Selig, owners discuss maple bat issue
Commissioner, clubs hoping to find solution by 2009 season
WASHINGTON -- A wood research institute at the University of Wisconsin and a statistician at Harvard are helping Major League Baseball determine why so many maple bats are shattering this season."At least now I know we have a good forestry division," Commissioner Bud Selig quipped. But Selig doesn't know what exact solution will come out of the maple bat dispute, which was one of many subjects that came up at the third quarterly meetings of MLB's owners. MLB recently directed all of its clubs to save each of its broken bats so that the player using the bat, the type of bat used, the manufacturer of the bat and the nature of the break can be noted. Forest Products Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin is studying the bats, and Dr. Carl Morris of Harvard is compiling all the data. "They're analyzing all the bats," Selig said. "There's a lot of work going on right now. My concerns are the same. Every game I watch there's bats splintering. I'm sensitive about it." Maple bats are a sensitive issue, in general. A ban on the bats would have to be approved by the players' union, and that's made difficult by the fact that so many players prefer to use maple. Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president in charge of labor relations, has been working with the union on the issue. Manfred said MLB is in a "tough spot" with regard to the bats and declined to comment further on the matter Thursday. Currently, MLB has a rule on bats in which the difference between a bat's weight and its length must be no greater than 3 1/2. In other words, if a bat is 34 inches long, it must weigh at least 30 1/2 ounces. A change in that rule would also have to be collectively bargained. The maple situation, therefore, is complicated, and unlikely to be solved before the 2009 season, Selig said. "Even if you did [find a solution]," Selig said, "to make the changes in the bats, [the manufacturers] would need a significant amount of lead time, I'm told." Theories abound on the bats. Some believe inferior wood is the culprit. Others point to thin handles. Still others cite a rushed drying process used by manufacturers trying to keep up with the demand for bats. "I've talked to a lot of people," Selig said. "I've talked to Hall of Famers ... Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Rod Carew. They talk about the bat handles and everything else. Everybody has a different theory on it." And Selig is hoping the experts MLB has hired will find the most applicable theory yet.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.