There is no sport that abuses one player so much more than all the others than baseball abuses its catchers.
The rest of the team spends its time in the field essentially loitering, waiting for the occasional play that will require the exertion of moving several feet to the left or right. The pitcher has to throw every pitch, but for his efforts he’s given three days off. Bench players stroll the dugout, trying to think of innovations in spitting and scratching technology.
The catcher is involved in every play, defending himself against the 100-mph fastball with his mitt and his mask. About the only relief he gets from this assault is when the batter fouls one off the catcher’s thumb, or his chest, or his foot. Even though he wears more protection than an armadillo practicing safe sex, he still finds himself bruised from head to toe following each game.
And if the physical abuse isn’t enough, there’s the mental torment. He wore his cap backwards decades before it became the hottest trend in headwear, though he’s given virtually zero credit for this style innovation. He’s nominally charged with calling his hurler’s pitch selection, yet is constantly told “no” by his pitcher, like he was some kind of very bad dog. To communicate these signals, he has to finger his crotch in front of a national television audience.
Then there’s the squatting. What other occupation, in sports or elsewhere, requires its workers to sit on their haunches all day? I can think of the Bangladeshi beggar and that’s about it. The catcher’s knees are a mass of damaged cartilage by the end of each season. Their wives scoop them off the field in a wheelbarrow after the final game, then bring them home to recuperate.
I say it’s time for the catcher to rise up, both figuratively and literally, and end this oppression. On pitches where there’s no one on base, the catcher’s only real purpose is to protect the umpire and keep the backstop from getting all scuffed up. On these plays, he should instead pull up a lawn chair next to home plate and enjoy the action in comfort. Let the pitcher come retrieve all the passed balls. He’s got a day off tomorrow. And the day after that and the day after that.
The intentional walk is a mainstay of baseball strategy. Rather than face a powerful hitter at a key point in the game, the pitcher will — on purpose — throw four pitches way outside the strike zone, allowing the batter to take first base.
I like the concept of intentionally screwing up one task to benefit the larger goal of accomplishing a later task. Is this something I can use in the business world?
“Sorry, boss, about that expense report I turned in with all the random numbers in it,” I could say. “Now that that’s out of the way, I can do a better job on those sales projections.”
What’s the deal with all the stuff in the dirt behind the pitcher’s mound these days?
It used to be there was a resin bag and that was it. Now I see there’s the bag, there’s a towel, there’s an access panel to the sprinkler controls, there’s even a coffeemaker for the pitcher.
It looks like a yard sale out there.
We’ve benefitted from a lot of behind-the-scenes insight into the game of baseball with recent technology advances. You can now see the speed of each pitch displayed, super-slow-motion replays, and statistical analyses that break down a hitter’s on-base percentage by lunar phase.
And yet still, we aren’t privy to what’s being said in the meeting on the mound, where a struggling pitcher is advised by his manager, his pitching coach, his catcher, most of the infield and the guy selling popcorn on how to get out of a jam. We’re left with only our imagination to guess about the topic of discussion.
Manager: “Have you considered throwing a few strikes?”
Pitcher: “My control … it’s just not there today. I need to bear down.”
Catcher: “You need to stop throwing stuff at me.”
Pitching coach: “Alright, guys, let’s not make this personal. We’re all on the same team here.”
Third baseman: “Why can’t I play some? Those guys play catch all afternoon and no one every throws it to me. I’m gonna tell my mom you won’t play with me.”
Manager: “This next guy, let’s pitch him down and in.”
Second baseman: “Se me olvido mi cuaderno. Donde esta la biblioteca?”
Pitcher: “Would it be okay if I lay down for a while?”
Shortstop: “Did anybody see the new ‘Hawaii Five-O’ last night?”
Popcorn guy: “Popcorn! Get your fresh hot popcorn!”
Those memorial patches the Yankees are wearing to honor their late owner are a nice touch. Right above the breast pocket of each uniform, it reads “GWS — The Boss,” in remembrance of George Steinbrenner who died earlier this year.
The only comparable show of compassion you see in other sports would be NASCAR, where drivers and pit crews honor the memory of car companies, detergent manufacturers and erectile dysfunction medicines that used to be profitable before the recession.
Rest in peace, Tide Ultra Liquid Clean Breeze Scent. You will be sorely missed.
Have you noticed that fewer baseball players are wearing necklaces and gold chains around their necks during the game? Maybe some high-kicking flame-thrower finally got his foot caught in one of these and the neckwear was officially banned.
Some of the flashier players still sport earrings, but that’s hardly the fashion sense we had come to expect from our national pastime. I had been hoping the jewelry trend would continue, beyond chains and ear studs, into brooches, pendants, charm bracelets and delicate cameos. Eventually, we might’ve even seen some clothing statements, such as veils, bustiers and cinched waists. Then perhaps on to high heels.
If you think a speeding base-stealer bearing down on the second-baseman with cleats up is a riveting sight, imagine the same scenario with stilettos.
Lots of pretty stupid TV commercials during the playoff games so far. There’s the Liberty Mutual ad, where everyday citizens watch each other being responsible and become inspired to help the mom with a baby carriage to avoid being run over by a bus. “When it’s people doing the right thing, they call it responsibility,” reads the tag line. “When it’s a company doing the right thing, they call it Liberty Mutual.” They also call it protecting the bottom line by not paying out so many financial settlements.
There’s the ad with a bunch of happy animals gathered around a watering hole, enjoying each other’s company instead of preying on each other’s entrails. Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was so safe that the butterflies could ride on the horns of the Cape buffalo, that a squirrel could ride on the back of a crocodile, that a lion and wildebeest could romp together in carefree abandon? Never answered is the question, so then what would they eat for dinner?
Finally, there’s the E*Trade baby, dispensing his usual slacker-inflected advice while standing in his crib. Mom comes in and takes away the toddler’s laptop and he makes some typical wise-beyond-his-years comment. Then up flashes the logo, the website address, and some fine print that stops Investor Babies in their tracks: “You must be 18 to open an account.”