But if you’re not a fan, this probably seems absurd.
May 6, 2015 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Battering the Batter
For too long, MLB has tolerated the 'tradition' of pitchers intentionally hitting the other team's players. That needs to change.
posted by andoatnp (83 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's even worse in the American League, where pitchers don't have to bat and don't face the threat of direct retaliation. So instead, you hit the other team's best hitter.

The other weird tradition is that batters are supposed to put their head down and not celebrate a home run (otherwise they're showing up the pitcher) but relief pitchers get to fist pump and shout when they strike someone out, even though home runs happen a lot less frequently than strike outs.
posted by thecjm at 1:13 PM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


This feels the same as an attempt at trying to remove fighting from hockey. There are traditionalists who say it must be there, there is extensive media coverage of every bench-clearing brawl, there's the innumerable unwritten rules/laws/"code" that goes with the sport (insert Bull Durham quote), etc.

But then, like most sports opinion writers, the job is to tilt and windmills and attack sacred cows etc. Page-views, no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity, etc.
posted by k5.user at 1:13 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is one of those issues where they will save themselves incredible amounts of grief by stopping the practice before their luck runs out and someone gets killed. Make the suspensions games, not days, should be done immediately.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:15 PM on May 6, 2015


Unless you’re a baseball historian, Ray Chapman probably isn’t a name that sounds familiar. If you do recognize him, it’s because he has the ignominy of being the last Major League Baseball player to die from being hit by a pitch. The Cleveland shortstop died in 1920 at the age of 29, after the Yankees pitcher Carl Mays accidentally struck Chapman in the head with a ball. That MLB has gone nearly an entire century without another on-field fatality has less to do with improvements in player safety and more to do with dumb luck.

Chapman was hit in his bare head (batting helmets are required now) by a dirty (umps must replace dirty balls now) submarine (super rare) spitball (banned) at twilight (much less of an issue in modern stadiums).

So, yeah, other than all that...
posted by Sys Rq at 1:19 PM on May 6, 2015 [41 favorites]


Sure, take away the inside pitch if you want marathon hit-fests that exhaust pitchers and, ultimately, bore fans. Baseball games are long enough already.

(Which isn't to say I'm a huge fan of beanballing, but ... )
posted by uncleozzy at 1:23 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Obligatory link to George Carlin's new rules for sports. ("If the pitcher hits the batter with the ball, batter's out!")
posted by usonian at 1:28 PM on May 6, 2015


What's the point of having everything be risk-free? Beanball is an integral part of baseball tradition, does not appear to have significant long-term injury risk (there isn't exactly an epidemic of CTE in baseball), and adds drama to what can be a very boring game.

(For these reasons alone, it's highly unlikely to go away, but Atlantic writers gotta write for the Atlantic, I suppose.)
posted by corcovado at 1:31 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Of course, that's also not to mention the chilling effect it'd have on inside pitches, which are integral to pitcher strategy.
posted by corcovado at 1:32 PM on May 6, 2015


I say if the pitcher hits the batter with the ball, the batter gets to hit the pitcher with the bat. Fair's fair.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:32 PM on May 6, 2015 [22 favorites]


Famed knuckleballer Wilbur Wood once hit a batter who glared angrily and made motions like he was about to charge the mound. The catcher yelled "He wasn't trying to hit you. Who ever heard of throwing at someone with a knuckleball?" The batter pondered that for a moment, shrugged and walked to first, pacified.
posted by delfin at 1:33 PM on May 6, 2015 [25 favorites]


Not all pitchers will throw at batters. If you are a batter, you want your pitchers to throw at their hitters, to protect you. Bob Veale was the Pirates' best pitcher for years. Between 1962 and 1972, he won 116 games. But he had a flaw. Gene Clines, a Pirate outfielder at the time, talked to me after Veale was traded to Boston: "He can throw the ball through a brick wall, but everybody knew that he was a gentle giant. If Veale would knock you down, it had to be a mistake. He didn't want to hurt anybody." Clines shook his head in bewildered melancholy. "Who's going to challenge him? Nobody on the baseball field is going to say, 'I'm going to go out and get Bob Veale.'… Take a left-handed hitter. Take Willie. They going to be going up to the plate, and digging in, knowing that Veale is not going to knock them down…." He shakes his head again, at the waste of it all.

"Blass was the same way." Steve Blass announced in 1973 that he would not throw at batters, even if management fined him for disobeying orders. "Now he was one guy that personally I really didn't like to play behind," Clines told me. "If they knock me down two or three times… well, if he throws at a batter, he's gonna say, 'Watch out!'… and I don't want that, because they never told me to watch out! They trying to knock my head off! Why go out there and play behind a guy that's not going to protect you?"

