“The Baseball Codes” by Jason Turbow- A delightful read for any fan of the sport

I hadn’t really thought much about the “unwritten rules” of baseball until this past season. Then as young phenom Fernando Tatis, Jr. was lighting up scoreboards with seriously entertaining baseball, the “unwritten rules” began to sneak into news stories. For example, you’re not supposed to swing on a 3-0 pitch right down the middle if your team is up by some (indeterminate) amount of runs. At another point, Tatis, Jr. offended the Dodgers by allegedly “disrespecting” Clayton Kershaw by admiring his home run off the ace pitcher. I thought the outcry in each case was stupid. Don’t want someone hitting a grand slam off you when they’re already leading? Don’t throw a 3-0 fastball where they can easily smash it. Don’t like hitters admiring their home runs?

Enter Jason Turnbow’s The Baseball Codes, a book which seeks to draw out some of these unwritten rules while showing many anecdotal examples of the same.

The book is divided into four parts: On the field, Retaliation, Cheating, and Teammates. Each part is absolutely filled to the brim with real life stories from players around the league who were involved in some way with the unwritten rule in question. While many of these rules might be expected–such as “Don’t show players up” which came into play in discussions of Tatis, Jr. and Kershaw–others are surprising. For example, in the section on “Cheating,” I was delighted to learn that the way the baseball field is prepared can come into play on the box score. Turnbow writes about how teams can adjust, ever so slightly, the angle of the foul lines, the way the dirt angles, the make of the pitcher’s mound, and more. Have a home team that loves to bunt? It’s advantageous to pile up the first and third base line dirt in such a way that it helps roll those bunts back fair. This isn’t cheating in that it’s not against the rules, but it certainly involves giving advantages.

I was also surprised to find that some of the unwritten rules are things I don’t disagree with. While I think that complaints about “showing up” an ace pitcher by hitting and admiring a home run are stupid, uwritten rules that involve curtailing injury are not. Don’t deke an opponent into a short slide, because that can cause ankle injuries. It’s common sense, but hard to codify into an actual rule in the Book.

Apart from all the discussion of the “rules” themselves, a huge portion of the book is dedicated to stories of players breaking or enforcing the same rules. I found these to be often hilarious, sometimes stressful, and often baffling. There are many, many stories in here. Trust me, you’ll find something you enjoy. It would be hard not to.

The Baseball Codes is constantly entertaining with baseball stories. But what makes it truly great is it also makes you think even more about baseball and the workings that may or may not be going on behind the scene. Turnbow’s fantastic book is well-worth the read if you’re a fan of baseball. It’s phenomenal.

(All Amazon Links are Affiliates.)


Perfect Game!- MLB: The Show…. 07

perfect-game-8-4-16-mlbshow07You know when you get a video game that you just love? You know how you keep going back to it even if there are other iterations of the same idea or style? MLB: The Show 07 is like that for me. It’s the most fun I ever had with a baseball game, and I just keep playing it. Yet in 100s of games played, I’ve never once pitched a perfect game. Ever. I’ve been playing this game for 10 years now off and on, but never pitched a perfect game.

The way I play is in the “Road to the Show” mode, in which you create a player, invest points into stats, and keep trying to progress your career. The game is pretty unforgiving. Minor mistakes early on will send you back to the minor leagues, hoping for another chance. Getting that big contract is tough, and requires several seasons before teams trust that you’re actually that good. Anyway, I made a pitcher a long time ago, and I’m in my 5th season (this is probably my 7th starting pitcher I’ve ever made).

I signed on with the Cubs, my favorite team, and started with a 4 seam fastball, slider, and curveball. I invested tons of points into the 4-seamer, knowing it is a great pitch in the game and easy enough to control.

Fast-forward 5 seasons and it happened: I pitched a perfect game with Lucas Wartick (my last name, and a fun first name). At this point, I’d just signed his first big contract (10 million/1 year) with the Cubs and had proven myself last season with a 24-1 record, along with a no-hitter in game 7 of the World Series. Boom.

Shortly after writing this post, I was within 3 outs of another perfect game. I gave up a hit in the top of the 9th, then got a double play, gave up a second hit, and with one out left was pulled from the game. The relief pitcher gave up a home run, tagging me with the runner on first. So it goes.


Watching Basketball is fun… until the end of the game

Hack-a-Shaq, begin! I do not own copyright for this image but could not track down the specific copyright holder. I use it under fair use.

