Thursday, January 31, 2013

MLB Has Lost Control of the Game

Many years ago, the powers that be in baseball sat down and drew up a set of rules to govern the game. These rules applied to the game on the field in an attempt to ensure that the game was contested in a sporting manner. However, an exclusive analysis performed by Walk Like a Sabermetrician regarding the 2012 MLB season reveals that these rules are routinely violated despite the penalties against them. Some may scoff at this analysis and say that some of these rules have not been broken intentionally. To do so is to coddle the rule breakers. These rules should have shaped the training of players and molded their behavior; instead, the players have failed to conform their physical actions to the sacred code of the game. Baseball is out of control, and it is out in the open for all to see, yet the powers that be have not taken any substantive steps to beef up enforcement. The shocking details:

* Pitchers have long been tasked with the simple job of providing a fair pitch to the batter, one that is within a zone deemed to be conducive to putting the ball in play. Pitchers have pushed the envelope, though, attempting to throw pitches that violate the spirit but not the letter of the rule. During the 2012 regular season, there were 14,709 separate occasions on which a pitcher failed to provide a hittable pitch and was penalized with a walk.

However, two additional details illustrate just how bad this problem has become. The first is that every single pitcher who logged a non-negligible number of innings issued at least one walk. The disregard for this rule and the attempt to deceive batters has infected the entire population of major league pitchers.

The second is that no fewer than 1,055 times did a pitcher intentionally violate this rule and make no attempt to provide a hittable pitch to the batter. This almost always occurred with expressed consent and even on direct order of the manager. Blatantly thumbing their nose at the code of the game, these pitchers and managers engaged in unsporting activity. The penalties simply must be increased to stamp out this behavior.

* Even more shockingly, there were 1,494 instances of a pitcher hitting a batter with a pitch. This act is expressly prohibited by the rules of baseball and the deleterious nature of this action is not limited to simply breaking rules. Hit batters have been linked to numerous cases of injury and even death. In choosing to play baseball, players should not be forced to make any decisions that could have an impact on their health, but batters risk extreme injury every game as they are forced to bat against these recalcitrant pitchers.

It has also become apparent that these violent acts are sometimes intentionally committed, often in a bizarre meld of revenge and tribal grudges that have more in common with gang warfare than gentlemanly sport. MLB has left the penalties for hit batters so toothless that these events continue, risking the health of batters and setting an awful example for the children of America.

* Any excuses regarding physical rather than moral failings go out the window when it comes to the matter of ejections. Umpires are given the power to remove disrespectful and violent offenders from the game. Such an awesome power should never have to be used in a civil game, but MLB’s product is anything but civil. 179 times an umpire had no choice but to remove a participant from the game for bad behavior. Again, the titular authority figures known as managers were frequently involved in these violations.

It is a matter of simple common sense that when rules are violated, it means that the associated penalties are insufficiently strong. This simple truth has been illustrated time and time again throughout human society. Any time draconian penalties are instituted, the associated behavior ceases. Examples include the lack of murders and non-existence of drug use in America, the strict adherence to all bylaws of the NCAA, and, of course, the complete lack of PED use in Olympic sport. MLB needs to learn from these examples and curb the culture of rule-breaking that prospers on the field.

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