Manny Sanguillen: "I tell you about Veale. The only player Veale used to knock down was Willie McCovey. The only one. I was catching. Because McCovey hurt him so much." McCovey hurt Veale by hitting long balls off him. "You remember when McCovey had the operation here?" Manny, whose hands are as quick as the expressions on his face, jabs at his right knee. "Veale used to throw down at the knee!"

posted by three blind mice at 1:33 PM on May 6, 2015


Metafilter: What's the point of having everything be risk-free?
posted by Melismata at 1:36 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


What Sys Rq said. It has everything to do with baseball making the game safer. That incident was actually what led directly to the replacing of dirty balls and the entering of the "live ball" era.

Sorry, his whole argument is, well, dumb. Players are going to get hit, intentionally or not. they already have pretty strict rules about it. and pitchers throw behind guys half the time to make the same statement (which tends to result in players charging the mound). But yeah, I guess they need content : /
posted by ghostiger at 1:39 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


The suggestion in the article of having a 10+ game suspension is wishful thinking given how rare it is to have absolute certainty that a hit by pitch was intentional. There is already a warning system in place that results in automatic ejections for any hit by pitch that is even plausibly intentional, but that is only used in situations where retaliation is likely because otherwise pitchers would be getting ejected all the time for genuine mistakes. Probably the only way to get rid of it would be to get all of the managers to buy into not encouraging it somehow rather than trying to punish the players.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:40 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's the point of having everything be risk-free?

It appeals to the hermetically-sealed risk-averse generation known as Millenials, who were raised by gullible scaredy-cat TV watchers.

Ooop, sorry, thought I was commenting on a local newspaper article there for a second.
posted by MattMangels at 1:40 PM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


There's always been a lottery!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:40 PM on May 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


I might watch baseball if the hitters were allowed to take the bat with them as they run the bases.
posted by Flexagon at 1:42 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Orioles and Blue Jays have had a lot of this lately, dating back to last year. The Orioles have targeted Jose Bautisa, the Jays best player. There's not a person in the ballpark who would suggest the Orioles pitchers weren't intentionally throwing at/behind him. Unfortunately for the Orioles, the last two times they did it, Bautista retaliated in the best possible way by slugging a home run.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:44 PM on May 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


Make it illegal for batters to wear armor on their lead arms (I'm ok with foot/leg protection) and enforce the boundaries of the batter's box, and this might make sense to me.
posted by punchee at 1:45 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


It appeals to the hermetically-sealed risk-averse generation known as Millenials

I don't know about the second part but I've definitely noticed this kind of risk avoidance in millennials, I think it's probably helicopter parenting + financial crisis during formative years.
posted by corcovado at 1:45 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Unwritten Code of Baseball is sort of like the Pirate Code -- more guidelines than rules, savvy? But it isn't going away any time soon, and neither are retaliation pitches and retaliations for retaliations. As noted, when pitchers go headhunting, batters start screaming, and many hitters approach the plate in just short of medieval armor, but the rib shot is generally acceptable.

You can seriously injure someone with an intentional HBP, so care needs to be taken in its execution. That said... I do love me a good baseball bench-clearing brawl. As long as nobody pulls a Pedro Borbon and bites an opponent on the field, it's generally great fun to watch.
posted by delfin at 1:45 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I might watch baseball if the hitters were allowed to take the bat with them as they run the bases.


There's always cricket. Of course, in cricket, there's still a chance you could die.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:47 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


The traditionalist "unwritten rules" are just so, so so incredibly fucking stupid. Not talking about batters getting hit with inside pitches here, these are pitchers straight up beaming dudes for flipping their bat before they run, or celebrating too much. It's an overgrown frat full of "not cool, bro, not cool" garbage anytime someone dares break the mold or hypes up the crowd after a win. Then they throw a fast ball at your torso because you hurt their feel-feels.

Like Chris Rock was saying a few weeks ago, if MLB keeps up with this "keep it like the good old days" bullshit they're going to lose the next generation of kids.
posted by windbox at 1:51 PM on May 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


[In the dead ball era] "... The ball, which had been used in the game the day before, was about as hard as an overripe peach but couldn't be hit as far. The umpire insisted it was still usable."--Ron Luciano
posted by Melismata at 1:51 PM on May 6, 2015


I suspect players themselves don't necessarily care that much as MLB-level play results is a lot fewer accidental pitches to the body compared to high school or college ball where not every pitcher has perfect control all the time... I think I see a kid get hit at pretty much every high school game I go to.
posted by GuyZero at 1:52 PM on May 6, 2015


The real scourge is catchers hitting batters with a thrown ball.

That is the best baseball Vine you've ever seen btw.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:54 PM on May 6, 2015 [31 favorites]


Oh, the pearl clutching!

"Unlike other sports, which assess a meaningful immediate penalty (lost yardage, free throws, forcing a team to play a man short for a period of time), MLB has no such disincentive and so this behavior happens frequently."

And, unlike other sports, the economy of baseball is built entirely upon outs, or more accurately upon AVOIDING outs. You hit a guy and he is on base. He is NOT out.

AND, unlike other sports, this sort of foul is actually rare. When's the last time you saw a basketball game without a personal foul? In baseball there is significantly less than 1 hit-by-pitch per game per team, and the wild, vast majority of them are accidental. And a majority of those are extremely minor.

