Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Relationships are Hard Work

So, Houseboy and I had a major knock-down drag out fight last night and let me just tell you he's lucky to be alive today. Despite the glory of soon-to-be-3-time-Cy-Young-winner Johan Santana's triple against the Mets, Morneau's coughing-up-blood plate collision and Mauer's two homeruns on Sunday, I am a little miffed with my beloved baseball this muggy day.

Last night, with little ceremony, they crossed a line in the sand and they (along with their defender, Houseboy), owe me a big apology. I didn't even see it coming. There we are, top of the first, ready for a thrilling victory over the Blue Jays. Vernon Wells doubles, but Alex Rios grounds out. I'm calmly thinking how nice a strikeout or short fly ball will be... how they can easily make an out without that runner advancing... suddenly, Matt "Fatt" Stairs pops one up nice and pretty in foul territory. Little Nicky Punto runs his brains out and catches it while falling lovingly into Luis "King of the Elves" Rodriguez's arms in the dugout. How nice! An out recorded with no deleterious side effects! But what is this? What is Bert saying about the first enactment of some new rule? WHY is Wells just trotting over to third? Why is he doing so in response to the beckoning of that evil, cheating umpire?

With a great deal of googling I was finally able to find an explanation. A February 2007 update to the rules that I was not aware of:

FIELDER ISSUES 18. Catching ball in dugout


A batter is out when --
(a) His fair or foul fly ball (other than a foul tip) is legally caught by a fielder;
Rule 6.05(a) Comment: A fielder may reach into, but not step into, a dugout to make a catch, and if he holds the ball, the catch shall be allowed. A fielder, in order to make a catch on a foul ball nearing a dugout or other out-of-play area (such as the stands), must have one or both feet on or over the playing surface (including the lip of the dugout) and neither foot on the ground inside the dugout or in any other out-of-play area. Ball is in play, unless the fielder, after making a legal catch, falls into a dugout or other out-of-play area, in which case the ball is dead. Status of runners shall be as described in Rule 7.04(c) Comment.

Just so you know, that "status of runners" allows them to advance one base. It is my understanding that this change is the result of the incident last year where Ryan Freel, in following a foul ball into the stands, basically shivved some old lady. That probably really sucked for her, but I still don't like this rule. Mostly, because if you watch the video of the Punto catch, you'll see that that kind of athleticism just deserves reward. He even manages to get that good BestBuy product placement in.

But also because, in my heart of hearts, I feel like it's a different type of rule, with different stakes, than any other rule in baseball. So, if you're Little Nicky, and you see that ball traveling rapidly toward your comrade-in-shortness Elrond in the dugout, and you realize you might not be able to record that out without allowing your little toes over that line, what do you do? Well, on the one hand, you could let it drop and hope your pitcher has another strike or two in him... or another easy out to provide you with. Maybe you join the mound conference and ask him to ignore DIPS theory for just a moment and furnish you with a foul ball just a few feet further west (or east? I'm not sure on that). OR, you can record that out, allowing the base runner to advance. In what other situation do you have that kind of choice? In a sacrifice fly, but in that case at least the runner has to actually do the running... you theoretically COULD throw them out. Same on a long foul ball. The offense actually has to do the work of moving forward on you, weighing for themselves the likelihood that you can throw them out. In this case, in the very ACT of catching the ball, you have given someone a base. Boooooollshit, I say.

Anyway, to address SeƱor Baseball Himself for a moment, you owe me an apology. Houseboy made me vegetarian tamales and took off his shirt. You're probably going to have to work a little harder than that. I MIGHT be willing to accept a 10-game winning streak from the Twins, but we'll see.

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