Hack-a-Shaq, begin! I do not own copyright for this image but could not track down the specific copyright holder. I use it under fair use.

I like watching Basketball, but goodness they need to change the late-game rules. First, the hack-a-Shaq maneuver [intentionally fouling the worst free-throw shooter on the other team the moment the ball is inbound] is ridiculous and draws the last two minutes of an even remotely close game out so much it takes like 30 minutes to get through. I know they can’t not call a foul, because it is an obvious foul. However, if there were something that stipulates that intentional fouls in late game scenarios like this means the other team picks who shoots the FTs might be a good idea. It’s super annoying. I know it’s an absurdly common strategy, but it’s a strategy that makes the late game nearly unwatchable.

Another proposal by a friend for a rule change is to, with 2 minutes left, automatically award the team that gets fouled 2 points and give the fouling team the ball, with some kind of clock runoff as a possibility. This would probably curtail the intentional fouling a lot, as it would have effectively no benefit.

Second, the egregious use of video review at the end to make sure that valuable .1 seconds are not lost is bogus. I was watching a college game the other night in which there were less than 2 seconds left in the game, one team was up by 3 points. The ball was inbound and then knocked back out. Video review was called and after 4 minutes (!) the referees changed the clock from .8 seconds to 1.3 seconds. This was with the team who was in the lead having the ball. Those .5 seconds meant all the world, as the team inbound the ball again and won immediately. I’m glad 4 minutes of my life were wasted for that /sarcasm [okay, I was running on an elliptical and listening to a Harry Potter book so it wasn’t really wasted]. But really, this garbage needs to end.

I understand that there is a desire to not let one wrong call blow a game, but that has to be balanced with the possibility of having many games get boring due to clock shenanigans at or near the end.

End the Madness… just not the March Madness.


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


“Murder, She Wrote”: Aaron Hernandez [You read that right!]

"Now, I'm sorry, but that just does not make sense!" J.B. Fletcher- multiple episodes.

“Now, I’m sorry, but that just does not make sense!” J.B. Fletcher- multiple episodes.

“Murder, She Wrote” is a simply phenomenal American television show  about a little old lady played by Angela Lansbury–JB Fletcher–who is probably your grandma and who, confound it, just has people get murdered everywhere she goes. She’s also a mystery writer, which totally makes her super legit at figuring out who done it. The series ran from 1984-1996. It’s just that good.

Aaron Hernandez was an NFL football star for the New England Patriots. Quickly rising to fame as one of the most dangerous Tight Ends (a skill position that blocks and catches passes designated as TE), he was given a 40$ million contract from the Patriots. Shortly thereafter, he was put on trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd. He was cut from the team before that–merely for having the charges brought against him.

Why in the world am I talking about a TE in the NFL in the 2010s and a TV show that stopped in 1996? Because there is a pretty epic connection: Lloyd’s murder was sealed, in part, by testimony of a kind that often pops up in episodes of “Murder, She Wrote.”

The Episode

Here’s the stage:

Jessica [JB] Fletcher flies in to Massachusetts to visit with some of her friends there who have partial ownership of a company that pays a lot of money to the Patriots. They’re cruising around the facility and they meet with some of the players, including Hernandez. Jessica is impressed by his kind attitude and queries him more about the sport, something she has little familiarity with.

“What is it you do for the Patriots, Aaron?” she asks, leaning over the door of the convertible to get a better look at the man.
“I’m a Tight End,” he replies, with a smile.
“Oh my!” ejects JB, “That’s a bit forward of you! Are all NFL players so blunt?” She says it with a wink and a smile, but is clearly a bit befuddled.
“I’m sorry,” says Aaron, grinning more broadly now, “it’s not a reference to my ‘assets,’–I am referring to a position on the field. I block for the quarterback and then run routes. I’ve caught a bunch of touchdowns, and will keep doing so in the future.” He ends with a wink at a pat on the shoulder for J.B., who is still seated in the top-down convertible.
Flustered but bemused, J.B. replies, “Oh! I’m sorry, I know so little about the sport. Horse racing, fencing, tennis, baseball, I know pretty well, but Football? There was one time I watched a few games, but some poor chap got murdered during the get-go and I never fully caught on.”
At the word “murder,” the camera zooms in on Hernandez’s face, showing it go dark for a moment. Fletcher, as always, takes note for later. After he waves, he hops in his own car, popping out his cell phone and appearing to have a rather angry conversation with someone. He sees Jessica watching and closes the door, rolling up its tinted window as a brief ominous cord of music sounds.

