“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.

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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.


The Eschatology of a Cubs Fan

I was watching basketball last night when I saw an ad that nearly broke my heart. I’ve posted the video:

I’m a lifelong Cubs fan. I’ve watched them my whole life. I remember sitting with my (now passed away) grandpa on the couch, cheering as the Cubs won, groaning as they lost. I can still see him getting the broom out of the closet and going around my grandparents’ house sweeping, yelling “Cubs Sweep! Cubs Sweep!”

One of the most wonderful moments of my life was when my grandpa, my dad, and I all went to a Cubs game together at Wrigley Field. I cannot describe to you how unbelievable it was. I was probably only 8 years old or so, and it was the absolute best thing to ever happen. We were holding a sign that said “Three Generations of Warticks” on it, and we were spotted on TV by my grandma, mother, and sister. The scents, tastes, and overall feel of being at Wrigley Field brings me back to those moments even now, just by seeing an image of it. [Image credit.]

There’s a reason that baseball fans love the game so much; it is for memories like these. Our family traditions often rotate around the sport, and we feel like we’re there, just watching it on television. The glories of our team and the bitter losses stick for a long time. I’m still not over seeing the Cubs make the playoffs several times and get eliminated, in an often brutal manner.

The ad that I linked above has me thinking about baseball more than ever.  Theo Epstein has been brought in to run the Cubs, and I can’t help but believe that he’s going to work some kind of miracle. If he doesn’t, what then? It will just be the same ol’ Cubs. I love them, but I’ve never seen them win it all. My dad never has seen them win it all. My grandpa never got a chance to see them win it all. My great-grandpa, who lived almost 100 years, never saw them win it all. So Theo, we’re counting on you, but we won’t hold it against you if we don’t make it.

Back to the video: watching those images was surreal, just as the ad says. Seeing Cubs fans celebrating, rather than giving up hope; seeing them rejoice over a World Series win was just glorious. I could almost taste it. But then we realize it’s just an ad for a video game. Ouch.

I still hold out hope though, it’s almost like an eschatological promise: “There’s always next year.” Boy, we’ve been saying that for a long time. But I really do believe it: one day, the Cubs will win one, and it will be during my lifetime. When they do, I’ll be like the fan standing up, looking at the skyline, and just rejoicing. I’ll say “This one was for you, grandpa” and I’ll see him sweeping the streets in heaven. If it happens, I will get to Chicago, I don’t care when it is or how it happens. I won’t have to be at a game, or even there while one happens, but I’ll get back to Chi-town, the place I love, and I’ll kiss the walls of Wrigley, wearing my “World Series Champions” hat.

One day, Cubs.

One day.