Some people claim to have the ability to see what is going to happen in the future. This is thought to be strange and hard to explain. It's not hard, however, when risky behavior is televised.  It's easy to predict that, given enough time, reality will conform to statistics. Every time I watch a San Francisco Giants baseball game, which is roughly every time they play, I have a vivid premonition of a future event. And there is nothing mysterious about it.

The event is this. Somebody is up to bat. Like most major leaguers today, he is using a lightweight maple bat. He hits the ball fairly hard. The bat splinters into several parts. There is the handle, which remains in the batters hand. Then there are various parts of the trunk of the bat. They break along the grain, which means they are sharp at one end. One of them strikes a pitcher in the heart, and kills him. Or a first baseman. Or a third baseman. Or maybe it flies up in the stands and kills a fan. Perhaps a child. So my vision of the future is a bit indeterminate. But it is nevertheless clear. It will happen. There is no doubt. It's just a matter of time.

It doesn't end there. Bud Selig, or whoever is in charge of baseball at the time, issues a statement that this is very regrettable and Major League Baseball is very sorry, but who could have foreseen such an event?

And then a lot of people write stories in the press saying it wasn't hard to forsee this at all. Ash bats, which were the norm for generations, crack but don't splinter. Maple bat explode. Some people have already been injured, and journalists have pressed the dangers. Listen to Jon Miller, the Giants radio announcer, after every single eploding maple bat. See Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, for example:

The major league players union says it is outraged that Major League Baseball allowed the dangerous maple bats. Selig and co. point out that union fought any ban on maple bats.

Hillerich and Bradsbury, which has made Louisville Sluggers forever, says that it is a shame that so many big leaguers quit using their hickory and ash bats. Major League Baseball says that it is a shame that they gave into temptation and started making and promoting maple bats.

Manufacturers of metal bats, widely used in amateur baseball and softball, point out that metal bats don't explode and kill people. Older fans react that they don't want to pay $50 and up for a ticket and then hear a "ping" rather then a "whack" when the ball is hit. Younger fans, used to the "ping" from youth baseball and college baseball, say "what's the big deal".

Congress hold hearings. Editorialists editorialize. Scientists cite statistics, already known for years, that maple bats don't get you any more hits than ash or hickory bats do. In the end, Major League Baseball returns to ash and hickory bats. Maple trees return to providng syrup. The players and who were maimed and killed during the era of the maple bat are basically forgotten.

Seeing into the future doesn't require ESP. Just listen or watch major league baseball.

About the Author

John Perry, Ph.D.

John Perry, Ph.D. is Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Stanford University.

You are reading

Structured Procrastination

The Rose Bowl and Irrationality

Football emotions don't jibe with rational thoughts about the sport.

Seeing Into the Future

Risky Behavior Makes Prediction Easy

A Plea for Knobs

Looking for something to hold on to.