Dear Allan Huber ‘Bud’ Selig,
Let me start off by saying I respect what you have done for the game of baseball for the past 2 decades. You have played an integral role in adding Wild Card spots in both leagues in 1995 and pushing for steroid reform in the MLB over the last handful of years. Both of those pushes have had a significant impact on the game and, in my humble opinion, have improved the sport in many ways. Over the years you have also experimented with some things that haven’t worked, such as making the All-Star Game determine home field advantage in the World Series and instituting the World Baseball Classic during Spring Training, but in both cases, the intent was good and positive. All that aside, your recent judgement is questionable and I have a few issues with the direction you are (or not) taking baseball.
If anything has become obvious this season, it is the need for instant replay. This has been the thorn in your side for the last few years, but the time has come to buck up and deal with the reality of the game. On several occasions this season, the use of instant replay would have corrected an incorrect call and potentially effected the outcome of a game. I am a fan of the human aspect of the game and certainly don’t want replay to take over the game, but I also don’t want to watch a team lose because of a bad human mistake. There are plenty of ways to expand replay without slowing down games, just look to the NFL for guidance with their replay system that has worked well for the last several years. Like any effective replay system, not every play can be challenged, but at least the system would expand beyond home runs.
Thinking about the NFL system, each manager in baseball could have 2 challenges per game and they are allowed to ask the umpires to look at the replay to determine if the correct call was made just twice in a 9 inning game. The technical system is already in place in every ballpark, so the cost is minimal is at all, and all the umpire needs to do is call the central MLB room and ask if the call was correct or not. Like the NFL, there should be a time limit on each decision, making it a minor 3 or 4 minute delay from start to finish. Players, coaches and front office personnel work too hard to see momentum in a huge game swing because of a missed or bad call. This is especially important in the post season, so your decision to not expand replay this playoff season is concerning.
My second issue is one you have ignored for a few years, but can not push aside anymore. Given the recent events involving Tyler Colvin of the Chicago Cubs and the shattered maple bat, a change needs to be made and fast. Colvin was running from third base to home as Welington Castillo took a swing, his maple bat shattered and a shard of the bat hit Colvin in the chest, forcing him to go to the hospital. Luckily, Colvin is in stable condition and should recover fully, but if that shard had hit him in the face, it could have caused permanent damage. Do you want that on your conscience, Bud? A player getting hurt or god forbid dying on the field because you wouldn’t take a stand against maple bats? Ash bats tend to crack instead of shatter, making them much less dangerous and the right choice for the MLB.
Experts have known for several years about the dangers of maple bats, but everyone has chosen to ignore that issue because hitters think the bats have a little more pop to them. Is it worth the little more pop to potentially seriously injury another baseball player? Fielders have no padding or protective gear in the field, so they are as vulnerable as base-runners are to these flying bat pieces. Four years ago in Los Angeles, Clay Hensley of the San Diego Padres was struck in the back of the head with a shard from a maple bat that forced Hensley to get 4 stitches to close the wound. Within the last few years there have been a handful of incidents involving shattered maple bats including umpire Kerwin Danley, who sustained a concussion after getting clocked with a broken bat last season and in 2008, Pirates hitting coach Don Long got shelled by a bat piece that got lodged in his face and tore open a huge gash just inches under his eye that required 10 stitches to close. When is this going to stop? What has to happen before you finally make the right choice and ban these bats?
The maples bats issue is of course, beyond anything else, a safety issue. I don’t care what it does for the game of baseball or if it adds a little pop making the games more exciting for fans, safety needs to be a priority in all sports, professional or not. As the highest level of baseball in the world, people look to the MLB to set an example, so by ignoring this issue, you are telling other players and leagues around the world that safety is not a priority and players can continue to endanger other lives. If you really represent what is right for the game of baseball, this decision should be an easy one for you, Bud. No one wants to see another player, umpire or manager get seriously injured.
The time to take a stand on both of these issues is now. I appreciate that you have your strong opinions on several subjects and in the past that has proved to be valuable, but your job is to do what is right for baseball. Open your eyes, smell the roses and implement instant replay and a ban on maple bats now.