Scene Two: Arrested

Skipping ahead a bit, a murder has occurred. Some young man who’d been seen around the Aaron Hernandez a bit had been shot six times! Scene: Patriots facility. Subjects: Jessica Fletcher, Aaron Hernandez, and Robert Kraft–the owner of the Patriots with whom J.B. and her friends had dinner with the previous evening. Kraft and Fletcher are walking together down the hall. Kraft spots Hernandez working out:

“J.B., mind if we stop in? I’d like to speak with Aaron for a moment, given all the news stories flying around,” Kraft asks.
“Of course!” Jessica follows Kraft into the weight room.
“Aaron, you’ve met Jessica, right?” queries Kraft.
“Yeah,” replies Hernandez, wiping his face with a towel and tossing it around his neck. “I’d shake hands but I’m a bit sweaty.”
“I understand,” says Jessica with a smile.
“Aaron, I’ll just get right to the point,” starts Kraft, “there’s a lot of talk in the news implicating you in the murder of that poor young man last night. I need to know right now, did you have anything to do with it?”
“I was not involved,” Hernandez says, meeting Kraft’s eyes, and then Jessica’s. “I am innocent. I really hope that the time of the murder comes out. I was at a club at the time it happened! Couldn’t have done it then, right?” He smiles.  [See ESPN for my source on these words in the conversation.]
Jessica’s eyes narrow, something is wrong with that statement, but she can’t quite put her finger on it.
“That’s all I needed to hear, Aaron, have a nice day!” Kraft nods to Hernandez, lightly touches Jessica’s arm, and they walk out together.
In the parking lot, as they get into the car for Kraft to give Jessica a ride back to her hotel, Jessica says “I’m sorry, but something just does not make sense. I just can’t put my finger on it.”

Later, the evidence seems strong enough that the police arrest Hernandez and the Patriots cut him from the team.

Scene Three: Convicted

At the murder trial, both Kraft and Jessica are called to the stand in turn. Jessica has got it figured out now.
“What was it Hernandez said to you, Mrs. Fletcher?”
Jessica recounts the exact words of Hernandez, then: “But there was something wrong with that. I couldn’t place it until just now. The time of the murder was never disclosed. Indeed, even after much examination it seems the exact time of death either was never revealed or could not be pinpointed to the right time. But how did Hernandez know the time? I still don’t know the time. But he was convinced he knew the exact moment of the murder, and told as much, and where he allegedly was at the time of the murder. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t add up.”

Based on the testimony of Kraft and Fletcher, and on top of a mound of physical and other evidence, Hernandez is convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Scene Four: Case closed

J.B. Fletcher and her friends are at a local restaurant, enjoying a plate of lobster.
“Looks like you sealed the case, Jessica!” one–Bob–says.
“Oh, I don’t know if it was me, Bob. It seems to me that in trying to claim his innocence, Hernandez just proved himself to be the guilty party. It’s a shame.”
“At least you got to eat some good lobster?”
“Indeed, though there’s no shortage of that in Maine!”
The episode ends with the whole group laughing, stopping on a shot of Jessica’s face lit up with a big smile.


I couldn’t resist writing this blog. It just is too perfect. The Hernandez case was–in part [and alongside what sounds like mounds of physical and circumstantial evidence]–was sealed just like an episode of “Murder, She Wrote.” If you liked the show, it might be worth looking into the case more. If you like awesome television, check out the TV series–it is fantastic. Hope you’ll drop a comment to let me know what you think, and follow my blog for more fun content.


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

The image in this post is not my property but I use it under fair use.



The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

NFL Conference Championship Round 2015 Picks

Well it’s time for the NFL Conference Championship round! Who’s going to win? Here are my picks (I was 3-1 last week in divisional round; picked Denver over Indy).

Colts at Patriots

As much as I dislike the Patriots, I think they have a very scary team, as usual. I would not want to play them right now, but the Colts get the draw and they have to visit the Patriots. I don’t think the Patriots get a huge home field advantage like some other teams have (see below), but I do think they have the Brady advantage. He’s just too good. I predict a costly turnover changes the game and turns it into a bit of a rout. 34-17 Patriots.

