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October 26, 2006 12:00 am

Going Back in Time

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Clay Davenport

Vintage Base Ball games have become a popular pastime. While attending one in Baltimore, Clay Davenport becomes part of the action.

I finally got around to looking through my library for a book that had rules of the 1860s in it, but I couldn't find the ones I had in mind, and so I just decided that I'd go and see what the rules were by watching. I was pretty certain that balls on one bounce were still being called outs, and that they weren't allowed to retire runners by throwing the ball right at them ("soaking"). There certainly wouldn't be any gloves, but beyond that I really didn't know what to expect. Saturday came and the weather was great for the middle of October, clear and sunny, if a touch cool. Traffic turned into a mini-nightmare thanks to some road construction I didn't know about, so by the time we had gone off the highway and worked our way through local streets to the park, the two teams had already started the first game.

It turned out I was right about the one-bounce and no-soaking rules, but there were plenty of others that caught me by surprise--some that I remembered after seeing them in action, and a few that I had never heard of. Some of the chatter was amusing, such as the oh-so-polite calls of "Well struck, sir!" that followed a nice hit. The first game sailed right along; the Elkton club was pretty clearly the better team and won handily, although I wasn't keeping track of the score. I was chatting throughout the game with another SABR member whose curiosity had been aroused by the same e-mail I had gotten. The first game over, we both went over to the exhibit of old bats that had been set up while the players took a short break.

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October 7, 2003 12:00 am

From The Mailbag: Controversy at Fenway

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Jason Grady

You contend that rundowns should never require more than one throw. A properly executed rundown requires two throws. One to place the ball ahead of the runner and then another to finish the runner off. You want to run the runner back towards the base he came from rather than forward. This is so that in case of a dropped throw the runner will not obtain the next base but only get back to the previous base he had before the rundown. -- JT Say a pitcher fields a ball and has a runner caught between third and home. He should close the gap, sprinting directly at the runner. Actually, he should run a little towards the home plate side to encourage him back toward third, as you point out. Pitcher sprints, makes runner sprint, third baseman steps up, receives ball, tag is made, one throw. Things get complicated when other runners are involved such as a rundown between first and second and then another runner takes off from third. But, in a single rundown, it should take one throw. Also, say a runner gets caught up due to a throw from the outfield. That is not the first throw of the rundown. Once the runner is between two players, one with the ball, he is in a rundown and it should take one throw. What you mean, though, is that it was Chavez's imperative to get the ball in the hands of the catcher so that they could then run Varitek from home towards third in case of an errant throw. This can be defended, but I contend that a proper rundown requires two fielders and a single throw. Getting the ball ahead of the runner simply for the sake of it adds an extra fielder, an extra throw and more time. Why complicate things and increase the chance of an error?

Things get complicated when other runners are involved such as a rundown between first and second and then another runner takes off from third. But, in a single rundown, it should take one throw. Also, say a runner gets caught up due to a throw from the outfield. That is not the first throw of the rundown. Once the runner is between two players, one with the ball, he is in a rundown and it should take one throw.

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June 11, 2003 12:00 am

The New CBA, Part II

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Doug Pappas

Continuing his series on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Doug Pappas looks at the ins and outs of MLB scheduling.

Article V: Scheduling

While many provisions of the CBA have no analogue in non-sports labor negotiations, Article V, which deals with the major league schedule, is a set of work rules the UAW or Teamsters can relate to. Schedule-related provisions have been in each CBA since the first.

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May 7, 2003 12:00 am

Behind the Mask Q&A

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Jason Grady

Baseball Prospectus: Where in the rulebook does it say? a) Tie goes to the runner. Jim Evans: It doesn't. It states that a runner is out IF the defensive team tags him or his base BEFORE he reaches it. The implication is if the tag doesn't occur first (not at the same time or after), the runner would be safe. BP: b) A check swing is a strike if the batter breaks his wrists. JE: The wrists are never mentioned in the rulebook. A swinging strike is based solely on the umpire's judgment of whether or not the batter committed to the pitch. Check swings are very difficult calls. Base umpires are often able to make more accurate decisions on check swings because their attention can be focused solely on the bat since they are not obligated to call the pitch. BP: c) The hands are part of the bat. JE: This is another misconception. The hands are NOT part of the bat. If a pitched ball hits the hands and the batter did not attempt to swing, it is a hit batsman. If a pitched ball hits the hands as he swings, it is a strike and the ball is dead. Reference: Rule 2.00 Strike (e.)

Baseball Prospectus: Where in the rulebook does it say? a) Tie goes to the runner.

Jim Evans: It doesn't. It states that a runner is out IF the defensive team tags him or his base BEFORE he reaches it. The implication is if the tag doesn't occur first (not at the same time or after), the runner would be safe.

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Early last week, ESPN.com published a column by Jayson Stark that proposed 20 rules changes for MLB, ranging from the cosmetic ("Toughen up the save rule") to the crazed ("But add the designated fielder"). Now, I'm not going to talk in particular about Stark's column today, except to say that I think many of his suggestions sound good until you give serious consideration to how they would affect the way the game is played.

Early last week, ESPN.com published a column by Jayson Stark that proposed 20 rules changes for MLB, ranging from the cosmetic ("Toughen up the save rule") to the crazed ("But add the designated fielder"). Now, I'm not going to talk in particular about Stark's column today, except to say that I think many of his suggestions sound good until you give serious consideration to how they would affect the way the game is played.

Read the full article...

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