Monday, August 8, 2011

Somebody should write this stuff down.

This is two days in a row I've written about baseball. Not on purpose, just because it's the game I know the most about and it's the game that has some of the most ridiculous behavior in sports.

It's also a game
where unwritten rules are just as important as the ones that are in the rule book. Players all know them and when one of their brethren break them, there is Hell to pay - or at least a hefty fine.

One of the unwritten rules is that you're not supposed to steal a base when your team is leading by a substantial margin. What the margin is and when it is determined to be insurmountable, only the people who write the unwritten rule book know. It's a sliding scale. By following that logic, when your team has a big lead, batters should go up and just strike out, since they don't need any more runs. OK.

When the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins stole second base on the San Francisco Giants while the Phils were leading by 6 is a flagrant violation of the unwritten rule book. Alter Placido Polanco drove Rollins in to score another run, the next batter, Shane Victorino was intentionally hit by a pitch.

That is the retaliation for breaking the unwritten rules. By placing blame on an innocent bystander, baseball inflicts its punishments in a strange fashion. Nevertheless, the tax on doing something that makes the other team look bad is having one of your teammates hit by a thrown baseball.

The ensuing fights are strikingly similar. The batter drops his only weapon, stares out at the pitcher, exchanges obscenities and the two lunge at each other. By this time, either the umpire or the catcher or both grabs one of the two idiots and try to wrestle them to the ground. On the rare occasions where the two actually confront each other, one of them lunges at the other and they wrestle around like a couple of girls. Meanwhile, the benches empty and melee ensues.

But the really ridiculous thing that happens is when the bullpens empty. Twenty guys run out of opposite (and sometimes adjoining) areas, run 400 feet and get there just in time to have had the fight broken up and order restored. They could have fought each other in the outfield and spared themselves the effort of running the length of the field for nothing. One day, a bullpen fight is going to break out and I want partial credit for bringing it on.

The next thing that happens is that Major League Baseball hands out some lame punishment, like suspending a pitcher for 5 days when he only works once every 5 days. He's really not missing the other 4 games because he hardly shows up anyway. Then they fine other participants the equivalent of fining you or I five dollars.

But on they go. Baseball is the only game that allows players on the benches to get involved in a fight. Hockey has a "third man in" rule, and as ridiculous as hockey fights are, at least the two guys who are angry with one another get the chance to settle it. Until one of them slips and the other one loses his grip on his jersey. Baseball fights hardly even get started.

It's laughable most of the time. Two guys who had weapons abandon them and run toward each other without the slightest idea of what they're going to do once they arrive at midpoint. They're obviously too busy thinking about the fine they're going to pay and the game they're going to miss. It's all very distracting and apparently effective at curbing violence as well.


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