Packers at Seahawks

I’m once again going with the Seahawks here. I made the mistake of picking against them last year and that was a terrible choice. I’ve learned my lesson. A stifling defense and a top 10 offense playing in one of the loudest stadiums against a hobbled Aaron Rodgers? It’s honestly still tough because Rodgers is that good but I’m going with my gut and the Seahawks. If the Packers win it will be on the strength of Rodgers’ arm. But what I really think will happen is that a stiff Seahawks defense stands tall at the end of the game halting the Packers’ last drive in some dramatic fashion. Anyway, I call it being 24-17 Seahawks.


Do you think I’m crazy? What if I’m right? Let me know your picks and thoughts in the comments below.

NFL Divisional Round Picks 2015

Here I offer my picks, score predictions, and brief commentary. I’m fairly sure I’ll be wrong on all of these, but here goes!

Ravens at Patriots

Tom Brady at home with a great defense to help him? Sorry Ravens, I want you to win but I pick the Patriots to win this one 24-13. Flacco will finally throw a pick or two and that’ll be enough to win in what will be a fairly close-feeling game throughout. Patriots in control the whole game.

Panthers at Seahawks

As hilarious as it’d be to see a 7-8-1 team in the Conference championship game, I just don’t see this happening. I also made the error of picking against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl last year, something that still haunts me. I’m not making that mistake again, and definitely not against a team with a losing record. Seahawks win this with a solid defense effort and enough of a ground-and-pound game to score. 20-10 Seahawks.

Cowboys at Packers

Romo is on fire right now and he’s leading a fantastic offense with tons of weapons. Here’s the problem: Aaron Rodgers is on the other team. I really want the Cowboys to win but I don’t think it’s gonna happen. This is the one I feel least confident about, but I’m gonna pick the Packers at home winning in a shootout 31-28.

Colts at Broncos

Peyton Manning gets another shot at the Conference Championship and the Brady-Manning rematch is on. I expect this to be another close one but I think the Colts have a few deficiencies on their team–like running the ball and rushing the QB–that will sink them in this one. Broncos win 35-24.

What about you?

Let me know who’s going to win and how wrong I am on scores and picks in the comments!

Ready for endless pick-and-rolls? Here come the NBA Finals!

So the NBA Finals are here and Game 1 resulted in a rather big win by the Spurs. I only watched part of the game in the 3rd quarter when it was fairly even but man I should have kept watching because I love watching the Heat lose. Sorry.

But then I remembered: oh no, the Finals are going to be one long series of pick-and-rolls because the Spurs are once more in it. Yes they’re an incredible team, and yes their bench scoring is great, and yes they ____ (fill in the blank), but the core of the Spurs’ game is to Pick-and-Roll. Sometimes this can be a thing of beauty, like when you watch a perfectly executed play result in a quick and easy bucket. But to watch it again… and again… and again…….. it’s mind-numbingly boring.

…Or at least that’s what some want you to think!

For myself, I see well-executed game plans as an exciting thing. If the Spurs can win simply by playing the basics well (and that’s something the Bulls have continually proven under Thibs), then more power to them! There’s something of a beauty when a team is able to beat down a bunch of superstars just by executing some of the most basic plays of basketball. It’s not flashy, but it gets the job done.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on the Finals? Are you happy to see the teams that are in it?

For myself, I would have been so pleased to see OKC in it, because I love Kevin Durrant. But alas, can’t win ’em all (I am a Bulls fan so I acknowledge that after living through the Jordan era, I may never complain about basketball)! Let me know what you think of the finals. Who will win?

My prediction: Heat in 6. And yes, that does kill me to say, and I’m rooting hard for the Spurs, but the Heat are too talented to let basics beat them again and again… or are they?

Teddy Bridgewater: Over/Under on games into season till he starts

So when do you think Teddy Bridgewater will end up starting for the Vikings? I’m not a betting man at all, but I do enjoy speculating about such things.  I was talking about this with some coworkers and friends and based on those conversations the Over/Under would be 6 games into this season.

I’m honestly thinking it would be right around Game 6, but Matt Cassel is, in my opinion, a competent starter so I would take the “Over” on this. With a new coach in place there is not an urgency to win immediately this year and make the playoffs. However, having AP means they do need to try to win now while he’s still around. So I think if Cassel does struggle much there will be a greater urgency to pushing Bridgewater in to start. However, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the Vikings just benched him all year to learn the tricks of the trade.