There are the Pedro Martinezes of the world, who are fairly open about hitting guys, but even Pedro (who could genuinely put his pitches into a coffee cup at 60'6") mostly just hit guys by going inside. He sent Jeter and Soriano to the hospital, by pitching in the hands on pitches they swung at, in the same game. Of course now he says he meant to hit Jeter but not Soriano, but who knows? The really were both pretty good pitches. It's notable that he also says that he hit Jeter at least partly so that the umpires would warn both sides, and they could play a clean game.

But anyway, yeah: until they can track intention there is no way this flies. If you can't pitch inside without risking immediate ejection guys will just tee up, every game will be 30 -24, and I don't think I'd watch.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:55 PM on May 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


The suggestion in the article of having a 10+ game suspension...

Just to clarify for the non-baseball fans out there:

Since starting pitchers only play once every 5 games (generally), a 10 game suspension for a starter (with some juggling on who starts when) means that only a single start would be missed.
posted by sideshow at 1:55 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I say if the pitcher hits the batter with the ball, the batter gets to hit the pitcher with the bat. Fair's fair.

Like this!
posted by resurrexit at 1:56 PM on May 6, 2015


Or just go after the catcher, since he most likely called the pitch.

Or sometimes both.
posted by delfin at 2:01 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not exactly germane to this article, but I have a few ideas for solving baseball's offensive drought, other than banning the shift:

1) Offsides rule for outfielders. Draw a line, say, 50 feet past the infield; fielders aren't allowed to cross that line until the batter becomes a batter-runner.

2) The pitcher stands behind home plate, and throws the ball to the catcher standing on the mound, who has to use a bat (a large "catcher's bat") to hit it back at home plate where the batter is waiting to take his swing.

3) No more foul territory; a ball is fair if it lands on the field (even behind the batter).
posted by vogon_poet at 2:20 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bat flips are the worst straw man for this discussion. Beaning is often done in retaliation for hard slides or home plate collisions. In the case of the latter, there have been clear attempts to effect rule changes, but less so in the former. It's a game that gets physical on occasion, but after 100 years of evolution, it's a pretty decent system of checks and balances.
posted by 99_ at 2:25 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know about the second part but I've definitely noticed this kind of risk avoidance in millennials, I think it's probably helicopter parenting + financial crisis during formative years.

This is top drawer research, right here!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:25 PM on May 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


until they can track intention there is no way this flies

And once they figure that out, I look forward to the involved debates about how to apply linear weights correctly to IntentionF/X mind-tracking technology to derive higher-level headhunting stats for punitive purposes. No, that inside fastball was thrown with only 0.12 positive desire to cause injury and 0.79 motivation to change the batter's eye level, so the umpiring drones have decided to rule no ejection, no deployment of weapons…
posted by RogerB at 2:25 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


The traditionalist "unwritten rules" are just so, so so incredibly fucking stupid.

Say what you will, but they're a huge part of most people's active enjoyment of a game - the emotional sense that they share some intimate, insider knowledge with the players on the field. Sports aren't just random number generators, they're essentially proxies for war and all the irrational, 'stupid' emotions that go along with it.

That's not mentioning the strong case for sportsmanship (and attendant retaliations for violations thereof) as a means to keep peace between large, physically intimidating men, some with weapons, who are prone to fits of anger.
posted by corcovado at 2:26 PM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Like Chris Rock was saying a few weeks ago, if MLB keeps up with this "keep it like the good old days" bullshit they're going to lose the next generation of kids.

There was a great quote from Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary, can't find it now: something about how even in 1920, people were complaining that "baseball wasn't what it used to be."
posted by Melismata at 2:27 PM on May 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


You bean a guy fairly, he learns not to pull that bull, and everyone goes "See, rook. Don't show a guy up, you don't get that bruise."

You bean a guy unfairly? You get beaned.

There's a reason that the in-your-face BS that's all over all the other sports really doesn't exist in the NL, and that's because if you try it in the the NL, you get hit by a pitch. That really hurts. So, we get back to playing baseball. It's a beautiful thing. Don't need fines. Don't need umpires stepping in. Don't need fans complaining about how it's unfair that blah gets this but blah blah didn't get that. Nope. Show someone up, *BAM* comes the ball in the side. Justice is done.

Baseball, at least in the NL, is self correcting. That shit the Royals have been pulling this year? Would have been over the first week of the season if the AL would put the pitcher up on char...I mean, get rid of the DH. Oh, by the way, that's also the Appellate Court. You hit someone without due cause? You have to stand in that batter's box as well, and you'll pay for your perfidy. So, pitchers don't simply hit other batters willy-nilly, because *they will be hit* if they do so.

