Oct 27, 2013, 11:08 AM EDT
Some people — maybe most people — look at last night’s game-ending obstruction play and feel some level of dissatisfaction. Even if they admit it was correct on the merits, there is some sense that it was wonky and weird. I totally get that. But for me, the obstruction play and all of its weird wonkiness provided a glimpse at the essence of baseball.
I don’t mean “essence” in terms of drama, dynamics and aesthetics, of course. In those terms nothing beats a walkoff home run, the 27th out of a perfect game, a laser throw to the plate, a runner going first to third at top speed or a 99 m.p.h. fastball that leaves a slugger flummoxed and humbled. I wouldn’t dare suggest that an odd play that ends with Joe Torre waving a rule book during a hastily-assembled press conference is better in any sense of the word than an actually dramatic and exciting baseball play in which one player’s athletic prowess trumps that of another. I simply mean that the obstruction play helped distill what baseball is, by its very nature, when it comes right down to it.
And what is baseball? A decidedly 19th century construct shaped by all manner of rules and conventions. A construct In which, unlike its 19th century contemporaries such as boxing, weightlifting or horse racing, physical prowess is nowhere as nearly close to everything. Rather, it’s about physical prowess being channeled alongside a set of ground rules and formalities that require the mind and discipline to work hand-in-hand with the body and its fast-twitch muscles. It’s a pursuit in which force being applied via instinct rather than calculation is almost always punished rather than rewarded.
In its effort to reign in nature’s impulses via these formalities, it reflects the time of its creation. A time in which man believed nature could be and should be tamed if only enough work was put into it. Often times — maybe most times — 19th century man totally bollocksed up that impulse. He decided that a raging river can be channeled in thus-and-such a fashion and be used to serve his will. That an impenetrable forest can be tamed and utilized for thus-and-such an industry. It was hubris that the world is still paying for.
But in baseball — at least in my mind — man got the balance right. He found a way to impose his will over something naturally occurring that resulted in an actual improvement: the athletic impulse reigned-in and set against challenges, but not defeated. The perfect blending of man’s primal and enlightened selves. Of might and mind working in tandem to accomplish something that is useful. Enjoyable. At its best uplifting. It’s as close as we get to a distillation of the Renaissance or Enlightenment mind in a sporting context.
The sports which came later all have a heavy dose of this as well. Football, basketball and hockey all have scads of rules, conventions and settings where the impulse to simply flatten the opposition via brute strength is channeled through formality. Ask Ryan Leaf what a cannon arm does for you if you don’t have a brain and a plan. Ask any opponent of Michael Jordan how his mental game did just as much to defeat them as did his leaping ability. Ask anyone in the NHL why the biggest goons and the fastest skaters all get schooled by those who apply mind and body in equal measure. All modern sports, to some extent, owe their existence and greatness to that 19th century impulse.
But the other sports also have instances — often critical instances — in which it is agreed, tacitly or otherwise, that the rules should be dispensed with or relaxed and that the raw physicality should take precedence. Where the rules against, say, pass interference or hacking should be relaxed because it’s late in the game and some physical, emotional and dramatic climax should be allowed to the come to the fore. Whistles are swallowed. The call is made to “simply let them play.” In those cases it is understood and expected that the balance should swing back to the primal when the clock’s seconds wane.
Not in baseball. At least not when baseball is administered properly. In baseball the rules are the rules from start to finish and are not dispensed with simply because time is running out. Oh, wait, in baseball time never runs out. As Earl Weaver reminded us, there is no clock in baseball. There is no moment that is truly more critical and thus more demanding that formalities be dispensed with due to an incessant tick-tick-tick. ”You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance,” Weaver said. “That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”
So many people with Boston IP addresses are telling me this morning that, though the call on the Middlebrooks/Craig obstruction play was technically correct, it perhaps should not have been made. The play — with its collision and tripping and stumbling and dashing home — should have been “allowed to proceed” rather than having a rarely-thought-of rule invoked to determine the outcome. It was the ninth inning of a close World Series game, they’re basically arguing. It was too important to allow the imposition of a rule trump the running and throwing of men.
Baloney. That call went to the heart of what baseball truly is. A sport in which there is or at least should be no relaxation of the rules due to the exigency of a critical moment. Baseball does not and should not allow for times in which aesthetics or raw physicality excuse the relaxation of the rules. It’s, by design, a sport in which the beauty and glory of the entire pursuit is a product of the mixing of the two things. Dana DeMuth, whether he realized he was doing it at the time last night, was ensuring that this anachronistic yet eminently satisfying balance was maintained.
Refrain from calling obstruction on that play? To do so would be a betrayal of baseball’s very essence.
Mar 10, 2014, 6:50 AM EDT
This is so weird. No one is supposed to take pictures or video in the clubhouse, yet here we have video of Juan Uribe at his locker. Seems odd. Oh, hello Hanley.
