The Marlins looked like they were going to steal a game last night when they rallied for six in the top of the ninth, but the Reds rebounded in the 10th. . .The Mets, on the other hand, allowed a four-run rally in the seventh and fell to the Nationals. The Braves, Marlins, Mets and Phillies are all within two games of each other, and all are over .500. It's only May, but it's something to keep your eye on. . .
I don't know how many of you have noticed it over the past several years, but it has seemed to me that players' bats are breaking more and more violently. It seems like every game a bat shatters and a chunk of it explodes past the pitchers mound. I asked around about it, and it turns out the bats that you see "exploding" are usually ones made out of Maple wood, which has become more popular amongst hitters in recent years because it is a "harder" wood.
That might not be news to some of you, but as someone who is in his first year covering baseball on a day-to-day basis, I found it interesting. I figured I'd write about it now because there have been a couple of instances over the past week when a Phillie has had to dodge shrapnel while fielding a ball. Kyle Kendrick had a large chunk of a bat fly at him in his last inning two nights ago.
Of course, many batters disagree that Maple bats are inherently dangerous. I talked to Greg Dobbs briefly yesterday. He's used both ash and maple during his career, and he says he's seen ash bats explode and come close to players too. Eric Bruntlett also said he didn't think maple was a bona fide security hazard.
Others think that Major League Baseball needs to address the maple bat "issue." Several players I talked to didn't feel like grumbling about them on the record. Because, of course, in the grand scheme of things, it isn't a huge issue. And I think there is a good portion of pitchers who would sacrifice some element of safety in order to keep hitters happy.
But I had a conversation with Pat Gillick prior to the game yesterday, and he said the issue isn't so much the players, but other people who surround the field of play, including fans and coaches. In mid-April, just before the Phillies embarked on a weekend series to the Steel City, Pirates hitting coach Don Long was hit just below the eye with a chunk of a maple bat. He needed 12 stitches. Phillies broadcaster Larry Andersen told me that Long told him he was an inch away from losing his eye. Andersen said he definitely thinks that something needs to be done about Maple Bats.
Where do I stand on the issue?
I see both sides of it. I haven't been able to find much scientific evidence that says Maple bats make balls go further. But basketball shoes don't make players jump higher, and everyone has their specific pair that they prefer. That's how hitters are with bats. It's about comfort, about feel. I asked Eric Bruntlett why he recently switched to the same model bat that Chase Utley uses - Bruntlett's bat even have Utley's name and number on them - and he couldn't really put a finger on it. It's just about feel.
So I definitely understand why many hitters would shrug off the fact that their preferred bat seems to shatter. But I was talking a week or so ago to a Phillies hitter who uses ash and he also said he didn't think there was a big difference between the way the two bats break.
At the same time, like mom always said, it's all fun and games until a short stop walks off the field with a jagged piece of wood protruding from his neck.
Hey, it isn't a controversial issue, and it won't take its place beside the Black Sox and steroid scandals as threats to the integrity of the national past time.
I just found it interesting.
The Cubs have signed Jim Edmonds to a deal, it appears. According to Paul Sullivan at the Chicago Tribune, that should make for some interesting clubhouse dynamics between Edmonds and Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano. . .If anyone wants a reminder of how much a pain in the butt recovering from shoulder surgery can be, follow the progression of Mark Prior, who suffered a set back while throwing yesterday. Prior had his surgery roughly around the same time as Kris Benson, who continues to try to work his way back on the field in Clearwater.