Most of the scary, OMG heart stopping moments when a batter gets hit in the head by a pitch are accidents, and you can tell, because you can see the pitcher freaking out because they're thinking they almost killed someone -- See the Cubs's Pedro Strop last Sunday, having a flyer go and nail Jean Segura in the head. Thankfully, it *just* caught his helmet, but Seguara dropped like he was shot. He got up about 5 minutes later, took his base, then got pulled for a pinch runner immediately afterwards. Scary moment -- and no intent whatsoever.

So this? Noise. He wants baseball to be like the NBA, full of all the taunting, which is why the NBA needs all those flagrant fouls and fines. There's no means of self correction on the court. You have to count on the officials. So, *it's a legit strategy* to try to get the other guy to retaliate and get thrown out.

Baseball? You skip your way around the bases after that HR? You're going to eat a baseball next time up, and get a very sore trip to first, and the umpires? They're going to chuckle. And justice will be done, and nobody's got to do anything else.

You let the players police, and the players turn out to be good at it, actually.

Oh, finally, and this came up last year. Player gets hit, smirks, starts pulling off his gear and hears "Strike 3...out!" A batter hit by a pitch that's in the strike zone gets a strike, does not get given first base, and hurts just as much. A batter hit by a pitch that he swung at also does not get a base, and it's a strike. Technically, if you don't attempt to get out of the way and you had the chance to, you're not awarded the base, that call is rare but does happen. In all cases, the ball is dead when it hits the batter.

There's another reason -- batters who aren't good inside will crowd the plate. Sometimes, you have to push them back. Sometimes, they don't take a hint. So, occasionally, you have to do more than brush.

Now, there is one thing that is universally condemned -- intentionally throwing at the head is pretty much a no-no. Throwing at the body is fine. Throwing a 95mph fastball intentionally at someone's head, even in the mandatory helmet with earflap era, is *way* to close to trying to kill someone. If an umpire even thinks you meant to do that, you're gone, you're manager is ejected too, and you're getting suspended for at least a week.


Oh, an aside: There's a cardinal rule in baseball: If a fight does start, you get off the bench and get in there. Period. Teams have been known to fine the last guy off the bench unless he's injured. Why?

Because unlike almost any other sport, baseball isn't a fair fight. There's 1-4 offensive players on the field, but 9 defensive players. You've got to get out there to make sure it turns into a big shoving scrum and nobody gets hurt. If it's 9 against 1, somebody could get really screwed up.

So clearing the benches is actually safer than leaving the guy out there.
posted by eriko at 2:34 PM on May 6, 2015 [38 favorites]


If anyone thinks pitchers these days are aggressive in protecting the plate, they've never seen footage of Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, or Sal "The Barber" Maglie.
posted by Ber at 2:39 PM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I love the unwritten rules of baseball. They're worthy of an entire book.

Last night I was listening to the Phils getting plastered by the Braves. Runner on third, less than two outs, lazy flyball to the outfield - probably deep enough to bring in the run. But the announcers explain that the runner on third didn't tag up because the unwritten rule is that, if you're leading 9-0, you don't try to add a needless run on a play that would potentially involve sliding into the catcher.

There's a logic in that rule. It's part of why I love baseball so much.
posted by sixpack at 2:44 PM on May 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


How about giving a hit batter two bases? Or one base for below the elbows/knees, two bases for everything else?
posted by imelcapitan at 2:45 PM on May 6, 2015


Well you don't want to incent batters to take a dive. 3 bases for a head hit is going to have batters put on bigger helmets and not even take a bat up to the plate with them.
posted by GuyZero at 2:47 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


"If the pitcher hits the batter with the ball, batter's out!"

In fact, in the early days of the game, hitting the runner with a thrown ball was a way to get them out. Sure, it's a little different than a pitcher throwing at a batter, still...
posted by Thorzdad at 2:48 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


How about giving a hit batter two bases? Or one base for below the elbows/knees, two bases for everything else?

You'll see a lot more batters leaning into the pitch, that's what.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:49 PM on May 6, 2015


than banning the shift:

The shift is being solved -- mainly by a skill the same guys who created shift killed. You shift everyone to RF, I'll just bunt it to LF, and I'm on base, and as any saber metrics guy will tell you, bunting was bad because outs are bad -- but a bunt for a hit? That's gold.

My favorite "your shift is bad, and you should feel bad" moment so far this year. Cubs/Padres @ Chicago. Jonathan Herrera on third, James Shields pitching, Anthony Rizzo batting. They have a mad-right shift on Rizzo. Well, Herrera just saunters halfway home. Shields goes "Hey, easiest pickoff EVAR, goes to throw....and realizes there isn't a third baseman there, because he's on second, because SHIFT, and he has to *run* Herrera back to third.

So. We get that settled. And Shields goes into the stretch. Did we mention Shields is a lefty? So he can see Herrera? So what does Herrera do? Trolls the pitcher, of course, and walks halfway down the line again. Again, with the running of the the pitcher, and the scamper back to third, and I'm sure the phrase "U MAD, BRO?" was uttered.

Back to the stretch. Walkies Time Again. And, off comes the pitcher, and back goes Herrera....

