I often find myself in the position of defending baseball as a sport. I get criticized for being a fan of such a boring sport and I find myself having to defend its virtue. During one of these sessions, I was explaining to the conversation partner that baseball is such a fantastic sport because of the dynamics of offense versus defense.   In how many other sports do you have nine members of the opposing team playing defense against (at most) four players of their opposing team? More often than not, nine players provide the defensive strategy against just one of the opposing players. I still hold that offense in baseball is one of the hardest things to accomplish in sports.

Because of that, the nature of the game, baseball’s official rules provide adequate protection for the members of the offense. On a force out, a tie between the ball’s arrival in the defenseman’s glove and the runner landing on the base will usually be awarded to the runner. Fielders cannot obstruct a runner’s path to advance to the next base, etc.

We found this all incredibly relevant last night at the end of World Series 2013 Game 3. After a bad throw from the Red Sox catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Sox third baseman found himself lying on the ground in the way of the baserunner, called for obstruction of the baserunner awarding the baserunner home plate therefore losing the game for the Red Sox.  It was highly unfortunate, especially for Red Sox Nation.

Many articles and opinions have been written since last night, many of which were written by authors far more qualified to comment than I (me?). But whether it is appropriate or accurate or not, this is my perspective.

We’ve seen time and time again players running from first to second on a ground ball to the infield do all they can to obstruct the fielder from making the best double play he can.  Baserunners are taught to play mind games with the fielders, slide in hard, throw their hands up, and all kinds of crazy things that can prevent the defenseman making a double play attempt from doing so successfully.  You can see the results of this on almost any double play.  Typically the shortstop or second baseman making the play fall down over the baserunner, even though the force out has already been made.  As I see it, the baserunner has always had plenty of leeway in making obstruction part of the game. It is true that baserunners can be called for getting on the way, but more times than not it is simply seen as justpart of the game.

Take for instance last night’s play.  By most angles I saw it, Salty at home threw to Middlebrooks at third and did so a little wide.  Moving six inches to a foot would have solved this problem for Middlebrooks; he might have made the catch and saved the run. But he stayed on the bag and staying on the bag, and consequently NOT interfering with the baserunner reaching third, caused the ball to hit the baserunner, bounce off behind the bag and caused Middlebrooks to make a last minute jab at catching the ball.  As a result, Middlebrooks falls on the ground and the baserunner gets up from the slide and trips over Middlebrooks.

Technically, by MLB’s rules, obstruction isn’t something an offenseman can be guilty of. Obstruction is a different call than interference. But even with interference, if the offenseman whether intentionally or not interferes with the ball or the play, the ball is often called dead, bases are typically not awarded or taken away.  But this umpire last night, Jim Joyce, doesn’t (rightly) call interference; he lets play continue.

When Craig, the baserunner, gets up from the slide, he has an option to run to home if he thinks he can make it safely.  He does. But instead of getting up off the ground and running on the baseline chalk, he gets up and tries to go over Will Middlebrooks who is, remember, still on the ground.  Under a replay you can see that Middlebrooks makes the attempt to get up and is pushed back down by the runner.  Like normal in baseball, the runner has a right to do that.  But think about the runner’s choices here…

The runner could get up and run in a straight line on the baseline chalk, and wouldn’t had to have stepped over Middlebrooks at all.  He had a choice and chose to step over Middlebrooks.  As he does this, he pushes Middlebrooks down, “obstructing” Middlebrooks’s ability to 1) get out of the baserunner’s way and 2) field the ball (assuming outfield backup is unavailable).

 So Middlebrooks, who does not obstruct Craig, the runner, from reaching third falls over on a bad throw and is unable to move to avoid an obstruction call because the runner choose to step over him rather than running on the baseline and pushes him down in order to get over him, resulting in the runner’s tripping.

Jim Joyce is one of the best umpires in the business and I gained incredible respect for him when he apologized publicly for ruining Galarraga’s perfect game with a blown call at first base. I don’t doubt that Joyce knows the rulebook through and through and called the play according to the rulebook.

My argument is, and has been for a long time, that baserunners are on the borderline of having too much leeway because of the nature of the game.  The runners can make decisions that get an obstruction call on the defense, even if the defenseman doesn’t intend any such action (because intent isn’t factored into the call). We love a game that literally has everyone against you while you try to attack on offense.  As a means of making it easier for you, baseball rules that you’re given the tie and the right of way.  You get to make the decision you want to make, to a certain degree, even if that decision means that the defenseman is guilty of something he tried to avoid.

Last night ends differently if Salty holds the ball.  Last night ends differently if Middlebrooks comes off the base.  Last night ends differently if the runner runs in the basepath and avoids Middlebrooks’s useless body on the ground.


College Football Makes The World a Worse Place

I went to a tiny liberal arts college in Central Florida. It's not known to many outside the state, except for foreign tourists, and was recently awarded the "US's Most Beautiful Campus" by the Princeton Review.

