I know most US citizens will think this is outright sacrilege. For a long period of my life I have been mystified by the inability of most people, who “follow” the game of baseball, watch the game and attend a “boring” sport that moves way too slow for the majority of the population. What really is transpiring is that these individuals are not really familiar with the nuances of this very intellectual sport.
Every pitch has thought and motion involving the players, the coaches and the umpires to predetermine their reaction and every possible result. Obviously this cannot be completely mastered by any means. The fielders have to assess what their action will be if the batter manages to hit the ball in their direction and if there are base runners present what is the most advantageous plan to administer. Of course if there is a base runner, the fielder has to evaluate the expected speed of the runner, whether he will have an advantage as a result of the pitchers windup or flaw in delivery and whether it is better to cut off the lead runner or take the easier out at first.
This decision is predicated on the number of outs and if the fielder doesn’t remember the correct number of outs he may cause a mistake that could cost his team the game. Hidden from this explanation is what pitch is being thrown by his pitcher, as he has a choice of fastballs, curves, split-fingered fastballs and off speed pitches called change ups, which if thrown appropriately can make the hitter swing way before the ball crosses the plate. All pitches react different and the when the batter hits each of these various pitches a distinct result occurs with each pitch.
The batter has to evaluate the pitch count and whether he has an advantage over the pitcher with the odds weighing in against the batter or in favor of the batter. This can determine the specific pitch coming in. Obviously if the batter has a 3 (balls)-0 (strikes) count, he is more than likely getting a fastball knee high on the outside corner of the strike zone. If the batter has a disadvantage with a 0 (balls)-2 (strikes), the batter can expect an off speed pitch that may or may not come close to the strike zone.
Pitches are called by the pitching coach on the bench usually and relayed to the catcher between pitches, with a mixed bag of signs designed to throw the opposing team off and not allow them to determine exactly what pitch the pitcher is tossing. At times if the opposing team has a former teammate they allow the catcher to make the pitch call and in some cases the catcher has sufficient experience working with the pitchers to know what pitches to throw when and what the batter tends to not be able to hit.
The pitcher has to ensure he reads the sign translated from the catcher correctly and knows what pitch is being called. During games the signs can be changed every inning and sometimes multiple times in an inning, if they think the opposing team is stealing their signs. After the pitcher digests the sign he has to ensure his grip of the baseball is appropriate for the pitch being thrown or the result will not be what was intended. If he has base runners in position he has to make sure that the runner does not gain an advantage and steal the base he is headed for, as a result of the pitcher not giving the runner the pertinent scrutiny.
The coaches are mandated with fielder placement and understanding the ability of each opposing hitter and where the odds indicate he will hit the ball, given the prior knowledge of what pitch is being thrown. They are tasked with creating a lineup that puts the best available players on the field and in the specific batting order that will achieve more positive results. They actively discuss positioning, the opposing batters ability and historical data of their fielders and the hitter. One can get completely overwhelmed with the quantity of statistics available these days and has to control this aspect of the game. These days it has increased at such a level, that it is impossible to comprehend the numerical dossier collected. The team’s manager and coaches have to decide what is more important on each pitch
The Umpires are charged with making sure that on every pitch they are in the correct position for expected plays, that both teams adhere to the rules and that all players have a safe playing environment. They are laden with interpreting all debated calls according to the rule book and ensuring that above all the games are carried out in a fair and honest manner.
Over the last few years I have gained a new and expanded appreciation of what the world calls football. I have followed the FIFA World Cup 2014 over the last two weeks and actually thought despite the dramatic fish flops, jersey pulls and shin kicks, a great deal of the background intellect involved in baseball is going on in football or what we call soccer in the US. There is a great deal of strategy and foresight involved. A great deal more than what I think the average US fan realizes. It was a very eye opening experience when I realized this had actually transpired, as I became a stronger fan of the sport that the majority of the world classifies as the number one athletic event outside the Olympics.
Regardless of your beliefs and whether you agree you have to admit once every four years the World comes to a standstill and all eyes are on this magnificent athletic episode. So much so, that I believe I am becoming more attracted to the World Cup process than I am to the Super Bowl anymore. Let’s face it more people watch the commercials of this American sporting game, than the actual sporting event. If they are not watching the commercials they are imbibing and partying like crazy. Hence my opening statement of outright sacrilege. We are moving up in ability and succeeded in making it farther than most people thought in this World Cup. Who knows one day before I perish we might actually field a team capable of taking the World Cup home. Wouldn’t that be cool! Congratulations Germany on winning a hard fought and determined match!
I have taken the liberty of placing photos of two of my favorite baseball hats in this blog, along with a few baseball cards I owned at one time.