The hot cheating story of the day is Bonds and his elbow pad. Over at Editor and Publisher, Michael Witte argues that it’s actually a mechanical aid that helps his swing. Check it out, he’s got six ways he thinks that monstrosity affects the swing. It’s interesting speculation:
1) The apparatus is hinged at the elbow. It is a literal “hitting machine” that allows Bonds to release his front arm on the same plane during every swing. It largely accounts for the seemingly magical consistency of every Bonds stroke.
I think it makes a little too much of his Home Run Derby performance, and too little of the consistent swing he showed before wearing the pad, but the possibility that protective gear might have a secondary benefit is fascinating.
The only thing I’d take issue with is this:
At the moment, Bonds’ apparatus enjoys “grandfathered” status. Similar devices are presently denied to average major leaguers, who must present evidence of injury before receiving an exemption.
This is not true, and pretty easily verified: in 2002, when the “crackdown” on body armor happened, Bonds was allowed to wear a compliant elbow pad because he had a medical exemption (see here, elsewhere), as required by the rules implemented then.
We’ve seen proposals before that players hit on the pad shouldn’t be awarded a free base, but that only addresses the all-plunking side of this (that you get extra HBP and better plate coverage). If Whitte’s article spurs baseball to look into whether this kind of gear can confer an extra mechanical advantage, I’m all for it, if only because I’m as interested in anyone to see if there’s been some quality cheating going on under everyone’s noses for years.
(thanks to the several readers who bugged me to write this up)