Friday, July 12, 2013

A Few Cool Things About Baseball

It is the only sport where the defense has the ball.

It is the ultimate team sport, since you cannot simply give the ball to your best player every time.

It is the ultimate individual sport, since a player is utterly responsible when he is up to bat, and he cannot shirk his responsibility by merely passing the ball to someone else.

Records are kept, not only of what happened, but of what should have happened.  If a batter gets on base due to a fielder’s error, the batter is not credited with a base hit and the pitcher is not charged with allowing one.  There are earned runs, and unearned runs.  No other sport makes these fundamental distinctions in its recordkeeping.  Famously, no other sport is as obsessed with statistics.  More importantly, no other sport is as obsessed about the fairness of its statistics.

The best players in the world often look deceptively normal, so as you watch them throw, catch, bat and run you feel you could do those things as well as they do. Until you try.

The game is enticingly simple, yet profoundly complex.  You can learn its basics in a half hour, and spend a lifetime attempting to master its nuances.

It has been played, essentially the same way, for well over 150 years.  It has survived scandals, corruption, strikes, wars.  It has reflected the times, as worker exploitation, racism, bigotry and substance abuse have all tarnished it.  Yet it has, at times, dragged a sometimes reluctant nation forward in their repudiation.

Its heroes are as diverse as mankind itself.  The Christian Gentleman.  The Hebrew Hammer.  The Left Arm of God.   The Flyin’ Hawaiian.  The Golden Greek.  The Mississippi Mudcat.  The Cuban Missile.  So many more.

There is no clock.  Each game proceeds at its own pace.

There are no ties, and no artificial tie-breaking mechanisms .  The game continues normally until one team wins.  

Listening to a game can be as (or more) enjoyable than watching it.  Pull up a chair.  

Most of what is happening is not visible, and the pace of the game allows it to be discussed as it happens.

And finally, no one is congratulated for striking out.  Unlike what happens every time a free throw is missed in the NBA.