Union is just waiting for the worst

September, 20, 2010
9/20/10
5:00
PM ET
Upon hearing the news about Tyler Colvin, I immediately Tweeted this:

Report: MLBPA concerned about Tyler Colvin, but will wait for fatality before seriously addressing issue of shattered bats.

Of course, a few people thought the report was real.

It was, of course, not.

My sentiment regarding the MLBPA's sentiment was absolutely real, though.

A few years ago, Major League Baseball took the lead in the study and (ultimately) the regulation of maple bats, which apparently are more shatter- and shard-prone than the more traditional ash bats.

A few people also lamented the fact that we'll just never get the same sound (and presumably batted-ball characteristics) from metal bats that we get from good ol' fashioned wood.

But it must be stressed, as stridently (if logically) as possible, that this is absolutely a false choice. It is absolutely possible to construct a bat which behaves exactly like a traditional bat, with one exception: It will not come apart in sharp pieces that might kill someone. There's Extratec. There's BatGlove. I'm sure there are other things.

Why hasn't some real fix been mandated yet? Some will blame Major League Baseball. Some will blame Rawlings and other bat manufacturers. But most of the blame, paradoxically enough, goes to the players. If the Players Association pushed for safer bats, what would Major League Baseball and the bat-makers say?

The exact moment players demand action, it's a done deal because none of the other parties would be able to raise any objection that could pass muster with the public or anyone else. Game over.

Why hasn't it happened? Because the players, collectively, care more about their freedom to use any bat they like than about some potentially catastrophic injury. They figure that even if something terrible does happen, it won't happen to them.

Which is true. There are more than 1,000 members of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and the odds are greatly against any particular member getting seriously hurt or killed. As a pure calculation, perhaps it really does make sense for each player to resist any measure, no matter how apparently sensible, that might impinge upon his personal freedom.

It'll be funny, though, how fast the calculation will change if somebody's dead.

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