Have you noticed we don't hear about shattered, life-threatening bats as much lately? You're not wrong. From an interesting story in The New York Times:
In 2008, statistics show, 5,000 bats broke in hitters’ hands, with 2,500 of those shattering in what wood technicians call “multipiece failures,” and those in the line of fire call less printable names. Last year, the number of broken bats was down only slightly, but the number of shattered bats dropped to just over 1,200.
The change is the result of an unusual partnership between Major League Baseball and the Forest Service, whose scientists looked deep into maple’s core to find why it was so brittle, and how it could be made less so. Giving up the wood entirely was deemed out of the question.
As David E. Kretschmann, the Forest Service scientist who led a team of colleagues working on the maple mystery, said, “If someone’s making millions of dollars using a certain thing, they’re not going to mess with it."
Uh, not exactly. Nobody inside Baseball cares a jit-jot whether or not bat-makers make millions. What the players do care about is hitting baseballs real hard, and if they believe maple's better than ash, they're going to fight like hell to keep maple. Now, if I were a Major League Baseball pitcher, I would try to get all the other pitchers on my side -- that's about 45 percent of the union right there -- and then I'd try to get the ash-bat users on my side, which is another ... maybe 20-some percent, and then I'd try to outlaw those damned maple bats.
But that's not really how the union works. The general principle is that anyone should be allowed to do whatever the hell anyone wants to do -- remember the "drug policy" just a few years ago? -- and that applies here. The union did allow some action, but somebody would actually have to have been killed by a maple bat before an outright ban was seriously considered.
I kid the Forest Service because I love the Forest Service (at least when they're not caving to the craven diktats of craven politicians and rapacious multinationals). The real story here is that ... the new policy worked!
There was a problem, the players and the owners got together, and the problem's not nearly as bad today as it was just five years ago. This is the way things are supposed to work, and generally have worked in this era of general comity and coöperation. As I've written many times in recent years, good job fellas. Please keep it up.