May 26, 2004: 8:36 pm: Baseball

I will stand up and moan for three seconds.

October 25, 2003: 5:02 pm: Baseball

Baseball is a variation on a very simple game. The game involves someone hitting a thrown object and seeing how far they can run before the object is returned to them. It’s the same basis as cricket with a different development of rules. Here I’ll attempt to explain the rules of baseball based on the logical consequences of attempting to play a game of this variety.So we start with a person throwing a ball. An opponent attempting to strike the ball as far as possible so he can run a pre-determined circuit and return to this starting position before the ball can.

That’s baseball. That’s all there is to it. All other rules either stem from this or are a matter of the taste of the rulemakers. Every at bat is truly the pursuit of an inside the park home run.

So let’s start there. Someone has to throw the ball. The first question is how far back they stand. This must be regulated. The faster the pitcher can throw the harder it will be to strike the ball. So the pitcher must be far enough back so the ballcan’t be pitched at an unhittable speed but close enough that the pitcher has a fair chance of keeping the batter from striking it. That distance for professionals is 60 feet six inches but it varies depending on the skill level of the competitotrs, as it should.

Contrary to popular belief there is no restriction on how the ball is delivered. It doesn’t have to be overhand. That just is usually the most effective method.

The ball should be delivered however without external aid. The batter should have a chance to strike the ball in it’s pure state with nothing but the effort of the pitcher guiding it. Hence the rules outlawing scuffing the ball, and the constant changing of balls in a professional game. For awhile spit was deemed to be a natural substance, not altering the ball and pitchers were allowed to apply spit to a ball before they threw it. Eventually rule makers deemed that this gave the pitcher an unfair advantage and violated the sanctity of the thrown ball, so it was made illegal. At base the pitcher is delivering the ball FOR the batter not AGAINST the batter. All attempts by the pitcher to gain advantage are contrary to the spirit of the purpose, hence so many rules about what the pitcher can do to gain an edge. It’s an attempt by rule to force the pitcher back into a state of server rather than antagonist.

The fielders were supposed to do the defensive work and stop the batter before he could run the circuit. Stop three batters and you get to take your turn at bat.

The batter is the original focus of the game. In early games he used to be able to call for what kind of pitch he liked and could take as amany balls as possible. Originally it can be assumed that every batter was supposed to strike the ball into play. Eventually they realised that batters could use this as a delay tactic, so a limit on the number of swings you could attempt. Three seemed like the right number. So you were allowed to strike at the ball three times. If you missed all three times you had to retire from the batters box and you were considered out of play.

Not every struck ball was playable however. Sometimes the ball would skip off the bat into a crowd of observers, or even directly behind the batter away from the pitcher and the fielders. Rules were put in place therefore to decalre certain territory generally behind the batter as out of play. A foul was called if the batter struck a ball into this territory.

The question arose as to how this should count now that the batter could only have three strikes at the ball. It was determined that since the batter was swinging it would count as one of the three attempts but since the batter partially succeded at striking the ball, just unfortunately not in the field of play, you could not be retired from the box when you struck for the third time and knocked the ball into foul territory.

Then batters took the stratagem of waiting for just the right pitch, again causing lengthy at bats. Pitchers also could take advantage of throwing the ball far from the batter so it was within reach but more difficult to strike. Therefore a rule had to be put in placejudging which balls were hittable and which balls were not. A pitcher should not throw unhittable balls. Allowing for natural mistakes, a limit of four balls was put on the pitcher. If a batter swung, it did not count. The pitcher was supposed to throw hittable balls, so it was quite generous to allow them 4 mistakes. The punishment if the pitcher met this threshold was to assume that the batter would have connected on a hittable ball and entered the circuit but not made it all the way around but also would not be put out. We’ll disucss more once our batter has hit the ball and we must decide what he does after that.

So now a batter could have the advantage of claiming anything he doesn’t swing at is unhittable and always entering the circuit. So another rule had to be put in place that if the pitch was deemed hittable that the batter must swing. If the batter refrained from striking at the ball it will be counted against him anyway as one of his attempts. A judge was put in place to arbitrate what pitches could be struck at and what were one of the four balls the pitcher was allowed to waste.

So if a batter didn’t swing at all, he could technically be ruled to have struck at three balls if he refrained from swinginig at hittable pitches. The rules describe what in the opinion of the rule makers is a hittable ball and what isn’t.

So now we have the principles surrounding the player reciving his pitches and attempting to strike the ball into play. We have ruled on all instances and possibilities if the batter does not strike the ball successfully and what rules will keep the balance of fair play.

So what happens when the batter does fairly strike the ball?

October 17, 2003: 9:41 am: Baseball

I’m not going to watch the World Series. Thos ewho know me know this is highly unusual as I’ll watch anything from Little League to the Arizona Fall League.

And contrary to what some may assume, I don’t hate the Yankees. I was raised a Cardinal fan. The Yankees are irrelevant. Their one of those teams from the made-up league that doesn’t let their pitchers bat.

The reason I won’t watch the World Series (at least very closely) is that the Yankees bore me.

There’s nothing glorious in their achievements. A team with three times the payroll of the rest of organised ball SHOULD win every year. And they have with a couple of exceptions that are products of random chance.

That makes the World Series about as menaingful and exciting as a 30-year-old Math teacher winning a chess tournment against seven-year-olds. It’s only exciting if a seven-year-old wins.

This doesn’t mean I think the Yankees players don’t deserve to win. They do. They’re an all-star team. They should be embrassed by every game they lose. And it doesn’t mean I think Steinbrenner is cheating or somehow unfair. He’s not. He’s a very savvy businessman doing a great job running a business.

It just means that having a team like New York always be as much better than everyone else is no testament to baseball talent. There’s nothing special about the Yankees. They aren’t winning by grit or determination. They’re winning by stacking the deck with the best players available at any given moment. They’re an all-star team. It’s not unfair it’s just dull. One can’t take any pride in their achievements. So they win. Big deal. Big surprise. You’re only interested when they lose because it by all rights should be impossible.

It’s the same reason the 1997 Marlins weren’t special. They won because they paid for a team. Unlike George they couldn’t afford to keep doing it.

Imagine if the Jest had Peyton Manning, Marshall Faulk and an All-Pro at every position except kicker. IMagine they go on to the Super Bowl every year but one for seven years and win all but two. Think Football would be exciting?

So I’ll keep a half an eye on the Series to see if the Marlins pull off any more dramatics. The underdog story is the only one of note. But I’ll miss what the World Series should be. Two teams starting from the same level and one of them excelling based on their effort. If New York won every year in that scenario I’d respect them. As it is I don’t hold it against the players but I feel a little sorry for them. They can only take sorrow in infrequent losses. There’s not much pride in beating up on teams of half your value. At least their shouldn’t be if you have any claim of honour or nobility.

« Previous Page