September 20, 2010
Now that Tyler Colvin(notes) has earned the unfortunate distinction of "big leaguer who was impaled by a shattered bat," it seems like the volume of the danger debate has elevated a notch. With TV morning shows and general-interest DJs scheduling time for the topic, the argument is no longer limited to Jeff Passan's enlightening columns and baseball's corner of the universe.
And that's a good thing because we need more eyes and brains on an issue that can't simply be solved by ordering an angry Larry Bowa to wear a helmet in the coach's box. Baseball needs bats just like hockey needs pucks that move 90 mph and football needs its brutal contact. Alternative options like metal pose even more of a danger and baseball players are a famously stubborn sort. Guys like the Cubs' Jeff Baker(notes) — who uses stronger ash instead of the more easily shattered maple as a matter of conscience — are the exception and not the rule.
To solve this problem or at least get it under control, I think baseball needs to identify a plan that represents the least path of resistance. Jason of It's About The Money, Stupid points out that a method like "The Bat Glove" would fit that model. Advertised by its manufacturer to be no different than bat tape, it is designed to prevent the shards and slivers of a broken bat from becoming dangerous projectiles. At a cost of around $5 per bat, it works for me. It should work for Major League Baseball, too.
Other astute commenters have pointed out that much of this problem lies with the way that today's players are shaving down their handles. The mod makes the bats lighter and easier to swing, but it also makes them more fragile and susceptible to shattering.
A rule change that requires a minimum handle circumference would be as welcome at The Bat Glove — or any suggestion, really, that prevents more players and fans from being put in the position to be seriously hurt.
All photos in the slideshow above are from 2010 and were shot by AP and Getty. For more information and captions, visit the set's Flickr page.