March 31, 2013

Opening Day with a Baseball Layman: The 5 Worst Things about Baseball.

Hello, baseball fans!  Today is among the biggest days of the baseball calendar, and since the Red Hot Family has elected to spend Opening Day discreetly peeking into every police box in Britain, I have been called into service to provide you with the content you crave so ravenously after a grueling offseason.

Now you may be wondering: what does a fair-weather Reds fan with tepid interest in baseball in general have to offer you, the erudite, blog-reading maven you are? Perspective, and list-based content, of course!  I have compiled for your reading pleasure the five best and worst aspects of baseball to a layman such as myself. We’ll get to the good stuff a little later, let’s start with the crap.

(In no particular order)


#5   Brawls and the aftermath

Grown-ass men.

Just like in all sports, baseball teams frequently piss each other off, both intentionally and unintentionally. The boiling point of this conflict tends to be the classic bench clearing brawl.  It frequently begins with the batter losing his cool and attacking the pitcher, which can have two hilarious outcomes.  Either the batter gets unceremoniously dumped from behind by the pursuing catcher, or the batter quickly realizing he’s in over his head and waits for his teammates to “hold him back”.

More commonly, however, a big sweaty wrestling match between grown men will occur until everyone loses interest.  The most offensively stupid aspect of this is that players and fans will whine about the events of the brawl after the players actively participated in it.  The most Reds-relevant example of this is the infamous Cueto-LaRue incident in 2010.  As everyone here surely remembers, Johnny Cueto started kicking in the scrum and gave Jason LaRue a concussion that ended his career.  Reds fans defended Cueto as safeguarding himself in a chaotic situation, while Cards fans decried Cueto’s irresponsible behavior.

Let’s revisit those ideas once more in roleplay:

a Cards Fan: “Johnny Cueto should have been more careful to not hurt anyone while fighting 30 professional athletes simultaneously!”

a Reds Fan: “Johnny Cueto had to kick someone in the head to keep himself safe in a giant fight that he entered willingly!”

Maybe we could avoid all injury by not settling matters like 5-year-olds?  I can hear the purists now, though, ranting and raving about the conventions and standards that the players of the game have upheld for generations!  Which reminds me…


#4   Unwritten Rules

Dusty excited to use Arredondo against the heart of the order in the 9th inning of a tie game with 2 runners on. Gotta save Chapman for the 11th!

Every now and then, curiosity will get the better of me and I’ll google a list of the unwritten rules of baseball. A lot of them exist to promote good sportsmanship, like not stealing when up big or taking the first strike after back to back homers.  This is all fine, but why not just have “Be a good sport” as the rule?  I don’t understand why these rules have to be so specific.

Beyond that, a lot of the rules I read are axioms on what should always be done in specific game situations. One example is only using your closer in late-game situations and with the lead. These are great because hard-and-fast rules that make no exceptions for the context of the game are always the best.  As a manager, why would you want to make a hard decision and take the blame for it when you can just cop out and regurgitate the cliche to the media afterwards?

Still more of these rules are in place because of the immense superstition held by seemingly everyone in the sport.  Hey! Speaking of the backward thinking of cavemen…


#3   The Boys’ Club


Nothing chaps my ass quite like idiots justifying their idiocy with an indignant “that’s the way it’s always been.” Baseball is hardly the only sport with gender issues, but baseball’s own issues came to the forefront in 2006 with Keith Hernandez’s on-air comments regarding Padres massage therapist Kelly Calabrese.

“I won’t say women belong in the kitchen. But they don’t belong in the dugout.”

As the expression goes, a gaffe is when you tell the truth.  Hernandez was properly excoriated for the comment in the media, but he unwittingly gave us a peek at a significant school of thought that exists in the baseball world.

But in the non-baseball world women have been (more or less) treated as equals to men for decades now, how about a group with more 2013 media buzz?  Let’s ask former Brewer Mark Knudsen!

“Personal agendas are not welcome. Nothing that infringes on the cohesiveness of the locker room can be tolerated…That’s why it remains the best option for any homosexual athlete in a team sport to keep his orientation private.”

Nothing worse than those selfish gays ruining everything with their personal agendas of gayness. When I picture the united locker room of a champion, it needs one out of every ten players deathly afraid that their secret become known and their career ending because of it.

Once again, baseball is not unique among sports with these problems, and it is not necessarily fair to paint baseball with a broad brush due to isolated comments.  However, these ideas obviously persist in a significant amount of the baseball industry, and they will never ever be acceptable.


 #2   The Farm System

Now that all the icky social issues are out of the way, let’s move on to something more small potatoes.  Of the 3 major sports in the United States, baseball has by far the least compelling farm system in terms of competition.

NCAA baseball is a putrid mess of unfair playing practices and regional bias.  As the season starts in February-March, cold-weather schools are forced to play every single game on the road until their campus weather permits play. NCAA Tournament selection occurs on Memorial Day, so these schools never have an opportunity to balance their schedule.  Notable collegiate prospects don’t want to shoot their own careers in the foot, and thus opt to play for warm-weather schools, and the cycle continues.  Only 4 of the last 30 NCAA baseball champions came from cold-weather states.

Minor league baseball is a step up.  The stadium environments are family friendly and some of the most affordable sporting events one can attend.  However, their ultimate purpose of grooming talent rather than winning championships puts a cap on how attached one can be to a team.


Well, at least the umps have never screwed up anything REALLY important.

 #1   Fear of technology

Baseball has a unique advantage over other sports in that there are relatively few judgment calls that umpires are forced to make like fouls in basketball or pass interference penalties in football.  In theory, fair or foul, strike or ball, and out or safe are black-and-white calls to be made with as much consistency as possible. However, baseball seems the most reticent of the major sports to place trust in replay and ball placement technology.  There seems to be significant resistance to depowering the umpires, which I can’t fathom.

There is no argument that replay in all facets will result in fewer calls being missed, and replay delays and other issues in more tech-friendly sports are nearly invariably due to referee ineptitude.


Are you all pissed at me yet?  Are you dutifully reading the entirety of the article before meticulously destroying my points in the comments? Good! I can’t wait to hear from you!


Stay tuned for my 5 best things about baseball. Yeah, I really do like baseball!


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