And so on...and so on..and so on...each time, you could see Shields getting *EVEN MORE PISSED*.

It was EPIC trolling. EPIC. And Herrera Would. Not. Stop. The 3rd base coach about pissed himself laughing.

Did San Diego put a baseman back there to keep Herrera in line and at least somewhere near third? Nope. Did Herrera stop with a lead so long you could land a 737? Hell no.

Well, finally, Shields manages to deliver a pitch....right into the dirt, five-holes his catcher, and to the backstop it goes! And Herrera takes *four more steps* because of that lead and scores.

Finally, because there was apparently more than one troll in that ballpark, the scorer initially called it a passed ball. (It was changed later.)

Seriously. Watch this. I saw this live and I could not stop laughing.

Never mind bunting into a shift to break up a no-hitter. That, my good people, that is trolling the shift.
posted by eriko at 2:59 PM on May 6, 2015 [30 favorites]


Sure, take away the inside pitch if you want marathon hit-fests that exhaust pitchers and, ultimately, bore fans. Baseball games are long enough already.

How about allowing the pitcher to throw at the batter if he steps out of the box to adjust the velcro on his gloves? That would cut game time in half.
posted by JackFlash at 3:12 PM on May 6, 2015


Or seriously don't let batters leave the box. Leave the box, you're out.

God, I can only dream.
posted by GuyZero at 3:20 PM on May 6, 2015


Baseball pitchers in MLB, arguably the best in the world at throwing a baseball, often pointlessly throw way high or wide or both, making it so the catcher can't even catch it. These are clearly momentary losses of control. It is, therefore, impossible to remove the risk of hitting batter with a pitch. Pitchers don't have that much control and batters can't always get out of the way. But here's the rub. Intentionally targeting a batter should result in suspension. The umpire needs to make a judgement call. It's bad enough that it happens accidentally. The players and the fans do not need to put up with such game mangling events. In regard to lack of intentional beaning leading to "hit fests" I call shenanigans.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:22 PM on May 6, 2015


I could solve this with a single rule change.

Hit by pitch? Take two bases.

No one -- no one -- would be intentionally beaned ever again.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:31 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


The suggestion in the article of having a 10+ game suspension

The article makes no such suggestion.
posted by Shmuel510 at 3:37 PM on May 6, 2015


I love the unwritten rules of baseball. They're worthy of an entire book.

Welcome back, Yogi, we've missed you!

As for this thread, we seems to be overthinking a plate of beanballs.
posted by chavenet at 3:51 PM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


delfin: " That said... I do love me a good baseball bench-clearing brawl. "

I mean, really, who doesn't? People in football and hockey are playing a physical, fast-paced game and you get how sometimes that erupts into a fight; in baseball, you get the spectacle of a slow-paced, turn-by-turn game where fully-grown adult men have a mob fist-fight over perceived slights in a GAME where almost everyone is at least 90 feet apart.

It's like playing Sorry, but for adults.

I am sad there are so few dirt-kicking fights in baseball anymore. Seeing adult men kick dirt on each others' shoes in a rage is pretty much the best thing ever. (A THIRD GUY has to intervene!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:55 PM on May 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Love that counter-shift strategy, eriko. Saw something similar on a much smaller scale at a Jays game recently. Heavy shift put the 3B over in the SS position, and everyone else on the right side of the diamond. Except there was a runner on second, who basically walked to third. Pitcher couldn't do anything about it, because there was nobody to throw to.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 3:56 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dickie Thon was never the same after being hit by a Mike Torrez pitch in 1984.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 4:00 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


The solution is to do away with the designated hitter, which will also introduce American League fans to the sport of baseball.
posted by oneironaut at 4:00 PM on May 6, 2015 [44 favorites]


The best thing that could happen to baseball would be for the NL to get rid of their stupid efforts to get pitchers to hit. Nice try! We get it you tried it out for a long time now. We all know it's a dumb rule, bring on DH's for everybody.
posted by Carillon at 4:02 PM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Man next thing you know you'll want to bring back the whole basket hoops in basketball where they had to get a ladder every time someone scored. . .
posted by Carillon at 4:03 PM on May 6, 2015


Or kill a random puppy or kitten. Or smash a cab window. Some random but proportionate act of violence unrelated to being hit by a pitch.

The metagame would be thrillingly surreal.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:20 PM on May 6, 2015


I don't know about the second part but I've definitely noticed this kind of risk avoidance in millennials, I think it's probably helicopter parenting + financial crisis during formative years.

Or maybe they are not as dumb.
posted by srboisvert at 4:48 PM on May 6, 2015


Last night I was listening to the Phils getting plastered by the Braves. Runner on third, less than two outs, lazy flyball to the outfield - probably deep enough to bring in the run. But the announcers explain that the runner on third didn't tag up because the unwritten rule is that, if you're leading 9-0, you don't try to add a needless run on a play that would potentially involve sliding into the catcher.

