There are many good rules in baseball, but I submit that the best rule is one that we’ve never really seen in action. In the 2017 edition of the Official Baseball Rules (recodified, amended, and adopted by the Professional Baseball Playing Rules Committee via teleconference on January 11, 2017), section (d) of Rule 6.04 on Unsportsmanlike Conduct states:
Mike identifies the flaws in the rules that typically govern basic fantasy formats.
No! Wait! Don’t leave! I know that the last thing anyone wants to talk about when it comes to fantasy baseball are rules. Many, many years ago, I was in a home league where at least half of the league was populated by attorneys, and we would spend at least an hour before each auction discussing the league’s constitution. This is as gut-wrenchingly awful as it sounds. There were a few years where we held our auctions in metropolitan high rises and I would keep wistfully looking at the window, wondering if there was any way at all to unbolt it and fly away to sweet, sweet freedom.
Now that I write for Baseball Prospectus, I play in many more expert leagues than I used to and have been exposed to more combinations of rules and formats than I would have ever imagined possible. Tout Wars, the expert league formed by Peter Kreutzer, Lawr Michaels, Ron Shandler, and Jeff Erickson in 1998, is particularly innovative, offering several twists on the “traditional” Rotisserie rulebook that in some cases have been adopted by the fantasy industry at large.
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Should there be a rule change to minimize injuries from takeout slides?
If the groundball goes to shortstop, we're not having this conversation, because second basemen are carried across the back half of second base when they receive a flip from the shortstop to start a double play, whereas shortstops receiving the throw from the second baseman are carried across the front half. If Jung-ho Kang jumps as he prepares to fire the ball on to first, we're not having this conversation, because Chris Coghlan's flailing, sidewinding takeout slide just clips him and knocks him harmlessly into the dirt, instead of shredding his left leg (which, instead of being airborne, was planted in that dirt).
But because Kang came flying across the front half of second base and was blown up by the hard-sliding Coghlan, ending his season and damaging the Pirates' chances of playing deep into October, we have to have the conversation. The columns calling for a rule prohibiting takeout slides of any kind have already begun. The question is whether those columns are well founded, or just the knee-jerk reaction to an unfortunate incident.
For all the talk about how complicated the infield fly rule is, it’s got nothing on the balk. The balk is, as I’ve always heard it said, more of a philosophy—“Don’t deceive the runner”— than a strict set of rules. Which is nuts, because deception is part of the game and always part of the pitcher’s attempt to hold a runner on. Varying how many looks a pitcher takes at the runner is deceptive, for instance, but certainly no balk. So “don’t deceive the runner in particularly defined ways” is more appropriate, but if these ways are particularly defined … well, now we’re out of philosophy and into a strict set of rules, after all. Do the rules make sense? Are they understandable, identifiable? Can we understand them and identify them? Let’s GIF* it a shot.
...Unfortunately, the way the game is played has forced him to be that way.
There is no doubt in my mind that on Wednesday night Scott Cousins was guilty of a dirty play. When the Marlins’ outfielder was trying to score from third on fly ball, he made no attempt to reach home plate. As he neared home, he launched himself into Buster Posey’s upper body, apparently having made the decision that his best chance of scoring was to ensure that Posey was forcibly separated from the baseball, and that he himself would be able to find the plate in the confusion that followed.
He was probably correct about that decision, even though, in this case, Posey had already dropped the ball before any contact occurred. Posey was acting the way catchers are currently taught—receive the ball, and then drop to your knees across the front of the plate to block the runner’s access to the plate, while making the tag for the out. In any number of games on similar plays, the catcher does make a clean catch, the runner slides, the catcher’s shin guards hit the ground ahead of the runner’s foot, cutting off his path to the plate, the tag comes does down, and the out is recorded. Cousins’ play, like many before him, is an accepted part of the game today—and an evolutionary adaptation to the behavior of the catcher. It is what you have to do to beat the catcher’s strategy. As I said before, I have no doubt that it was a dirty play, but baseball has accepted this particular pattern of dirt, and I can’t fathom how any punishment or retribution would be justified in the face of this organizational pattern.
Clay takes the field to get acquainted with the rules and regulations of your great-great-grandaddy's baseball.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Revisit Clay's account of a trip back in time to baseball's formative years, which originally ran on October 26, 2006.
Next up, checking in on the number of outs in an inning, the ground rules, and what can be appealed.
Most baseball fans feel they know the rules, but many of them are actually misunderstood, at least their nuances and technical definitions. Even you are fairly well-versed in the rulebook, a primer never hurts, so BP asked the MLB Umpiring Department about 10 of them. Major League Baseball umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford, a 19-year major-league umpire, and Major League Baseball umpire supervisor Larry Young, a 23-year major-league umpire, provided the definitions and clarifications.
Looking at the use of the protest rules and why most appeals are struck down.
The Yankees and Royals will square off in the Bronx on Saturday, the 27th anniversary of the infamous Pine Tar Game. That 1983 Sunday afternoon not only made George Brett a fixture in madcap blooper reels, but it is also one of the few major-league games in which a protest was upheld.
Revisiting a conversation with the long-time official scorer in Boston.
Chaz Scoggins has been the primary official scorer at Fenway Park for over 30 years. A long-time sportswriter for The Lowell Sun and a former president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Scoggins sat down for this interview in December 2004.