Category: sports

Baseball’s Unwritten Rules Aren’t Really Rules

I currently have a copy of “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton on my desk. If you don’t know, Bouton was a Major League ballplayer. The book is about his time with the short-lived Seattle Pilots in 1969. One of the unwritten rules of baseball had always been that one does not talk publicly about what goes on in the clubhouse or the team dynamic in general. “Ball Four” kind of tore the cover off of that one. I deeply question the validity of some “unwritten rules” in baseball anyway. Some are perfectly reasonable. Some of them need to be ignored.

I’ll start with the unwritten rules that I agree with.

1. Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter – I am a fan of small ball. Home runs do not excite me, at least not with the regularity that we see them today. And the bunt is a perfectly valid way of getting on base or advancing a runner. But doing it with no one on base simply to break up a no-hitter is like kicking over the chess board when you realize you have no path to victory.

2.If you hit one of our guys with a pitch, we hit an equal member of your team” – To some it is settling up of accounts. To others it is reaping what you sew. And to yet others it is a second wrong making things right. And of course there is the argument that all this does is escalate a bad situation. I am not for escalating tensions on the diamond but I think if one team’s biggest star player gets hit intentionally, the other team should expect that if there is retaliation, it will come to their own star player.

3. Don’t celebrate a home run – I have long enjoyed the creativity of the end zone celebration after touchdowns in the NFL, and more recently the elaborate home plate or dugout celebrations after a home run in Major League Baseball. I appreciate them as entertainment, but I agree that it is not something that should happen unless it is either a walk-off that wins the pennant or the World Series or something. Side note: There is another unwritten rule that a pitcher is not to celebrate a strikeout, but I’ve never really seen any pitcher do that.

4. No stealing a base or swinging at a pitch on a 3-0 count – Certainly with the runner on first, stealing second in this situation just screams to your teammate who is batting that you think they are going to find a way to not get walked. And the only redemptive value of swinging on a 3-0 pitch is if the batter knows without a doubt that this is their pitch to hit, and in doing so they can move the runner up more than one base by hitting it.

Then there are the “unwritten rules” that aren’t so straightforward.

1. Don’t step on the chalk line – I am conflicted with this one, so I am going to play both sides here. You should never step on the chalk lines because it messes up the beautiful infield. But throughout the game base runners are going to mess the lines up anyway. And not stepping on the baselines due to superstition? Well…yes, baseball is a terribly superstitious game over all. But catering to other people’s superstitions is no reason not to step on a bit of chalk.

2. Don’t talk about no-hitters – Again this is mere superstition and if you mention a no-hitter in progress and the pitcher goes out and gives up a hit on the next pitch, it isn’t your fault. He listened to you talking about no-hitters. He let it get into his head. He threw the pitch. He gave up the hit.

3. Don’t rub the mark after hit by a pitch – A batter is not supposed to show pain or weakness by rubbing the place where he just got hit by a pitch. But I think a pitcher knows he’s hurt the batter by hitting him with a fastball. If it was intentional, that was kind of the point. If it wasn’t you don’t have to concern yourself with whether he knows he hurt you.

4. Pitchers taken out of the game must stay in the dugout – What ever happened to a manager yanking the pitcher out of the game and telling him to “hit the showers!” To me “hit the showers!” means right now. He can come back afterwards to support the team.

5. Don’t run up the score – This includes stealing bases when far ahead. Look, the point of the game is to score more runs than the other team, and giant rallies do occur from time to time. So when you have a chance to score more runs, you take it. If you’re up 17-1 in the ninth, sure you don’t have to swing for the fences but you’re certainly not going to bunt either. That’d be breaking another unwritten rule. So all you can do is swing away. And if you happen to load the bases and you’ve got a good hitter up, he should be looking for a good pitch and swinging at it. Whatever happens happens.

6. Managers, don’t go against percentages – This one is complicated. Do you remember Moneyball? The Oakland Athletics were playing percentages to the extreme and it worked very well. But some of the best managers of all time had a sixth sense when it came to baseball. They knew their players, and they knew the opposition. Sometimes they saw things no one else did. Sometimes a managers just uses their intuition. Intuition is not necessarily logical. And besides, going against the percentages hold the advantage of the element of surprise.

Surely there are some baseball purists out there who will take issue with a good amount of what I’ve said here. I encourage debate.

