Metal Bats Banned in NYC

DeMarini Vexxum Baseball BatMayor Bloomberg’s veto of an aluminum bat ban in New York City high school baseball leagues was overturned by the City council. Beginning in September 2007, metal bats are outlawed in New York high school baseball competition.

You may think this has nothing to do with our New York Mets, and you’re right — not now, at least. But since we follow a New York team, this issue hits home.

Aluminum alloy bats — particularly in the last 10 years — have completely changed the face of baseball in more ways than one can imagine. Because of the advancements in technology, alloy bats have larger, longer “sweet spots” in the barrel, yet are lighter than ever before. In addition to requiring less effort to swing at high velocity, many of these bats also flex, adding a frightening whip action to the impact on the ball. In turn, these new bats have created “metal bat swings” — hitters who rely almost completely on bat speed and can therefore get around on any speed ball, and, wait much longer on pitches than if they held natural wood in their hands. They also turn average talents into superheroes, as bat speed creates batted ball speed, which thereby creates wicked line drives and elongated fly ball distance.

As a result, we have a new generation of young pitchers who don’t know how to pitch. Hurlers don’t throw inside because a pitch fisted off a metal bat turns into a “squib” hit. They don’t throw fastballs as often because they are turned around with such force that there are two fears: 1. that the ball will go over the fence; and 2. that the ball will be returned through the box at a speed that might maim the originator. Instead of throwing predominantly fastballs — as a young arm should — high school (and college) pitchers throw lots of breaking balls and other junk, and pick around the plate rather than attacking the strike zone. It’s the only way to combat the batters swinging the magic sticks. If you ever wonder why there is such a dearth of quality young pitching at the professional level, all you need to do is ask yourself this question: given the choice, would a competitive athlete rather do battle holding a state-of-the-art aluminum alloy bat — dressed down in football-like protective gear from head to toe — or be the comparatively naked, vulnerable pitcher tossing balls from 60 feet away to the armored young men wielding -5 drop, flex-tuned alloy bats?

Remarkably, there have been several “scientific studies” and professional baseball players (Mike Mussina for one) who have insisted that metal bats are no more dangerous than wood bats. But of course the “scientific studies” are inconclusive — because NO ONE uses wood bats and therefore there is no appropriate sample for comparison. Anyone who has experience with wood bats and has also watched at least one amateur baseball game — from Little League through NCAA — knows these claims are laughable at best. One does not need to read Robert Adair’s diatribe The Physics of Baseballl to understand that a stronger, lighter bat with a larger sweet spot is going to be a more powerful weapon than a similarly sized wood bat in the same player’s hands — it’s simple logic!

There are two parties against the ruling: the metal bat companies and the parents of hitters. The parents are crying that their children won’t be able to make the adjustment, that their chance of gaining a college scholarship is at stake.

Wah wah. HOW ABOUT THE PITCHERS ??? Over the last 25 years, how many high school pitchers were never considered, because their ERAs were bloated by metal bats? How many 15-year-old arms were ruined because they had to throw sliders 75% of the time, or else be pounded into submission by alloy-enhanced hitters?

Kudos to former Met John Franco for standing up and voicing his opposition on the subject. It’s surprising that the politically minded Al Leiter hasn’t been more prevalent — especially considering all the wood bats he sawed off with that cutter.

Shame on the aluminum bat companies for talking about appealing the decision. Their stance is motivated 100% by the Almighty Dollar and not for the safety of the children nor for the development of fundamental baseball skills. The bat companies stand to lose millions of dollars as a result of the Council’s overturn — yet no one considers the money lost by wood bat companies in the 1970s, when aluminum bats first became prevalent in amateur leagues. Had the bat companies and the youth leagues gotten together to set up realistic limits, and built bats that felt and behaved more like wood bats, this issue might never have come to a head. (That was the whole point of aluminum bats, by the way — to save cash-strapped leagues money by creating an “unbreakable” bat. Ungodly performance was never the intention.) But the bat “boys” had to keep pushing the envelope, making lighter, larger barrels in a race to the dollar that ultimately became their downfall.

Normally, I’m not so keen on the government interfering with the opinions and choices of non-governmental organizations such as Little League, American Legion, High School Baseball, etc. However, I hope this decision has a significant effect on the rest of the USA, if for no other reason than to return youth baseball to the game’s purest form. Maybe the youth of America can begin playing baseball again, rather than the distorted blasphemy played on diamonds today. In the end, pitchers can go back to pitching, and batters can learn the proper way to hit. Then, scouts can make fair and reliable evaluations of both, rather than guessing whether a kid can make the conversion to wood, or whether a pitcher will improve once he’s in a wood bat league. It’s bad enough that youth leagues employ a DH, and thus create 13-year-old specialists. The game is supposed to be played with a horsehide baseball and a wood bat. Using a metal bat is akin to using a rubber ball — it’s simply not baseball anymore.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.