What are your thoughts? When will Bridgewater start for the Vikings? Why will he start then?


My thoughts on the First Round of the NFL Draft 2014

Just briefly, I thought I’d write out my thoughts on the first round of the NFL Draft that happened yesterday.

1. Winners: BROWNS, Vikings

Yes, I picked these winners because they were exciting. It’s always interesting to see QBs drafted and multiple picks in a round. That said, I do think these two teams had the best day.

BROWNS: The browns were, in my opinion, the biggest winners of the day. They managed to fleece the Bills by moving back for not only their 9th overall selection, but also next year’s first rounder and fourth rounder. That’s a whole lot of team-building power. Then, they barely had to give up anything to take the 8th pick and take the guy they wanted anyway with a strong cornerback. Later, they used their accumulated mass of picks to trade up and nab Johnny Football, who, if nothing else, will sell tickets and bring a huge level of excitement to a fan base lacking it for some time. Seriously, even if Johnny Manziel doesn’t work out, they still have already set themselves up with an extra first-round pick next year.

I suspect Manziel will be decent, but not great. For the sake of some friends who are Browns fans, I hope he’s amazing. It would be exciting to see his style work in the NFL, and to see the Browns take that division again!

VIKINGS: The Vikings also did a nice job picking up an extra pick to swap places with the Browns, then nabbing a solid pass rusher. The best move they made, in my opinion, was to move back into the first round and take Bridgewater. Although I’m not completely sold on Bridgewater, I think that his alleged failure on a pro day and the like don’t show much. Numbers don’t lie and he’s had some awesome seasons. I expect him to end up as the starter for the Vikings by the end of the year. They’ve got a solid team and I think they could compete in the stacked NFC North.

2. Losers: Lions, Bills, Texans

LIONS: Eric Ebron is an exciting pick with a big upside, but I really hated this pick for the Lions. They desperately need help on defense and they have solid options at tight end. I’ll say it: I’m not at all sold on Pettigrew because of his drops, so I would have liked the Ebron pick except that he’s also questioned for having a number of drops. There’s nothing like seeing a perfect spiral pass bounce in and out of a tight end’s hands to make a fan base upset. If Ebron had solid hands to go along with his height and speed, I’d say this is a good pick to take some pressure off of Megatron, but for now it just seems like yet another weapon that’s going to be inconsistent due to drops. We’ll see, but I think defense was a better option here, not to mention that Fauria could, I think, be developed into more of a threat.

BILLS: Yes, they got Sammy Watkins who is a very exciting receiver, but they paid way too much for him. Two first rounders and a fourth round pick is an extremely steep price, but time will tell whether Watkins shows he deserved that kind of future-mortgaging. On the plus side, I do think this gives them a chance to see whether they can stick with EJ Manuel as their starter. He has been provided a ton of weapons now so now the Bills can see for sure what they have after a roller coaster rookie year from Manuel.

TEXANS: Yes, they got the premier player of this draft, but I really think they should have done anything they could to trade down. Rumors continue to abound that they were asking for three first round picks in exchange for this one. If there were an Andrew Luck, that would make sense, but no team would seriously consider that even for a sure thing at defense. Because the Texans asked too much, they didn’t get the opportunity to stockpile picks and talent. I think they could have gotten two first round picks and maybe a third and fourth. That would help them to plug an awful lot of holes in their roster. It will be interesting to see how Clowney does across from JJ Watt, though. The QBs in their division should be sweating.

Let me know your thoughts!

Sports and “Veterans”

I follow football closely, and something that continually strikes me is how players who have been in the league for anywhere above 2 years are frequently referred to as “veterans.” Really? How long does it take to become a veteran? I just don’t get it. Apparently in football, it doesn’t take much to become a veteran. You just need to survive for two years of pro-level action and boom, you’re there!


Want to know what a veteran in the NFL looks like? How about an Urlacher or Ed Reed or Peyton Manning. Those are veterans.

It makes me think, though, the term “veteran” is abused. It’s not just something you get once you’ve reached a certain threshold of time put in; instead, it is something that you earn.

Of course I’m only speaking of sports here and certainly think anyone who served in the military deserves the term. Just to be sure I don’t get people thinking the wrong thing there.

Anyway, what does it take for you to call a sports player a “veteran”?