Maple bats continue to shatter in alarming fashion, and MLB executives continue to gather evidence in efforts to persuade the players’ association that they should be banned.

Pat Gillick, former general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and now general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, weighed in on the subject in the Philadelphia Daily News Thursday, after York Report columns about the maple-bat controversy in Metro the previous two days. Gillick said he considers maple bats dangerous.

"I think it is (a concern),'' he said. "Some for the players, but a lot for the fans, too. They are a missile, and they break, and they go into the stands, so I would think it's a safety concern.''

Gillick added: “I think something's going to be done. I have no idea (when), but I think something will be done."

  • Tuesday’s York Report:
MLB has, for all intents and purposes, blackballed its controversial home-run king, Barry Bonds. Now, it wants to do the same to his old bat supplier.
And the supplier, Sam Holman of Ottawa, is livid.
“If they blindside us and ban our bats,” Holman told Metro yesterday, “it’d be a huge disservice. It’d be so wrong.”
Metro has learned, however, that MLB executives have scheduled a meeting with the players’ association solely to propose the immediate banning of maple bats manufactured by Holman’s company and others.
Nearly 50 per cent of contemporary major-leaguers use maple bats and 74 players – including the Blue Jays’ Vernon Wells, the Boston Red Sox’ Manny Ramirez and the Chicago Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano -- have handshake deals with Holman’s firm.
Ex-Toronto slugger Joe Carter was the first to use “Sam Bats” in the majors. He introduced them to Bonds when they were teammates with the San Francisco Giants in 1998. Bonds belted his career-record homer last season with a Sam Bat. This year, Bonds is linked with steroids and can’t find big-league employment. Yet he remains close with Holman, who has 12 new Sam Bats on standby “just in case Barry suddenly comes back, although I know he doesn’t need the money.”
MLB execs are concerned with the frequency in which maple bats have shattered the past two or three seasons. According to their information, it happens an average of two to three times a game.
When these bats break, their barrels – thick on one end and splintered and sharp on the other – often fly quickly and unpredictably. Anyone in the park can suddenly be in the line of fire.
Pittsburgh batting coach Don Long was scarred recently after catching a broken barrel in his left cheek. He was in the Pirates’ dugout when batter Nate McClouth shattered his maple bat on a fastball. Long was rushed to hospital and required stitches.
Now, MLB execs fear worse.
Holman, who recently acquired three partners but remains company spokesman, insists his Ottawa-made bats aren’t dangerous. He believes his inspection process, plus his methods of cutting and drying maple, make his bats safe. He thinks competitors who followed him into the maple-bat business after 2000 aren’t as meticulous and use equipment designed to make furniture, thereby producing unsafe bats.

To paint all maple-bat companies with the same brush would be unfair, Holman maintains. It’d also be unfair to force hitters to suddenly use ash bats.

Bottom line: Look for the players’ union to raise hell over this.

  • Wednesday’s York Report:
Baseball’s Battle of Bats starts next week.
That’s when major-league executives will formally ask players to stop stepping to the plate with maple bats. The execs will ask them to use ash bats instead.
The requests, of course, will be denied by the players’ association since nearly half the hitters in MLB – including the Blue Jays’ Vernon Wells -- prefer maple. It’s been this way since Ottawa manufacturer Sam Holman first introduced maple bats to sluggers such as Joe Carter and Barry Bonds late last decade. Many feel maple bats are harder than ash bats and enhance their power and hitting abilities.
As reported here yesterday, however, MLB wants to abolish maple bats because of concerns that they’re shattering too frequently and endangering lives.
What we didn’t mention yesterday is that a researcher hired by MLB has found that maple is actually no better for batters than ash.
“The two woods are essentially the same at batted-ball speeds,” said Jim Sherwood of the Baseball Research Centre at the University of Massachusetts. “Maple has no advantage in getting a longer hit over an ash bat.”
Sherwood also discovered that, while ash bats crack, maple bats snap, causing sharp-ended barrels to fly often and unpredictably.
Armed with Sherwood’s information, MLB will tell the union that safety should come first and that maple bats must go.
“We’ll meet on this,” union chief Don Fehr acknowledged. “We’ll look at it in good faith.”

Yeah, right. This is a battle that’ll become a war.

  • And while Bonds was slapped this week with a new indictment that charges him with 15 felony counts of perjury and a count of obstruction of justice, he still looks like he’s having a good time. At least, he looks like he’s having fun in David Banner’s new video, Get Like Me. The former slugger, along with Chris Brown and Young Joc, makes a cameo in the video. Bonds appears 45 seconds into the video.

  • Ken Griffey Jr. hates losing bets, so when he does, he makes it difficult for the winners to collect. That’s why the star outfielder paid off a $1,500 bet to Cincinnati Reds teammate Josh Fogg by stacking 60 boxes with pennies – 2,500 pennies to a box. Griffey said he was just keeping his word to Fogg because he had told the pitcher that, if he lost the bet, he would pay in pennies. "I'm a man of my word," Griffey insisted. "When you owe a man $1,500, you pay him. You can't do a whole lot with pennies, can you? Just think, each box weighs 16 pounds so Fogg has 60 bowling balls in his locker." Fogg said he would count the pennies. "I'm going to take them to bullpen and count them,” he said, “because I have a lot of time on my hands."

  • Toronto-based author/historian Danny Gallagher is switching gears. After writing four non-fiction baseball books, he's sauntered over to the business side and is writing about two Canadian food-service icons in Fowl Play and Burgers: The Untold Story of Swiss Chalet and Harvey's.

    It's due for publication in 2009, the 55th anniversary of Swiss Chalet and the 50th anniversary of Harvey's. Both chains were founded by Montreal native Rick Mauran.

    Gallagher is seeking a publisher.

    Gallagher's baseball books, all good reads, were: You Don't Forget Homers Like That, Angels' Halo Haunted, Baseball in the 20th Century and Remembering the Montreal Expos.
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