The latest potential ugly incident involving a broken maple bat came during Sunday’s Dodgers-Diamondbacks game in Arizona on ESPN — when Tony Clark’s stick broke in two as he hit a ground ball up the middle, and it nearly speared Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe on the mound. The result was somehow a double play as the Dodgers had an 8-0 lead in the fifth inning of a game otherwise over.
But the reaction Lowe had on the replay, of relief and shock about what happened, provided more than enough than whatever ESPN’s Jon Miller or Joe Morgan could have added.
Yet, they tried.
“That was dangerous ’cause that bat stuck in the ground,” Morgan noticed, then circling it on the telestrator as it stood up like a spike beyond the pitcher’s mound as a D’backs ballboy came out to unwedge it.
Uh, it was dangerous ’cause it almost stuck in Lowe’s back, actually. The ball and the bat came at Lowe at the same speed. The ball went to his right; the bat to his left. Lowe had to pirouette on the mound, covering his head with his left hand, in hopes of having it miss him.
“It’s a lethal weapon right there,” said Miller.
“That’s gotta be frightening,” Miller said a few moments later as the replay was shown of Lowe blowing a breath of relief, which made Morgan actually chuckle.
Miller then introduced the history of the maple bat issue, and the ongoing study by MLB, and Morgan says the reason he thinks it’s happening is because players like thin handles, versus the “bottle” bats that Nellie Fox or Joe Torre used.
The next inning, Peter Gammons, in the dugout, showed the actual broken bat on the air and confirmed the handle was thin. Gammons said the players he’s talked to want to keep the maple bats, even with the problems they’re causing. Morgan finally says the real concern for the MLB is bats flying into the stands and injuring fans. Miller said the MLB study could ban maple bats or more restrictions in the shape.
“You hate to see someone in the ondeck circle … or on the mound or worse someone in the stands get seriously hurt,” said Gammons.
Miller talks about how a rep from the Louisville Slugger company, which makes half its products out of maple, told him that if baseball says no more maple, they’re going to have to decide now to get production for next spring finished. “It’s not a topic they can keep discussing for much longer; time is of the essence,” Miller said.
They showed the replay again in real time.
“I think for some reason with the maple bats, they seem to use a thinner handle they would with, you know, other bats, ash and so forth,” said Morgan, again not making much sense. “There are a lot of experiments going on now with different types of wood, so I don’t know.”
Neither, apparently, does Major League Baseball. And the time drags on.
More on previous blog postings on this subject:
==Aug. 28 (linked here)
==July 6 (linked here)
==July 1 (linked here)
==June 30 (linked here)
==June 29 with the original column we wrote on this (linked here)