Somebody needs an updated unwritten rule book seeing as catchers are no longer allowed to block the plate.
posted by srboisvert at 4:50 PM on May 6, 2015


oneironaut: The solution is to do away with the designated hitter, which will also introduce American League fans to the sport of baseball.

The only unequivocal, clear and strongly stated position I heard (then-Massachusetts Senator) John Kerry take during his 2004 Presidential campaign was during a Red Sox game at Fenway. A reporter asked him what he thought about the designated hitter rule and he was firmly against it.
posted by usonian at 4:56 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


The way to get rid of the beanball is to administratively police other shady elements of baseball. Much like how the NHL has made wasting one or more roster spots on an enforcer unpalatable. Actually punishing the dangerous plays cuts down on the need for in-game enforcement. Having four lines becomes a competitive advantage and now the enforcer role naturally fades. There's still fighting in hockey but it's no longer the predictable first shift of the second period gladiatorial kind of thing.

The hard slide is the first thing that comes to mind when administratively dealing with shady/dangerous plays. Also enforcing the strike zone defined in the rules would help. When the high inside strike is called again there are reasons for the pitcher to go up and in without burning a pitch. Finally, the arm armor has to go. When there are no consequences for crowding the plate, batters are going to do it because it cuts the effective strike zone.

Beanballs for showmanship or other perceived slights is stupid but that can also be administratively dealt with by handing out suspensions that effectively have a starter miss more than a single game. Removing the appeals process would also make the suspensions more effective as they are more difficult to mitigate.

And the DH is an abomination. I don't need football levels of scoring to enjoy the game. You want to bat? Play a position in the field. Simple as that.

The shift, on the other hand, is a natural evolution of the game. I encourage more shifting. It adds complexity to the game by forcing offenses to be more flexible. I'm not a huge fan of the station-to-station, dead-pull, homerun-dependant turn the game has taken. I know I'm supposed to be pissed that Rizzo has to choose between bunting and hitting into the shift. I'm not though. Take the free base or stroke an opposite field double/triple. The shift is there because you're a one trick pony. Evolve. It would also mitigate this stupid pressure to keep the DH because it's a golden parachute for old-ass pull hitters.

Rizzo being not the best example because he is a more rounded hitter but, hey, I watch a lot of Cubs games. It's what I'm familiar with.
posted by Fezboy! at 4:58 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Finally, the arm armor has to go.

Actually, it has to stay -- breaking a wrist at the start of a critical series is a huge advantage for the pitching team. Hell, SF's Hunter Pence had a broken arm from an inside pitch this year in Spring Training.

Beanballs for showmanship or other perceived slights is stupid but that can also be administratively dealt with by handing out suspensions that effectively have a starter miss more than a single game. Removing the appeals process would also make the suspensions more effective as they are more difficult to mitigate.

The problem with these is historically, Famous Teams don't get the suspensions and Big Names don't get the suspensions. When the Chicago Bulls where the big team, they could do almost anything and Micheal Jordan could do anything short of a Felony before he'd get a technical, never mind a suspension. Touch MJ, though, and you were ejected and looking at a week off.

Baseball? Doesn't matter who you are. Show 'em up, eat the ball. So the showmanship has stayed very low. I like it that way. The fact that you put a guy on base acts as an automatic limiter.

Hockey, it wasn't so much suspension/discipline fixing things -- C'mon! That would mean Bettman did something right. YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID!! -- It was a combination of two refs*, meaning a lot more things were getting caught on the ice before they blew up, and as you mentioned, the realization that the fourth line was far more valuable than a few spare parts and Thug the Enforcer.**

And, GuyZero is right. The fastest, simplest and easiest way to get rid of the intentional beanball is to put the runner in scoring position. You make a HPB two bases rather than one, and the beanball dies 15 seconds later. Any pitcher dumb enough to do it won't need to be punished by the league, his manager will give him eight sorts of hell.

The shift, on the other hand, is a natural evolution of the game. I encourage more shifting.

Actually, so do I. It'll bring back slap hitting, it'll bring back bunting, and man, even if it only happens once a season, if I get to see a runner troll a pitcher like that again, it is SO worth it. That ALONE made the 2015 Cubs the best Cubs team I've seen in a decade.


* And soccer people? EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Of your lame arguments on why you cannot have more than one referee on the pitch was made when the decision to have two referees on the ice in hockey was announced. And EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. was wrong.

Get another ref, for fucks sake. As to the clock issue? One of them carries the watch. That's it. Solved. Get another ref, for fucks sake. It makes the game so much better.

** Though Twist vs. Probert? McSorley vs. well who didn't he fight? I think McSorley fought himself once. My absolute favorite was when Kelly Chase was skating off, ran into someone, dropped the gloves and went at it. It was Kelly Chase vs. Tony Twist! Epic, right? Well, it would be, except they were both playing for the St. Louis Blues at the time....

