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 exclusive 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.