In A World Without Major League Baseball

I spend long stretches of time ’round the midnight hour on any given night watching endless streams of Major League Baseball clip montages. Some of them are year-in-review type videos from last season. Some of them have Willie Mays in them. Though the game has undoubtedly changed, to me baseball is baseball.

Which makes me wonder why I am so distressed at the growing possibility that an entire MLB season may never happen. And if it doesn’t happen, then I wonder what it would be like if Major League Baseball just never came back.

I don’t think that’s how this will all go down, but just what if?

I had a dream a couple of nights ago in which I was at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa fielding grounders from my wheelchair. I was flipping my chair over to make a play, and flipping right back up as if it were nothing. A reminder, perhaps that baseball is a simple game of the people. It grew from an absolutely non-formal kids game, to a leisure activity for working class men with written rules, to organized but non-professional clubs, to the professional leagues like we have today.

Even though it came from humble beginnings, a part of me feels like in today’s world, were the professional game suddenly removed from our national consciousness – the TV broadcasts, the merchandising, the obscenely expensive and flashy stadiums – that baseball might be like the ageless philosophical question about a tree that falls in the woods with no one there to hear it.

Another part of me knows very well that even without the pros, baseball would still be a thing, just on a very local level. And we’d all develop our own private histories of the game in our own little pockets of the world. And maybe that would make it more special to us. More intimate. I know many would feel that way about the game if only money were taken out of the equation.

With that in mind, I recently made the bold proclamation on my personal Facebook page that I was starting a new Major League Baseball and that there would be no salaries. I got a couple of guys signed up so far. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m really just speculating, but I can see that the NBA and NHL already appear to be on their way back to “game on!” And if MLB can’t return to the field just as gracefully, then it will not bode well for the professional game. Maybe there would still be some independent leagues around. With the promise of fame and fortune in the big leagues out of the question at least we’d know the players were in it for the love of the game.

Anyway baseball, in the form that we’ve come to know and love it down the generations, will be back. I know, because Terrence Mann told me so in “Field of Dreams.” He said:

The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.

Baseball will most definitely be back.

Big Up To Brooklyn

People always ask me “Hey Dailey, why do you wear a Brooklyn Dodgers cap?”

I’m just kidding. Nobody calls me “Dailey” and they don’t ask me why I wear a Brooklyn Dodgers cap either. But I am a Minnesota boy and I have no ties to New York, so I’m going to tell you.

It comes down to three main reasons.

  1. They represent a Golden Age of baseball. The very name “Brooklyn Dodgers” especially evokes a specific period. Though they’d been around since 1884, they really didn’t become “the Brooklyn Dodgers” of legend until about 1941. Between then and 1956 the Dodgers faced the Yankees in the World Series seven times. The era culminated in 1955 when the Dodgers defeated the Yankees to win it all for the first and only time while in Brooklyn. They moved to Los Angeles a season later, ending their cross-town rivalry with the Yankees.

    Which brings me to my second reason.
  2. They were the antithesis, the arch rival of the New York Yankees. And I, for one, see great value in that. I honestly don’t mind sports dynasties. In fact I rather like them. You have to be impressed by the consistency with which the Yankees won during this “Golden Age”. But they’ve been winning pretty consistently since about 1923 and the ’41-’56 Dodgers were the only team to challenge their dominance with such persistence.

    In recent years almost every year we have a team in the World Series who hadn’t made it that far in a very long time. It’s nice to see. While I’ve never consciously rooted for “the underdog” it turns out that is precisely what I am talking about. And that is what the Brooklyn Dodgers were in this era whenever they faced the Yankees.
  3. They were the franchise that, in 1947, broke the unwritten “Color Line” which had stood in Major League Baseball since the 1880s. When Brooklyn’s GM Branch Rickey signed a young multi-sport athlete and former military man, Jackie Robinson, he wasn’t looking for the best player. He was looking for a man of character. That is what he got first and foremost. But Robinson’s success – along with that of others who quickly followed – ensured that Major League Baseball would open its doors to a huge pool of talent which would revitalize and revolutionize the game for decades to come.

    For these reasons, I have a reverence for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and I wear their “B” insignia with pride.

    I have a cousin who is a lifelong fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Every time I discuss his team with him, I am sure to refer to them as the “Brooklyn Dodgers” just to amuse myself. Los Angeles doesn’t seem right for them anyway ever since I discovered their full moniker was the “Trolley Dodgers”. For that reason, I’ve always felt like when they left Brooklyn, they should have relocated to San Francisco. Maybe New Orleans. You know, for continuity.

