LAST MONTH'S gruesome injury from a broken maple bat to a woman at Fenway Park has renewed dialogue about improving ballpark safety. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said during his annual luncheon with baseball writers at the All-Star Game that MLB was evaluating ballpark safety features, but any changes will not be implemented until next season.
Once at the Hall of Fame I was lucky enough to handle a bat used by Babe Ruth and another by Mike Schmidt. Ruth's bat, its handle as thick as a fist, would have burned longer than a Yule log. Schmidt's, built more than four decades later, was thinner and lighter, but it was still a heavy, thick piece of wood by today's standards.
And then there was Dick Allen and his 42-ouncer. "I thought they forgot to take the roots off," he said upon first setting eyes on the bat he used to hit. "They were tree trunks."
They ain't tree trunks anymore. The handles aren't much thicker than hockey sticks, the quality of the wood used is diminished, and subsequently they shatter far more often.
But shatter is the lesser of evils here. When Barry Bonds broke the home-run mark, he was one of only a few players using a maple bat. Now it is estimated at least half the players in baseball do. There is a belief that maple's density supplies more power, and maple bats have proved to break less.
But here's the rub: When ash bats break, they tend to splinter down the middle, posing less of an injury threat to patrons. Maple, with its makeup and thinner bat handle, is more likely to snap at the handle, sending into the stands the kind of dangerous projectile that injured Tonya Carpenter in Boston back in June.
Baseball has looked into this already. Back in 2008, after a series of maple-related injuries to fans, then-commissioner Bud Selig organized a committee of experts. They examined more than 2,200 broken bats, and their recommendations led to better manufacturing methods and better regulation. Beginning in the 2010 season, the bat heads on maple bats were shrunk and the handle expanded, but at the end of that season there was Cubs rookie Tyler Colvin, the barrel of a frayed maple bat impaling his chest, threatening his life.
The simple solution is to ban maple bats. But such an action would require the consent of the players association, and since it is estimated that more than half of MLB players use them, that's probably not going to happen.
A revolutionary thought: Allow the use of approved composite bats, but engineer them to limit their so-called "trampoline effect." After a two-year ban to study how to do this, the NCAA has approved strictly regulated composite bats to be used in play.
An argument can be made that this will let the power genie out of the bottle again in MLB. But if it adds excitement for fans while eliminating some of the risk, is this such a bad thing?
If Jonathan Papelbon really wants to grease the tracks to a trade, why doesn't he offer to help the Phillies absorb some of that salary of his?
Papelbon will be owed just over $4.5 million after the July 31 trade deadline, and with 19 more games finished, he will have his option for $13 million next season kick in, too. It's a toss-up whether he gets to finish 19 more games this season with the Phillies. It would seem a lock on a contending team.
So here's my suggestion to Papelbon: Put some money where that mouth is. Offer to match 50 cents on each dollar the Phillies are willing to eat to make a deal. Too much? OK, 25 cents, whatever you think you can, um, afford. The players association won't like it, but if you're all about winning, all about getting off the pot, how about you get off some pot, too?
Either that, or just stop talking. All you do there is remind those contending teams why they didn't offer you $13 million a year in the first place.
Pete Rose is one of the four greatest living baseball players. MLB didn't embarrass him the other night as much it did itself.
Sandy Koufax nearly saved it, though. He still looks like he doesn't know what all the fuss is about.
Trivia buffs: Koufax was 17-2 lifetime against the Mets. What former Phillies hero started both Mets victories? (Answer below)
There are only 16 days until Eagles training camp opens up. And we're not the only municipality starving for football. Here's an actual headline from Wednesday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
"Vikings long snapper battle will stretch into preseason."
Pins and needles, baby.
Trivia answer: Tug McGraw. As a starter in August 1965, he held the Dodgers to two runs over 7 2/3 innings in a 5-2 victory that broke Koufax's 13-0 streak.
Oh, and the late and great former Phillies pitching coach Johnny Podres appeared in the eighth as a Dodgers reliever.