During the second inning of today's Cubs-Marlins game, the Chicago Cubs' Tyler Colvin - a very promising rookie outfielder - was impaled in the upper torso by a broken bat while he was running home from third base. I suppose "impaled" is a little melodramatic, but Colvin was struck in the chest just below his left collarbone, puncturing his skin and taking him out of the game to go to the hospital. There, doctors performed a "pneumothorax" procedure (a procedure to prevent air that has entered the chest wall from causing damage to the lungs and prevent a collapsed lung from occurring), and the Cubs have said that Colvin is done for the remainder of the season.
For video, check out this link to MLB.com: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100919&content_id=14847072&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb
NOTE: There's no blood or anything, but this is still not a video for the squeamish... it looks like it hurt.
Obviously, baseball cannot completely prevent injuries from occurring to fans, players, umpires, or other people entirely - it comes with the territory of the game - but it does raise the debate over maple versus ash bats again in the sport. For the last few years, it has been conclusively shown that maple bats, when they break, tend to shatter and send pieces flying all over the field or into/near fan seating areas. Ash bats, on the other hand, being made of a softer wood, tend to crack, but not shatter. That said, many players prefer maple bats because the denser, harder wood has less "give" on the baseball when it is hit, and can produce more power and a farther hit ball.
Cubs catcher Wellington Castillo was using a maple bat to hit when it cracked at the handle and sent the javelin top half into Tyler Colvin, who didn't see it coming as he was watching the ball dump into left field. Over the last few years, the debate has raged about whether or not Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig should ban maple bats from being used to play, a campaign that Diamondbacks fans like me hear often whenever a maple bat shatters and sends shards onto the field from announcer Mark Grace. Opponents of such a ban can use stats to make a point, though: of the thousands and thousands of at-bats in which maple bats have been used, few have resulted in the type of explosion of wood that would cause injury, and far, far fewer have actually caused injury. Colvin's accident was just that: a freak accident. There's not really any need to overreact and start banning things because of one incident.
Frankly, with all the technology out there, I have heard of a company that was testing a material like a thin film (I guess somewhat akin to safety glass film for windows) that would wrap around the barrel of the bat down to the knob and help prevent a bat break which could result in splintering. MLB at one point was checking its effectiveness and testing to see if it would have an adverse effect on the game or the ball. If it works, that sounds like an effective compromise to me. Because while I agree that maple bats may indeed pose a risk that is unnecessary and detrimental to the game, we as fans - and those who make the decisions on this stuff - should also remember that this really was a freak accident and not go ballistic.
I'd love to hear from my readers on this: what do you think? Ban maple bats or let the game continue as is or something else?