    Well, I’ll just keep on calling them the Brooklyn Dodgers forever probably.

The “Winona” Post

The town in which I went to college and lived for seven years was recently immortalized in a Super Bowl commercial.

Sort of.

Around here, for weeks leading up to the Super Bowl the air was thick with speculation over what the ad was for. We knew actress Winona Ryder had been in Winona, MN (her birthplace and namesake) filming a commercial. Some said it was for “Stranger Things.” Some said it was for Ryder Truck Rental, which, I don’t know, maybe they were opening a branch in Winona and were making a REALLY big splash about it.

The commercial ended up being for Squarespace, a website building company. It also ended up being a bit underwhelming for the locals, because it did not show anything of substance about the city of Winona. There are actually quite a few landmarks and businesses that we are known for, far and wide. There was a several minutes long version of the commercial available online which included some of it, but it wasn’t the same.

Not for us.

To be fair, to the rest of the country it was just an ad about a website-building company with a marginally famous actress in it. As far as they were concerned, the town called Winona could have been totally fictional. But there were people in Winona watching for that commercial to see the places they drove by or visited regularly. Some may not have known or cared what Squarespace is. I didn’t.

That dichotomy kind of mirrors how, on Super Bowl Sunday, some are totally indifferent toward the actual game but are absolutely engaged with the halftime show, or vise versa.

That is the fine line you walk when trying to reach your audience, whether you are advertising or marketing. You’re not talking about a million-dollar spot during the biggest TV event of the year, but the same principle applies.

– Do you want to put your products and services in the spotlight?

– Do you want to showcase your staff and the company’s personality?

– Do you want to cover a spectrum of current events relating to your company’s industry to demonstrate your company philosophy?

If this dilemma sounds like your life as a business owner, check in with Dailey Freelance. We can work together and find a good mix of content in order to reach out to all of the various subgroups of your audience who are interested in what you do for one reason or another. We can reach out to them all. It is strategic, and it is not a perfect science. But I think we can cover a lot of ground without watering down your message.

Super Bowl Week Reflections of a Fair-Weather Kansas City Chiefs Fan

When I was a little kid I had this irrational delusion that the Kansas City Chiefs were some unnaturally powerful football team. I feared them. This was in the mid-late 1980s when, back in reality, Kansas City had a losing record almost every year. I honestly don’t know where the notion even came from.

Then, in the early 1990s when suddenly they were an actual perennial playoff team, I began to root for them. This was the era of hand-me-down legends for the Chiefs’ roster. Joe Montana. Marcus Allen. Others. They became my secondary “favorite team” and I thought for sure they’d make their way to the Super Bowl. My tertiary favorite team was the Philadelphia Eagles, for equally hazy reasons. I always hoped to see the two of them face off in the big game, but looking back this would have resulted in some messy and unnecessary internal conflicts, so I’m glad it never happened.

I was always lukewarm about Philadelphia anyway. The Kansas City Chiefs repeatedly let me down all throughout high school. By the time I went away to college, I had stopped caring what they did too. They aren’t even my secondary favorite now. The Saints are. I actually rooted against Philadelphia in the Super Bowl one year!

This Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs will play in the Super Bowl for the first time in my life. I was actually kind of hoping they would face the Green Bay Packers, which was a moral conflict on another level, being from Minnesota. I justified it by saying that I was rooting for a rematch of the first Super Bowl, not the Packers themselves.

You know…for history’s sake. Yeah.

The funny thing is, after years of growing disinterest in what the Chiefs were doing, it is hard to revel in their success without feeling like I am being a bandwagon jumper-onner, or a fair-weather fan at best.

I know I still can root for them. If they win, I can smile at the team I thought so highly of so long ago finally making good. But I know their victory would be all the more sweet had I never stopped following them. A good friend of mine has been a Chicago Cubs fan for over 30 years, and when they won their first World Series in 108 years in 2016, he basically told me he could die happy now.

I’ll smile if “my Chiefs” win, but it won’t give me that sweet, life-affirming culmination of years of faithful fandom that it could have been.

I guess what I am saying is never give up on your dream. When you see it through to the end, I am sure it will be all the sweeter for you. Even more so because it will be something you achieved yourself, a moment that football fandom can never really give you, no matter how good your team is.

Enjoy the game.
Go, K.C.!

