Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Baseball Codes-Beanballs, Sign Stealing & Bench-Clearing Brawls, by Jason Turbow with Michael Duca

As I'm sure most are aware, the San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series. Their road to this monumental victory was not an easy one, and it was traveled by a classic band of misfits, worthy in all ways of Johnny Damon's 2004 Red Sox "we're idiots" sobriquet.
As amazing as it was to watch the Fall Classic unfold, there was an event that occurred in the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies which in some ways, seemed even more amazing to me. Giants' game 6 starter Jonathan Sanchez had nothing. No control. No command. He looked lost from about two batters into the game.
In the second inning, one of his pitches hit Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. This beaning, whether intentional or not, had great significance for the game 6, and for the Giants' eventual historic Championship win.
Utley and Sanchez had already established a history of antagonism; Sanchez threw behind Utley in an at-bat in 2009. There was no love lost between the  two. As such, Utley, while taking his base, reached down for the ball and flipped it toward Sanchez. Sanchez and Utley "exchanged words" once Utley reached first base. It was clear to me that "fuck you" was uttered by Sanchez, as he walked off of the mound toward the agitated Utley on first.
Eventually, the benches cleared, and play was stopped for at least five minutes. During the melee, Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt did not join the fray. FOX Sports cameras at one point panned to the bullpen, showing  Affeldt calmly throwing  warm-up pitches. By time the  brawl had been stopped, he was ready for relief. Sanchez was promptly pulled, and Affeldt proceeded to pitch superbly, giving the Giants the relied they needed, and keeping them in a game that they needed to, and eventually did, win.
A question: did Sanchez deke the Phillies into losing their collective composure, just long enough for Affeldt to warm up, incredibly earlier than he probably expected to, thus giving  the Giants a chance within a game that was rapidly slipping from their grasp? The answer to this one is probably lost to history, but I've pondered it a lot since that Sunday night in October, 2010.
Whatever the truth of the matter really was, there were Codes at play, ones that Jason Turbow and Michael Duca set out to describe in The Baseball Codes. For example, Affeldt's choice to remain in the bullpen could be seen as a violation of one of the codes expounded upon in the Baseball Codes.
The Baseball Codes sets out to shine light upon the unwritten rules of baseball, rules that players' careers live and die by. Much like life in greater society, these codes provide both guidance and boundaries to the interactions that make up daily life. One could argue that without codes, people are often left clueless as to how to make their way through the tasks at hand, whether in baseball or any other pursuit.
Dekes, tagging etiquette, sign stealing, rookie vs. veteran dynamics, retaliatory tactics,  and a plethora of other baseball codes are explained and examined in depth within this very entertaining book. The authors did a great job of researching these inner workings of baseball, with anecdotes and opinions from several generations of players, managers, and broadcasters.
The insider information within this book provides many revealing glimpses into the sport that I have come to love so much, the sport that best exemplifies how life really works in U.S. society.

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