Monday, June 13, 2011

End to Broken Bats?

Hazard of the game for fans?
It seems baseball has turned to a government lab to try to stop the plague of broken bats that are sent flying at fans and players, sometimes causing serious injury. Earlier this season, a woman at a Kansas City Royals' game suffered serious injuries when hit by one of the missiles.

The Associated Press reports that there has been a 50 percent reduction in broken bats since the problem's peak in 2008. We'll have to take baseball's word for that. It still seems like there are many more now than there were a generation ago. In fact, I don't recall pieces of wood flying into the stands until recently.

I applaud the move, but it sure seems like more should be done. Even Toyota was forced into recalling cars and addressing its errant acceleration problems in less time. And that's saying something.

What's missing in baseball is any sense of outrage over the problem. Three years ago much was written about it. Now, though, the announcers I hear mention it, but act as if buying a ticket to a game should include the chance of being speared between bites of a hot dog. (It is interesting that the more you pay for a seat the higher your risk. Do any other businesses use a model that puts their best customers at highest risk?)

Part of the problem, I think, is that players today don't know how to hold a bat properly. I was always taught that the label should face you. Hence this story as recounted from Baseball Almanac"Yogi (Berra), I came up here to hit, not to read." -- Hank Aaron in the 1958 World Series as an answer to Berra after being told to turn his bat around so he could "read" the label and not break the bat.

I see many players today holding the bat with the label turned so it partly faces the pitcher. Another suspect has been the switch in the type of wood used. And then there's the ultra-thin handles in vogue today.

In the end, tt doesn't really matter what's caused the problem baseball need to move quicker. And while they are at it, they should tell the players to stop throwing their bats in the stands.

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