Skip to content

Three strikes and you’re out

Nov 9, 2012, 7:41 AM EDT

You're out

Starting in the mid-90s, states started adopting habitual offender laws which put criminals who have been convicted of multiple felonies away for life. You probably know such laws by their popular name: “three strikes and you’re out” laws.

Gideon Cohn-Postar wonders took a few moments to stop and think about how random it is that someone’s fate and freedom can be dictated by a baseball rule:

What if, like balls, the number of strikes had varied a bit in the late 1800s? The fact that balls were so variable suggests that it was entirely possible that in slightly different circumstances, four strikes could have meant you’re out … the only reason four and three seem “natural” is because they are what we have grown accustomed to … The almost certainly rhetorical question I have struggled with the most however, is whether the only reason we have Three Strikes Laws at all, and the debate, misery, and justice they imply, is because of an arbitrary rule in what was once a children’s game.

It makes one reflect, as Cohn-Postar does with a series of rhetorical questions, upon baseball’s place in the national psyche. About how weird it is, when you really think about it, that lawmakers could so easily adopt a baseball analogy for matters of such extreme importance.

It makes me wonder what the justice system would look like if baseball had not shaped so much of the culture and the language. Would we have “six fouls and you’re out” if basketball was as big a deal?  Should football’s popularity mean that “four downs and you punt?” makes more sense, culturally speaking?

My word, can you imagine what it would be like if one broke the law in a world where bowling was the national pastime? That would be chilling indeed.

Latest Posts
  1. Bruce Bochy sticking with Ryan Vogelsong to start Game 4 of the World Series

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:51 PM EDT

    Ryan Vogelsong Ryan Vogelsong

    Ryan Vogelsong will start as scheduled in Game 4 of the World Series against the Royals. Madison Bumgarner will not pitch on short rest.

  2. Behind strong bullpen, Royals edge Giants 3-2 to take a 2-1 World Series lead

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:27 PM EDT

    The Royals’ bullpen was solid, allowing only two base runners in four innings to preserve Jeremy Guthrie’s win in Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants.

  3. It’s official: Brandon Finnegan the first to play in two World Series in one year

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT

    Brandon Finnegan Brandon Finnegan

    Brandon Finnegan achieved a rather rare feat with his first appearance of the World Series in Game 3 on Friday night against the Giants.

  4. Cole Hamels updating his 20-team no-trade list

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    Cole Hamels Cole Hamels

    Cole Hamels is updating his 20-team no-trade list, which will dictate if and how the Phillies shop him over the off-season.

  5. Giants strike back with two runs, trail 3-2 going into the seventh

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Michael Morse Michael Morse

    The Giants fought back in the bottom of the sixth inning with two runs, making it a one-run game again. The Royals lead 3-2 heading into the seventh inning.

  6. Royals add on, lead Giants 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Alex Gordon Alex Gordon

    The Royals extended their lead over the Giants to 3-0 thanks to an Alex Gordon RBI double and an Eric Hosmer RBI single in the top of the sixth inning of Game 3 of the World Series.

  7. Twins expected to contact Joe Maddon about managerial vacancy

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT

    Joe Maddon Joe Maddon

    The Twins are expected to consider free agent manager Joe Maddon for their managerial vacancy.

  8. Through three innings of World Series Game 3, Royals lead Giants 1-0

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT

    Jeremy Guthrie Jeremy Guthrie

    The Royals have a narrow lead through the first three innings of Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants.

  9. Victor Martinez expected to pursue a four-year deal

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Victor Martinez Victor Martinez

    Victor Martinez is going to use his monster 2014 season to attempt to get a four-year deal over the off-season.

  10. Bruce Bochy, Dave Righetti have discussed using Madison Bumgarner on short rest if Giants lose Game 3

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    Madison Bumgarner Madison Bumgarner

    The Giants have kicked around the idea of using Madison Bumgarner on short rest if they lose Game 3 of the World Series against the Royals.

  11. Kevin Towers expected to join Reds after being fired as Diamondbacks GM

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:43 PM EDT

    Kevin Towers AP

    No word yet on the exact role Towers would fill in Cincinnati.

  12. Paul Konerko, Jimmy Rollins named co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    Paul Konerko Getty Images

    Paul Konerko and Jimmy Rollins are your co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award.

  13. The greatest trick this Royals bullpen ever pulled …

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Greg Holland Greg Holland

    The Royals bullpen is really good. So good, in fact, that you can’t really use it incorrectly, Joe Posnanski writes.

  14. Royals claim Moises Sierra off waivers from White Sox

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:37 PM EDT

    Moises Sierra White Sox Getty Images

    Being in the World Series hasn’t stopped the Royals from tweaking the margins of their 40-man roster.

  15. Report: Joe Maddon seeking a five-year deal in the $25 million range

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

    Joe Maddon Joe Maddon

    Joe Maddon is looking to become at least the second-highest paid manager in baseball.

  16. Taylor Jordan had surgery to remove bone chips from elbow

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Getty Images

    Jordan pitched well in nine starts for the Nationals as a 24-year-old rookie last season, but then went 0-3 with a 5.61 ERA in five starts this year before being shut down in June.

  17. It’s possible that some are overstating the impact of Joe Maddon opting out

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

    joe maddon rays pointing

    Joe Maddon is a good manager. But he’s just a manager.

  18. Adam Wainwright underwent elbow surgery to “trim” cartilage

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT

    adam wainwright getty Getty Images

    Earlier this week the Cardinals insisted there was nothing wrong with Adam Wainwright’s elbow and he wouldn’t require surgery.

  19. Ranking every baseball team’s “victory song”

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 3.47.04 PM

    Needs more Pixies. I have no idea which song, but any list needs more Pixies.

Featured video

When home-field advantage isn't so
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. T. Lincecum (3220)
  2. M. Bumgarner (2994)
  3. J. Shields (2526)
  4. M. Morse (2454)
  5. Y. Cespedes (2101)
  1. T. Ishikawa (1798)
  2. U. Jimenez (1600)
  3. L. Cain (1591)
  4. B. Roberts (1538)
  5. H. Pence (1536)