Keane observations about life, politics and sports.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Breaking Baseball's Unwritten Rules

From time to time, certain things happen in baseball and someone will claim it is a violation of the unwritten rules of the game. In most cases they are referring to an act that is slightly unsportsmanlike. One example is stealing bases when having a sizable lead late in a game. I usually dismiss those complaints believing that since the other team has not stopped trying to mount a comeback they have no right to expect their opponent to stop growing their lead.

However, some of the rules are strategic ideas that should be followed for very good reasons. In each of the last two games between Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees a player has made the third our at third base late in a close game. Monday night Brett Gardner made the third out when he attempted to steal third. Tuesday night Carl Crawford returned the favor by being thrown out at third. An old axiom in baseball is never make the first or third out of an inning at third base. To the casual fan that doesn't make a lot of sense. However, if you look how runs are scored it makes a great deal of sense. If there are already two outs it doesn't matter whether you are on 2nd or 3rd it will take a hit to knock you in regardless and you will be off an running on contact. Conversely, if there are no outs there are several ways for you to score that you don't need to take excessive risk to try to get to 3rd on your own. I don't know if those mistakes were solely on the base runners or if the coaches share some of the blame. Regardless of who is to blame, it is surprising to see that kind of screw up in back to back games in September. Final word on the rule: the team that made the mistake lost the game in both cases.


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