And never forget the Gordy Howe Hat Trick. 1 Goal, 1 Assist, and Five for Fighting.
posted by eriko at 5:39 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


In cricket, a key weapon in any decent fast bowler's armoury is the bouncer, which is designed to intimidate the batsman, by essentially aiming for the head. However, there are some complex rules that have evolved over time surrounding the allowable use of the bouncer, as well as some gentlemens agreements about their application.
posted by wilful at 5:39 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


If anyone thinks pitchers these days are aggressive in protecting the plate, they've never seen footage of Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, or Sal "The Barber" Maglie.

Bob Gibson brushed back Reggie Jackson -- in the 1993 Old Timers Game at the All-Star game. Why? Because Reggie Jackson hit a home run off him in the 1992 Old Timers game and celebrated too much.

In cricket, a key weapon in any decent fast bowler's armoury is the bouncer, which is designed to intimidate the batsman, by essentially aiming for the head.

Yes -- there was a limit to how many you could bowl to a given batsman per over, IIRC. Note that the beamer -- a toss directly at the head without bouncing -- is flat illegal, it's a no-ball, the bowler is warned, if it keeps happening, the bowler can be barred from bowling for the remainder of the innings. (Surprise! I'm bilingual!)

It went tragically wrong last year, when a young Australian cricketer, Philip Hughes, died of a cerebral hemorrhage after a bouncer caught him in the neck, under the helmet and face/neck guard. It was a complete freak, but it happens -- sometimes, everything goes just wrong. The match was abandoned.
posted by eriko at 5:55 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Catfish Hunter was a family friend and he told this story to my father:

Hunter once threw a pitch to Dick Howser that Howser thought was a little too close, and he charged the mound. When he was about halfway there, Hunter said, "Dick, who the hell would want to bean a .150 hitter?"

Howser stopped, thought about it and said, "Yeah, I guess you are right." He went back to the plate and awaited the next pitch.
posted by 4ster at 6:10 PM on May 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


And the DH is an abomination. I don't need football levels of scoring to enjoy the game.

FWIW, even with the DH, scoring is way down from what it used to be.

Baseball? Doesn't matter who you are. Show 'em up, eat the ball. So the showmanship has stayed very low. I like it that way.

This is by far my least favorite aspect of sports fandom. Don't want to get shown up? Don't throw home run balls.

(Not to mention that there's a whole nother conversation to be had about the racial anxieties and policing behind the way the vast majority of sportswriters, and a certain class of sports fans, talk about this particular issue.)
posted by asterix at 6:15 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


(Not to say that that's what's driving your attitudes on the subject, eriko. Just that if we're going to talk about showboating, it's the elephant in the room.)
posted by asterix at 6:16 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love the unwritten honor code. I love bat flips. I love bean balls. I love fist pumps. I love bench clearing brawls. I love the unspoken respect/disrespect/fear/hate dynamic between pitcher and batter. I love/hate unreliable umpires. Baseball is emotional and physical chaos packaged in a delicious boring wrapper, and it is beautiful. I hope it never/always changes.
posted by TheCoug at 9:02 PM on May 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ok, that article is stupid. I'm not an "old school" fan of baseball but the batter's head is as safe as we can make it. The real danger of a fatality is a pitcher getting bit in the head by a batted ball. Brandon McCarthy almost died two years ago while pitching for the Oakland A's, and obviously that is totally random. MLB has developed a safety cap for pitchers, but to my knowledge only one player is wearing it at the moment.

As for the "code" around bat-flipping and celebrating, never doubt: this is dog whistle racist bullshit. It's always Black and Latino players who get grief for celebrating. People vociferously boo Yasiel Puig for his bat flips. Puig fled Cuba and almost had his hands cut off by the smugglers. Fucking right he gets to flip his bat. Black players are "gifted" and "talented", while white players are "tough" and "gritty".
posted by dry white toast at 9:19 PM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Don't forget "scrappy."
posted by Chrysostom at 9:46 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


And, GuyZero is right.

That was imelcapitan actually.
posted by GuyZero at 9:56 PM on May 6, 2015


Somebody needs an updated unwritten rule book seeing as catchers are no longer allowed to block the plate.

I don't believe that's true. The new rule is complex, but it does allow catchers with the ball the block the plate, and it does allow runners to slide. It's mainly intended to eliminate collisions, not sliding, which I believe is what the announcers were talking about.
posted by sixpack at 2:53 AM on May 7, 2015


As for the "code" around bat-flipping and celebrating, never doubt: this is dog whistle racist bullshit. It's always Black and Latino players who get grief for celebrating.

Bob Gibson nailed anybody for celebrating. When Bob Gibson was playing, there were damn few black and almost no Latino players playing in the bigs at all, and hell if you dug in, he'd hit you. Gibson, of course, was black.

This rule is *far older* that the color line. You don't need to show up a guy after you get a hit. The hit is showing up the guy. The steal is showing up the guy. Anything more is being an asshole.