Mar 9, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted earlier that Ichiro Suzuki appears to be the odd man out in the Yankees’ outfield and adds that the Phillies could use outfield help. The Yankees, of course, will have recent free agent additions Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran in center and right, respectively, and Brett Gardner in left. Alfonso Soriano…
Mar 9, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT
The Diamondbacks took Trevor Bauer in the first round, third overall, in the 2011 draft. They sent him to the Indians in a three-team trade in December 2012. Manager Terry Francona sees why, even after Bauer has had back-to-back mediocre showings in limited Major League action, the D-Backs took him so early. Bauer has made…
Mar 9, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT
In today’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo writes that the Twins have interest in White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza. 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reported on Friday that some in the Twins’ front office are fans of De Aza’s. The White Sox will use De Aza as a utility outfielder with Dayan Viciedo…
Mar 9, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
Jorge De La Rosa will be the Rockies’ Opening Day starter, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports. The Rockies haven’t made an official announcement yet. It doesn’t come as much as a surprise as his only real competition for the honor was Jhoulys Chacin, but Chacin is dealing with a shoulder strain and may…
Mar 9, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Padres and third baseman Chase Headley appear unlikely to agree to a contract extension before he heads into free agency. The club offered him an unknown amount over the winter, but talks dissipated. Headley had a breakout season in 2012, finishing with an .875 OPS and a…
Mar 9, 2014, 7:10 PM EDT
Refuting recent reports that the Tigers were taking offers on starter Rick Porcello, GM Dave Dombroski told the media that the team isn’t interested in trading any starting pitching and hasn’t fielded any offers on their pitching, per Tony Paul of the Detroit News. Porcello has been the subject of trade rumors for a while…
Mar 9, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that the Twins have offered free agent starter Ervin Santana a three-year deal. The right-hander has been mulling one-year deals from the Blue Jays and Orioles and has stated that he prefers a one-year deal, which doesn’t bode well for the Twins’ chances of signing him. In the…
Mar 9, 2014, 5:18 PM EDT
Bronson Arroyo was diagnosed last week with a bulging disk in his back, which threatened to steer him to his first-ever 15-day disabled list stint. But recent workouts have it looking like a minor blip. According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, the veteran right-hander felt “way better” Sunday in Diamondbacks camp after testing…
Mar 9, 2014, 4:05 PM EDT
As speculated last week by MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick … Don Mattingly announced today @ClaytonKersh22 and @HyunJinRyu99 will start in games one and two of the #OpeningSeries, respectively. — Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 9, 2014 Zack Greinke would have started the second game if not for a calf strain that he is still rehabbing. Kershaw…
Mar 9, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Braves right-hander Kris Medlen made an early departure from a Grapefruit League appearance on Sunday against the Mets after appearing to injure his elbow on a pair of consecutive fourth-inning pitches. Medlen grabbed at his throwing elbow following his second-to-last delivery of the game and then skipped to the Braves’ dugout after his final pitch,…
Mar 9, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT
From beat writer Adam Rubin of ESPN New York comes word that Mets left-hander Jon Niese has been cleared to make his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday against the Cardinals. Niese came down with some left shoulder soreness at the end of February and was sent to New York for an MRI, but that exam…
Mar 9, 2014, 1:49 PM EDT
As first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Cardinals have agreed to a major league contract with Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that it’s a four-year deal. Diaz will arrive at Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Florida on Monday morning. No word on the financial terms. The Cardinals already have…
Mar 9, 2014, 12:54 PM EDT
Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago has the inside word: Although the White Sox are not shopping outfielder Dayan Viciedo, they are listening to other clubs about their interest in the Cuban power hitter. Several major league sources confirmed that the Sox and Mariners have had discussions on a deal that could center around Viciedo. Nick…
Mar 9, 2014, 12:08 PM EDT
White Sox right-hander Nate Jones said at the end of February that he was completely over the glute strain that he suffered shortly after arriving at spring camp and he proved that on Saturday, delivering a scoreless inning in his 2014 Cactus League debut. Jones allowed a hit and issued a walk, but he also recorded…
Mar 9, 2014, 11:22 AM EDT
Goods news Sunday morning in Cardinals camp. According to beat writer Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, outfielder Peter Bourjos is back in the starting lineup for Sunday’s Grapefruit League game against the Nationals after sitting out for seven days with tightness in his right hamstring. Bourjos dealt with chronic leg problems during his…
Mar 9, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT
Evan Drellich has an in-depth feature in the Houston Chronicle about the Astros’ built-from-scratch private online database, which is now being used by the entire baseball operations department to improve scouting, communicating, and decision-making. It’s called “Ground Control,” a play on the Astros’ name. The Indians have a similar database called “DiamondView,” the Red Sox call…
Mar 9, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT
Matt Kemp has begun running at full speed and participating in daily outfield drills in Dodgers camp, and he could soon be cleared to become a regular in the club’s Cactus League starting lineups. “We’re seeing him take fly balls, getting jumps,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick on Saturday. ”He’s swinging the bat good.…
Mar 9, 2014, 8:59 AM EDT
Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu has just two hits in his first 13 Cactus League at-bats, but one was a double and the other was a home run, and he continues to draw rave reviews in White Sox camp for the patience he’s showing at the plate. Abreu has yet to strike out through five Cactus…
Mar 8, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT
Over his 15-year career, Yankees outfielder Alfonso Soriano has logged time at five of the eight non-pitcher positions on the diamond. The only three positions he hasn’t played are catcher, first base and right field. He might make it six this season. ESPN’s Andrew Marchand reports that manager Joe Girardi has kicked around the idea…
- Kris Medlen leaves game with right forearm strain 16
- Cardinals sign Cuban middle infielder Aledmys Diaz to a four-year major league contract 48
- Cardinals and Matt Carpenter agree to a six-year, $52 million extension 10
- Jet Blue Park is absolutely incredible 59
- Gary Nolan one of many careers saved by Dr. Frank Jobe 17