Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jason Turbow: The Baseball Codes

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Some people (my boyfriend included) think baseball has too many rules. He calls it a "gentleman's game," and not in a nice way. There are just lots of things you can and can't do, and should and shouldn't do. In my opinion, that is what makes the game- it's not like we have to golf clap, or anything! And if I wanted to watch a bunch of dudes run and violently slam into each other, I'd watch football. If I wanted to watch hours of sheer athleticism, I'd take up basketball. No- I'm content with my slightly dull talking sport. And rules give us LOTS to talk about. This short video gives you an idea of what happens when rules are broken, and, if you watch with sound, you'll hear two perspectives on rules. (Me and THB were there that day and had NO idea what happened- it happened really fast. Note: the two featured players aren't in the game anymore, though who knows where A-Rod will be next year...)

Dallas Braden flips out by udrtwe

Jason Turbow's "The Baseball Codes" is all about the rules of baseball that not everyone knows about. Not the neighborhood play or the blowing on a foul ball rules or even more common ones like when the infield fly rules. These are the unwritten rules like when it is and isn't okay to cross the pitcher's mound or when it's expected that a pitcher will throw at a batter and when it's considered beyond the pale. It also discusses why Nolan Ryan threw at guys so much and why some guys wouldn't do it at all. Turbow talks about cheating and when it's okay and when it's not- basically, everyone cheats as much as they can get away with. Interestingly, there's only a tiny bit about PED's, and that's a big oversight. It might be too much to tackle in this kind of book, but it's hard to talk about cheating and unwritten rules without this discussion.

There's a timely discussion of pine tar on the neck (see: Pineda), which includes a discussion of why tony La Russa didn't ask Kenny Rogers to be checked for pine tar in a game in 2006 or make a bigger deal out of the incident. Rather, he was content when the umpires asked Rogers to wash off. Turbow on this: "La Russa's [had a] general acceptance of a base level of cheating in his sport. A baseball man through and through, the manager harbored clear notions of on-field propriety, spending significant time considering the integrity of his actions and those of others. To him, baseball's Code allowed for subtle bending of the rules." This is noteworthy for two reasons: one, La Russa's clubs are notorious for steroid usage (from the Bash Brothers to the Cardinals). Is this a subtle bending of the rules? Baseball seems to think so, as he goes into the Hall of Fame this year. Second, he also does SOMETHING for Major League Baseball. A "baseball man," a believer in the code, and a believer in some level of cheating is clearly endorsed by MLB. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the code is part of the sport. On the other hand, it needs to be acknowledged, and I'd say offered up as part of the humanity of baseball. Let's tell it like it is: no amount of instant replay will make the sport "clean." There's a human element, a tradition element ,that makes the game what it is.

Turbow's book is a decent one, especially for those who want to learn more about the game. It's a jaunt through memory lane of all kinds of baseball players- names you haven't heard for a decade (or more). My man Charlie Manuel made the cut, as did lots of former A's. Dusty Baker appears frequently as does pre-Giants Bochy. If you already are a student of the game, though, a lot of these unwritten rules are already pretty ingrained in you. This will just give you extra fodder when you want to show off to ballpark rookies (as if you need that!) or to bore your boyfriend with. Not that you would ever do such a thing...