Stealing Signs – A Baseball Fan’s Lament

This year marks 100 years since eight members of the Chicago White Sox were banned from Major League Baseball for life. They allegedly accepted money from gamblers in exchange for intentionally losing the 1919 World Series. At least one of them, “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, had been a sure Hall of Famer, until then.

In the fallout of the scandal, MLB’s first Commissioner, Judge Kennesaw M. Landis was appointed, and swiftly moved to clean up the various methods of chicanery that had existed in baseball, under the radar and out in the open, for decades.

Now we are engaged in a another great scandal, one that threatens to defile our national game. See, to some of us, baseball is still our national game. It, in fact, belongs to the world, but the point is, to some of us, in the words of Terrence Mann in “Field of Dreams”, “it reminds us of all that once was good and could be again.”

But I don’t want to sound naïve about the sanctity of the game. Baseball was tainted by cheating before 1919, it has been since, and will probably continue to be in one way or another.

When the Houston Astros cheating story first broke I was of the mind that:

1. The rule book does not say anything about using electronic devices to steal signs (my 2017 version doesn’t anyway).
2. Every team could do the same thing the Astros did if they felt like it. 3. On the subject of “unwritten rules” I argued to a friend that “the rule book doesn’t ban the use of flamethrowers to retire a baserunner but I’m pretty sure you can’t do it.”

When I really let it sink in what was going on with the Astros, I realized I did not want the game to be allowed to become “the Digital Pastime.” I already can’t stand the idea of robot umpires, and I don’t want every batter of every game knowing what pitch is coming. There are already too many home runs, and many baseball lovers have not fully moved past the steroids scandal of the 1990s and early 2000s.

We found out not too long ago that one of the most sacred moments in baseball history – Bobby Thomson’s home run that won the 1951 National League pennant, known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” – was a result of the use of an electronic device similar to the one the Astros are suspected of using. So again, there has been shady activity down the ages in baseball. But the Houston Astros, though unprecedentedly orchestrated in their efforts to cheat, also chose to do it at a time when social media made it impossible for some evidence to go unnoticed by the watchful eyes of fans taking it upon themselves to sound the alarm. A video blogger/podcaster called Jomboy, for one, was pointing out suspicious incidents months ago. Different teams had apparently been trying to bring certain incidents to the attention of Commissioner Rob Manfred for a while already before the story blew up last week.

In a video by another such watchdog an idea was proposed which blew my mind:

What if ONLY the pitcher and the catcher are allowed to use buzzers? The catcher would send his sign to the pitcher by pressing a button on a device he has, and the pitcher would receive one or two or three buzzes depending on the pitch the catcher wants served up.

Could work, but it is troublesome for two reasons:

1. A catcher’s pitch-calling can be complex when you consider not only is he calling what pitch but he is calling for slow or fast pitches, as well as high, low, inside and outside pitches.

2. It would totally eliminate a part of the game which is not only totally legal, but one of the most cerebral part of the game. Base runners stealing signs from second base without the use of electronics or cameras, but with the player’s own eyes.

When a baserunner reaches second base, it is perfectly legal for him to watch the catcher’s signs and match them up with what pitch is then thrown. He can then signal to his teammate at bat about what pitch is coming. He can go back to his dugout after the inning and tell the whole team what signs the opponents are using.

Of course nothing can be done with that information unless you have a runner on second to relay the signs. But there are a ton of other ways to tell what pitch is coming which are also perfectly legal. All that is required is a team of ballplayers using their brains. If you’re a batter and there are no baserunners, the opposing infielders know their catcher’s signs. They know what pitch is coming. They know they need to move either to the left or right depending on whether the pitch is going to be inside or outside. They know to move back or in depending on whether the pitch is going to be low or high. That generally will predict to which side the batter will hit, and whether he’ll hit a ground ball or a fly ball.

It is not a perfect science but it is fairly predictable and it is legal. Nobody has to risk million dollar contracts to do it. Nobody has to put the integrity of the game at risk to do it.

All of this is very sad to me, as a fan. I could go on and on about my feelings about it. I’ve been counting down to Opening Day since well before Christmas. I look forward to warm day in the sun at the ballpark with my wife. You go through the turnstile and head inside, up the ramp, among the crowds of fans wearing the same hat as you. You get to your section and as you turn to take your seat, you suddenly see that wide expanse of green grass in the outfield, contrasting with the brown dirt. You see the towering levels of grandstands in the outfield. You settle in and all your cares seem to go away as you wait for the National Anthem, and the umpire yelling “Play ball!”

I still look forward to a day at the ballpark. I still love our game.