Riding the Pine: The Human Element of Baseball

Last week, I was going to write a eulogy for the Cardinals when they got eliminated, but then I caught the second part of Ken Burns’ “The Tenth Inning” and decided against the eulogy.

Rather than focusing on the negative for the season, I was reminded of why I love baseball.

The strategy. The stats. The history.

One thing that was brought up in the documentary was about how people viewed steroids, but one of the interviewees mentioned that steroids made the game more relatable. Ball players were humans too, as they did what it took to get ahead. It was an idea I’d never thought about before and it made sense.

I think that theory applies to umpires too.

I’m sure anyone reading this has heard about the problems the Rays were facing with their umpire last night. The Cliffnotes version is this: the home plate umpire ruled a check swing strike a ball on an 0-2 count. The batter, Michael Young, then took the next pitch deep to cement the Rangers lead over the Rays. There were also many issues with the strikezone.

Now, I’m a proponant of Instant Replay in certain instances. Questions on a home run? Use instant replay. Judging balls and strike? No instant replay.

When you take away the human element of the game, you lose as much as if you took away stats or use a pitching machine instead of pitchers.

Should the Rays be upset? Yes they should. Did it change the outcome of the game? Possibly, but we can’t say yes or no since it didn’t happen. The best the Rays could have hoped for was to use the blown call as motivation to hit. So, to say that one call blew the game for the Rays is a stretch. They didn’t hit. They didn’t pitch well. They really have no one to blame but themselves.

On a different note, I started reading The Numbers Game by Alan Schwarz, about the history of baseball statistics. It’s a very interesting look at the history of the game (when I’m finished, I’ll be doing a write up on it).

The book has inspired me to do a little more research into baseball numbers. I’ve decided to start looking at the draft pretty in depthly. I’m going to disect as many of the drafts as I have time to look at. I want to find trends of success, team trends, etc. One thing that would be great would be a spreadsheet will draft picks listed; anyone know of one or can point me in the right direction, I’d be eternally grateful and give you a future shout out.

Maybe this will finally get me to join SABR; I’ve gone to a luncheon this year, but just haven’t caved into paying for the membership.

The other project I’m starting from this book is to track down some of the books and articles mentioned in the book. I found Percentage Baseball by Earnshaw Cook. If anyone else has recommendations for baseball books or know where to find some hard to find ones (including the early Bill James’ Abstracts).

Keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks, as I’ll be revealing my votes for the BBA’s Awards. They’ll start next week and I’ll be doing a couple a week.

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