And note that Hererra (Lation) trolling Shields (White) while there was shift on got no retaliation, because, well, it's not his fault there wasn't anybody covering third.
posted by eriko at 5:08 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


As for the "code" around bat-flipping and celebrating, never doubt: this is dog whistle racist bullshit. It's always Black and Latino players who get grief for celebrating. People vociferously boo Yasiel Puig for his bat flips. Puig fled Cuba and almost had his hands cut off by the smugglers. Fucking right he gets to flip his bat. Black players are "gifted" and "talented", while white players are "tough" and "gritty".

You really need to put down the Deadspin every now and again; not everything in sports maps cleanly to the ideological battles du jour.
posted by corcovado at 6:11 AM on May 7, 2015


Bumgarner's still a sanctimonious prick.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:38 AM on May 7, 2015


You really need to put down the Deadspin every now and again; not everything in sports maps cleanly to the ideological battles du jour.

That's not actually a refutation, you know. Look at the comment right above yours for an example of an actual response (although this whole "showing up" line of talk really makes my eyes roll; are hitters really not allowed to show any kind of visible joy at having gotten a good hit?).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:40 AM on May 7, 2015


are hitters really not allowed to show any kind of visible joy at having gotten a good hit?).

A little fist pump? Yeah, that's fine. A little clapping as you approach home, esp. if it's a walkoff and the whole team is waiting there for you? Not a problem. First big league homer? With your parents there? Yeah, you should have a shit eating grin on your face. But don't look at the pitcher -- though if he comes over and says "nice hit" after the game, thank him.

Pointing at the pitcher as you skip around the bases? Yeah, that's over the top. Walking a HR? Problem. Pete Rose initially got grief for running out HRs until they saw him running out walks, running off the field after the inning, and his Charlie Hustle name got established, then it was just "Rose runs everywhere, that's not showing anybody up, that's just Charlie Hustle."

Realizing you're showing up the pitcher and apologizing by tipping the hat sincerely, then getting hit? That's considered a seriously shitty move by the pitcher. Throwing at Chipper Jones on Chipper Jones day? Dude, are you kidding me? (It happened. It was Carlos Zambrano's last day as a Cub, actually.) When Lee Smith's last inning ever started, the first batter spent a good thirty seconds digging in -- with a giant smile on his face. Everybody laughed -- including Smith. He then struck the guy out, because Smith. That wasn't showing him up, that was tipping the hat at the greatest closer to play the game so far. (He'd later be surpassed by Trevor Hoffman, then, of course, Mariano Rivera.)

There are times where a guy gets a parade -- record breakers and milestone hits, the guy gets a lap, and if you're a class act pitcher, you're there shaking his hand too. When Mark McGwire hit 70, he lapped the Stadium, and nobody cared. That was (well...we thought at the time) one for the ages. That's not showing up the pitcher. That's acknowledging the crowd. When Cal Ripkin *finally* didn't start, Baltimore called him out of the Dugout and wouldn't let him go back in for 10 minutes.

As to the bat flip thing? I don't know why that's a thing, or why people are offended by it. I don't think it's a big deal until that bat is doing three flips, then you're starting to be showy.

What I do like is the "disgust" flip when the batter swings at a ball, misses, flips the bat up and catches it by the barrel off the bat. I'm pretty sure pitchers like that one too. "Gotcha."

Aside: I will still be LIVID beyond rationality if the Cubs don't play a doubleheader for Ernie Banks this summer. There will be a beautiful day. The sun will be shining. We better play two for Mr. Cub.
posted by eriko at 7:51 AM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, and more trolling from the Cubbies. This time, they're trolling themselves!

I believe we have to call this an 11-3 groundout, or at least that's how I'd score the 3rd baseman and the shortstop both throwing the batter out at first.

Rizzo's "WTF?" afterwards is priceless.
posted by eriko at 9:20 AM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


As to the bat flip thing? I don't know why that's a thing, or why people are offended by it.

Maybe, just maybe, this is a sign that this whole "showing up" thing is actually completely arbitrary and not worth caring about.
posted by asterix at 10:59 AM on May 7, 2015


I'm convinced that most of the unwritten rules are because baseball players have a giant chip on their shoulders because baseball is a (mostly) non-contact sport, so there is no way for them to assert their "manhood". So they make up a bunch of crap to get outraged about and get retaliation for.

"That guy didn't run around the bases fast enough on that HR. Next time I'll hit him!"
It's mostly macho bullshit.
posted by HighLife at 11:22 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah. It's a professional sport, macho bullshit is pretty much part of the package.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:46 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Ok, that article is stupid. I'm not an "old school" fan of baseball but the batter's head is as safe as we can make it.

Amen! The article reads like the baseball fan equivalent of helicopter parenting. Ugh, Atlantic.

> Don't want to get shown up? Don't throw home run balls.

Completely agree. It really IS that simple.

The second video link in this comment is fantastic -- thank you! I love me some karate-kicking Izzy Alcántara.
posted by hush at 1:34 PM on May 7, 2015


With that Cubs putout, well... Bryant is a rookie so Castro was probably just showing him how it's done.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 2:35 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


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