We had a bunch of national championships (I used to know exactly but I've lost count) in D2 sports and rarely had much of a following from students. At least not like some other schools have.

I've been criticized (getting close to being on a daily basis) for the teams I choose to follow.

I'd like to be clear, though:I've always been a baseball fan and have only recently come to follow football and basketball. I have never claimed to know a whole lot about any sports and am not as addicted to ESPN as some of my friends are. I've dealt with feeling left out of conversations and feeling stupid by many people's conversations. In an effort to NOT make that happen, I've attempted to pay more attention to sports. I've chosen a few teams to pay attention to, some of which my family members follow, some of which are schools I attended or have friends who attended, some of which I've followed for a while, and some of which I simply chose. I don't purchase a lot of team paraphernalia and so I think I'm completely within my right to follow whatever teams I'd like without the criticism from outside voices who happen to disagree. I have a few Duke hats and t-shirts (and by the way, I attend that school) and one Boston Red Sox hat. That's it. If I hear another criticism of what teams I do or don't follow, why, and why you look down upon me for following them, I WILL NO LONGER CONSIDER YOU A FRIEND. HEAR ME LOUD AND CLEAR...IT HAS BEEN ENOUGH, it is no longer funny.

For grad school, I selected Duke University. In case you haven't heard, Duke's basketball team (and this silly one down the street) is pretty competitive. Since going to Duke, I've found a new love for college basketball. I mean seriously, go to one game in Cameron Indoor and you'll love it. I do. I love it.

But Duke students suck. They really do.

Wait, we.

We yell, scream, shout obscenities, boo refs, scream some more, jump up and down, blow out your eardrums, and us Divinity students forget we have a life of faith for a couple of hours once a week or so. We talk a lot of basketball outside of Cameron but most of us leave the rude behavior in the room. Or, at least we try.

But now...college football season is here. While Duke has a pretty awful football team, I am from a state with a few good ones. And the hate circling Facebook (and I admit, I add to it) is again out of control. Rivalries vs. Rivalries, teams seemingly forgotten about trying to prove themselves, teams ranked highly trying to maintain their rankings, teams from the middle of nowhere going 5-0, and certain conferences dominating. It makes for "fun" conversation but the addition of Internet trolls (again, I'm not innocent) has made it worse.

But college football has gotten worse with the advent of social media.

Rivalries that bordered on hatred have developed into full-on hatred. And relationships are hurt and broken. It's no longer about disagreements, it's about who is right and why your loyalty to a team is far better than another person's loyalty. And if you cheer for a team and didn't attend that school, your fandom is somehow less than the other person's fandom (there's a strong argument to be made that this theory is correct...I used it with Duke earlier...but I don't ever think that a Duke fan who didn't attend is less of a fan than little old me who has been here for a year and a half). And if they think about things differently, you're wrong.

And it all comes down to winning and losing.

And I suppose I'm starting to see that this does nothing for unity.
It does nothing for society. Except sell t-shirts when your team wins.

I guess I'm kind of tired of the world taking themselves too seriously.
I guess I'm kind of tired of people not taking jokes.
I guess I'm kind of tired of us acting like winning is everything.
I guess I'm kind of tired of us thinking that our colors define who we are.
I guess I'm kind of tired of us.

We hurt others. We don't have conversations. And we alienate large groups of people. And while we may be unified inside those stadiums, we segregate ourselves.

I'm guilty of it, and I'd imagine many of you are too.


Seriously, enough with the hate on the teams I follow and comment on. It's enough. Really. What do you gain by making fun of me? Like really, what?

Derek Jeter 3K

Anyone who knows me knows that I can't stand the pinstripes. Maybe it's the fact that I grew up as a huge Braves fan. Maybe it's because I started following the Red Sox in college. Maybe it's because of the way I was treated in Yankee Stadium (the real one). Maybe it's because I couldn't stand the way that Steinbrenner bought his way to championships. Maybe it's because they tore down one of America's best known buildings.

Maybe it's jealousy that the Yankees have had one of the greatest rosters of all time.

In any case, there is one Yankee that everyone has to like. He's never been in trouble with the media. He seems to be so humble whenever he speaks. He's easily one of the best shortstops of all time. He now belongs to the 3,000 hit club. He will belong to the Hall of Fame when all is said and done.

Derek Jeter is about the only reason to watch a Yankee game.

This looks like a phenomenal documentary.



I Broke My iPhone

I was clapping at a baseball game.iPhone was in one hand. Wedding ring was in the other. Here are the results: (Lighting in my apartment makes it nearly impossible to fully capture the horror in any sort of focused way)








God forgives mistakes. Apple does too, if you pay them to.

iFixit charges $149.99 for a new front screen replacement and the job is not easy. Ubreakifix charges $139.99 but you have to send in the phone. Apple charges $199.99. Screen still functions, it just looks bad.

I think I'm stuck with the ramifications of my actions. It's a tough life that I lead.