The MLB’s recent decision to ban ultra-light maple baseball bats in the minor leagues has set off some speculation.
Should we expect an outright ban on maple bats soon?
It’s way too early to tell. However, the MLB’s decision to prohibit soft red maple and silver maple bats in Minor League Baseball shows that the league is taking the safety concern seriously.
The concern stems from how the bats break. They have been shown to shatter violently, spraying shards of wood throughout the infield.
It’s especially hazardous for pitchers.
In a spring training game last week, Rays pitcher David Prince managed to escape a broken bat with only a cut on his hand. Adrian Beltre’s maple bat shattered on a pitch and sent a chunk of wood straight for his head, but Prince moved out of the way.
The incident left Rays manager Joe Maddon incensed.
“Someday, somebody is going to get killed or impaled,” Maddon told the Associated Press. “David was fortunate today.”
The MLB has been studying the controversy surrounding maple bats since the end of the 2008 season, and it instituted new quality guidelines on maple bats last season, which brought down the incidences of cracked bats.
But still, the shattering problem persists.
The MLB has been known to test rule changes in the minor leagues, because they do not have to be approved by the players’ union. For the moment, the new regulations apply only to the minor leagues and players that have not been called up to the majors.
As part of the rule change, any major leaguer whose bat broke at least 10 times last year must consult with a panel of bat experts to determine if there is some extenuating problem.
Could the ban extend to other types of maple and into the big leagues?
No telling. That will depend on how effective the current ban is.