Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday: Should Maple Bats Be Alllowed in the Major Leagues

The traditional baseball bat is made from the wood of the ash tree.  When he shattered the home run record, Barry Bonds swung a bat made of maple which is harder and has a tighter, straighter grain.  As a result, pro players started switching over to maple.  One argument, then, against maple bats is that they give batters an advantage that they did not earn.  Philosopher of sport Fred D'agostino argues that part of the essence of sporting competition is that we set out a goal and then eliminate the easiest and most efficient means of achieving those goals.  On the other hand, there are regular advances in sporting technology that become a standard part of sports.

The difference often pointed to is seen at the end of a bat's life.  Ash bats splinter and crack whereas maple bats break into pieces with jagged edges often flying off in random directions.  They become missiles that could do serious harm.  The possible threat to players, coaches, and spectators is often cited as a reason to disallow them.  Some work has been done to figure out how to make maple bats safer when they break.  Is the promise of safer bats in the future a sufficient reason to allow them now?  More home runs makes for more viewers and a more robust league.  Do long term considerations of the game come into play against possible dangers now?