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Soup of This Day #190: You Don’t Really Want To Play

June 5, 2012

House Fly eye
Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) image of the surface of the eye of a fly. This type of eye is called a compound eye – It’s made up of many individual eye units (ommatidia) which make it a great eye for wide field of view stuff and for picking out fast moving objects. Apart from the inability to hold a bat or ball and a propensity for hanging around garbage cans flies would be great at baseball – Image: Nation kingdom, 2008. Nation kingdom is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I don’t really get the hit batter stuff.

Oh, I get why a batter can get hit – The pitcher loses control and accidentally nails the batter. It’s not good, in part because it costs your team a walk but also because it can hurt a guy who might not be on your team but who is 1 of you – Hell, maybe he’ll be on your team 1 day too.

But it happens.

The part I don’t get is where it happens deliberately.

Take yesterday’s 3rd game of a series featuring the Boston Red Sox at the Toronto Blue Jays. In terms of the 3 game stand it was a dead rubber – the Sox had taken the 1st 2 against a seemingly underpar Jays outfit. In the process the Boston team had leapfrogged the Toronto 1 in the American League (AL) East standings going from 5th and last to outright 4th. Those positions though are not spectacularly relevant right now – Just 3 wins separated 1st from 5th and there are more than 2/3 of the season to play.

So sheep stations were not up for grabs.

Side-baaa: Here in Australia, the ultimate prize is a sheep station. If we’re having a serious contest it would be for a sheep station. I’ve worked on a sheep station – It’s not as much fun as you’d think and I didn’t get the sense that it was lucrative so I’m not overly sure that it’s a prize to win. It is what we say down here though so I’m just going to go ahead and use that.

The Sox sent out Daniel Bard to pitch. Bard started the season as a newly minted starter, having earned a shot at the rotation via some stellar set-up work last year. It was a calculated gamble by the Sox staff – If Bard works out then they’ve MacGuyvered a starter out of not much more than a reliever and some duct tape – No trade required.

On the other hand, if it doesn’t work out they will have potentially ruined a good set-up man and they will have to trade anyway and now from a weaker stand-point.

So far it hasn’t really worked out.

Daniel Bard has lost his velocity and so lost is his control that it is being pictured on the back of milk cartons. Of late he’s walked too many and struck out less.

Yesterday morning was all that, captured in a not-so-perfect miniature.

Daniel Bard started off with a 4 and 1 lead-off walk of Kelly Johnson. Who then stole 2nd base. That turned out to be a needless steal as Bard then issued a 4 and 1 walk to Yunel Escobar. He did slightly better with Jose Bautista on the next at bat, eking 2 strikes and just 3 balls out of the slugger.

Sadly the next pitch was waist high and over the centre of the plate and so Jose did what he does and dispatched it over the fence for 3 runs. It was in the strike zone though.

Bear in mind that there are no outs at this point.

And after Edwin Encarnación walks on 4 straight balls there are still no outs. For those who like to keep count, that’s 15 balls and 5 strikes. And 3 runs with 0 outs.

Mercifully, David Cooper grounds into a double play on a 0 and 2 count and then Brett Lawrie flies out on a 1 and 1. The damage then is limited to 3 runs.

For now.

And ‘now’ turns out to be quite a short time because, after the Sox last just 13 pitches for no runs across the top of the 2nd, Bard is back at it again.

He walks Colby Rasmus on a 4 straight balls to lead-off the innings. Then J.P. Arencibia walks off of a 4 and 2 count. Miraculously there is a break in the prevailing weather as Rajai Davis strikes out, 0 and 3 and then Kelly Johnson repeats that feat.

Yunel Escobar comes up to the plate and Bard gets a strike on his 1st pitch. Then he nails Escobar on the hand.

So now Yunel is a little sore and the bases are loaded. Daniel Bard responds by issuing another walk, this time to Jose Bautista on a 4 and 2 count.

This costs a run but hey, at least Jose didn’t slug it over the fence this time.

Next up and Edwin Encarnación doesn’t slug it over the fence either. Mostly because it was aimed at him. Right at his wrist via an ugly throw that has x-ray written all over it.

This costs another run and even worse, it might cost Encarnación some time on a Disabled List (DL) so Bobby V makes a safety call and pulls Daniel Bard. Franklin Morales steps up to the mound and quietens things down for a nice bit. In fact the whole game goes quiet until the top of the 6th when, seemingly in retaliation, Jays starter Drew Hutchison throws a fastball at Kevin Youkilis, catching him high on the shoulder.

This is the bit I don’t get.

Daniel Bard lost his control and accidentally nailed 2 Jays bats, allowing 2 runs and generally screwing things up for his team. I don’t think he did that deliberately yet apparently there is some code whereby a Sox player should be hit in retaliation.

An eye for an eye.

Except that’s Old Testament and I’m not really sure that’s how you want to run a ballgame, lest we get into whether it’s ok to play on the Sabbath or not and what should be rained down on players who violate that particular part of Genesis. Even if it is how you want to play, then according to Wikipedia, the phrase in question more accurately represents an attempt to limit the punishment and or compensation rather than set down a minimum standard for payback. In other words it could be read as:

‘Only 1 eye for an eye.’

If this is true then the Jays should have loaded the bases 1st and then hit 2 batters around the hand/wrist area. Actually, to be exact, they should have waited until the x-rays came back on Edwin Encarnación’s hand and then perhaps sought a similar injury for the equivalent Sox bat.

They didn’t do any of that – Couldn’t possibly do any of that – Instead they chose to wait until the 6th, before attempting to bean a Red Sox bat who is in the shop window right now. It’s hard to see that reactive pitch then as anything apart from dumb retribution. You could possibly argue that this kind of thing increases safety by discouraging wild pitching – The problem with that in this case is that Bard didn’t mean to throw like @#$% for 1.2 innings. He wasn’t trying to pitch inside or to intimidate – The lad just looked like he was trying desperately to find the strike zone and instead disintegrated in such a way that he cost his team a win.

So after some careful thought – About 10 minutes of it in the shower to be honest – I’ve worked up a system for limiting hit batters in baseball:

Use yellow and red cards as they do in football.

It works like this: When a batter is hit the umpires make a determination on the severity of the impact – If it’s deemed to be a glancing blow with a low rating then a yellow card can be shown. This acts as a warning and is given regardless of whether there was intent to hit or not. If a pitcher earns 2 yellows in a game then he gets a red and is booted from the game. If his pitch is to the head or is otherwise deemed dangerous then he gets a straight red, without having to step through 2 yellows. All of this isn’t so far from the current system, except with colourful cards and no requirement to show intent – The next bit though is crucial…

If you get a red card, you get thrown out and you have to make a rehab start at AAA or lower, just to prove that you have it under control again. If it was a straight red it’s more serious – You have to make 3 rehab starts. Make the starts ok, proving that you can pitch a game without smacking a batter on a regular basis and you get to play in the Majors once more.

Yeah, this might lead to the wonderful art of pitching inside decreasing, making life easier for hitters. I’m ok with this as an outcome though – As Martin Luther King once wrote:

‘The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.’

You Don’t Really Want To Play

  1. This just in…Daniel Bard’s headed to Triple A. A(AA) just “reward.” As to the proposed use of yellow and red cards, I would consider it viable if I felt Major League umpires could actually tell the difference.

    • Fair call on the cards. Re Bard – I’d like to say my suggestion was prophetic but the Sox didn’t really have anywhere else to go. Welcome back Daisuke Matsuzaka – This could get interesting…

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