Not only did Maldonado get a Marucci-branded Pujols AP5 maple bat, he told ESPN’s Buster Olney that Pujols sent him a half dozen of his own bats. The 36-year-old catcher used one of them in Game 1 against the Philadelphia Phillies, but Major League Baseball quickly put a stop to that prior to Game 2.
Major League Baseball ruled that Maldonado could not use the bats because that particular AP5 model was no longer allowed in the majors by a player who wasn’t grandfathered in with a 2010 rule change.
An MLB spokesperson told ESPN that the use of Pujols’ bat by Maldonado was not considered a competitive issue. It was a player safety issue, with the concern being multipiece bat failures that happened on the field.
Ahead of the 2009 season, MLB and the MLB Players Association adopted a series of recommendations by a Safety and Health Advisory Committee, which investigated the sport’s broken bat incidents. A team of experts came to an agreement on recommendations to reduce the frequency of multiple-piece broken bats.
In a study that spanned July-September 2008, the committee collected 2,232 bats broken during MLB games for analysis. Among the 2,232 broken bats, 756 were found to have broken into multiple pieces. And those multi-piece breaks were found to be due “to poor-quality slope of grain and/or ruptures caused by excessive bending.”
The “slope of grain” is a wood industry term that denotes the straightness of the wood grain, which directly impacts the durability of the bat. In order to address the slope of grain issue, nine recommendations were adopted in 2009 to reduce the frequency of multi-piece bat failures.
MLB also changed the specifications for the maximum diameter of the barrel from 2.75 inches to 2.61 inches the following season.
However, players already in the majors and using the bigger bats — such as Pujols — could continue to swing them.
The 36-year-old Maldonado, who started his MLB career in 2011, does not qualify for the exemption. He told ESPN that he believed Pujols always got some of the best quality of bats because of his stature.
Pujols finished his 22-year career this season with 703 home runs, fourth on the all-time list.
Maldonado, who batted .186 this season and is a career .209 hitter in 12 seasons, went 1-for-3 with an RBI single while using the AP5 bat in Houston’s Game 1 loss to the Phillies.