for this week's Peek at the Picks segment where I compare the current major league standings to my preseason picks and you all get to laugh at how awful some of those picks were! Here we go...

AL East: Boston Red Sox (whom I hate), 48-32 (Dan's Pick: Boston, whom I hate)
The Rays trail by only 1 game, so they're still hanging right there with Evil Incarnate. I really need to put together that "Pantheon of Hate" column I've been threatening to do. Maybe Friday. And don't look now, but the Yankees have climbed to within 5.5 games of the lead. I bet a co-worker $10 that the Yankees wouldn't make the playoffs, so I'm sweating that move a little.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox, 42-34 (DP: Detroit Tigers, 6 games back)
The Tigers have managed to work their way into 3rd place. Given how horribly they started the year, it's a lot to have accomplished. Chicago's not running away with the division by any means, and the Twins are awfully young and tough to count on down the stretch. Losing Bonderman for the season was a blow, but the depth of talent on the Tigers should be able to over come it. I'm not giving up on this one yet!

AL West: L.A. Angels 48-30 (DP: Seattle Mariners, 19.5 GB)
Torii Hunter Watch: .279, 9 HR, 37 RBI. June hasn't been a fun month for Torii. He's been stuck on 9 HR for a while now. Suddenly, I'm sweating the hell out of him even making the All-Star Game! C'mon Torii! I've been pulling for you all year. Pick it up!

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, 42-36 (DP: NY Mets, 4 GB)
Interim Mets Manager Jerry Manuel is 3-4 since he took over the reins, including an 11-0 loss at the hands of the lowly Mariners last night. Obviously GM Omar Minaya's hope that a new voice in the clubhouse would spark the team hasn't panned out. Philly's staying close to the pack, so anything's possible, but strangely enough, I like Detroit's chances better than the Mets', even though the Tigers are further behind.

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 48-29 (DP: Cubs)
The Cubs still maintain the best record in the league. St Louis is 3.5 back and the Brewers are 5 behind. The race here may be for second place. It appears Zambrano will be back and ready to go after his short DL stint. So that injury shouldn't be too costly to the Cubs. The Brewers are hot as a pistol. Winners of 8 of their last 10 and 4 in a row, they've really picked it up. Keep it up Crew fans, you might get the Wild Card at least!

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks, 40-38 (DP: Arizona)
After getting swept by the Twins the D'backs have responded nicely, splitting the first 2 games of their series in Boston. And last night they had a 4-1 lead in the 8th before the bullpen blew it. Game 3 is on ESPN tonight and I can't wait to watch it! Even though the Snakes have fallen to only 2 games over .500, the rest of the division remains as pathetic as they have been all year. A good stretch of intra-division play would do wonders for Arizona right now.

That's all for today folks. Back with more on Friday. Thanks for reading!


  1. MLB says, "Stand back! We're going to try SCIENCE!"

    Also, I think you typoed "bevy".

  2. Bud Selig... Science... yeah I can see that!

    Thanks for the tip... dunno why spell-checker didn't catch that.