The idiocy of Baseball

In the as-yet unfilmed Moneyball script Bill James, the godfather of sorts of the baseball statistical revolution delivers the following piece of dialogue:

“Most people in Baseball are idiots. That goes without saying… Baseball doesn’t want to change because Baseball is afraid of change, and I’ve about had it with Baseball.”

Note the selective capitalization; in the title of this post and throughout the quote, but not in the instance describing James. The reason for the discrepancy is that there is a difference between baseball and Baseball. The former is the sport. It’s the game with bases and bats and hits and walks, etc. It’s baseball. The latter is the institution of Baseball, and this is a whole other ballgame (couldn’t resist). The institution of Baseball is the Vatican of sports: steeped in tradition, soaked in solemnity, closed to all but an exclusive few. A state-sanctioned, cordoned-off cesspool bubbling over with ignorance and irrationality disguised as holy wisdom as disseminated on down from the pompous overlords to the masses below.

It is Baseball that was at fault tonight for a stupid, ridiculous play whereby Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher brought his teams raucous comeback rally to a screeching halt when he tried to sacrifice bunt with runners on first and second and no outs in the ninth inning of a game where his team was trailing by a run. It is Baseball, wherein bunts and steals and RBI groundouts and all sorts of other less-than-productive plays are glorified, that has drilled into Swisher’s (and countless other players/execs/fans) head that somehow it’s actually a good idea to give away the most precious commodity you have in the game: outs.

Baseball’s biggest distancer from the other mainstream sports is that there is no static concept of time. It doesn’t have halves or periods or minutes or seconds. It has outs. You get twenty seven of them throughout a game, but more importantly, you only get three at a time with which to work as you try to put together your runs. For this reason the out is the single most important resource you have to work with (this is also why on-base-percentage is the most important statistic for an offensive player; beyond contributing to run production, it measures your ability to *not* make an out).

And so it rightly boggles the discerning mind, the fiery zeal mustered by the patron saints of Baseball in praise of giving up outs, whether by the sacrifice bunt or the high risk/low reward game of stealing bases. There’s a gag-worthy piousness about the Joe Morgans of Baseball, who’ll wax poetic incessantly about the virtue of “small ball”, of getting one or two runs at a time, as if there’s something innately more honorable, more “pure” about a single-steal-bunt-sac fly sequence producing a run as opposed to a homer that creates the same run.

Anyway, I’ve run out of steam here. Breaking down this dumbfuckery gets tiresome. Point is, Yankee fans can lay tonight’s loss right at the feet of Baseball, which, when it comes to baseball, is as much an authority as the Vatican is on science.

You can ask Mr. Galileo how well that turned out.

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