The dropped-third-strike rule is still the worst in sports


Dropped third strikes, walk-off grand slams, and the magic of Shohei Ohtani

Baseball, right? So weird. Lots of silly plays and long home runs. It’s just the best. Who’s with me?

I was told to make this opening part shorter, and I have to say, that was good suggestion. At some point, AC/DC stopped in the middle of a half-finished eight-minute prog-rock suite and realized that a better blueprint for every song they would write was already encoded in the band’s name. That’s me, but with “baseball is weird and silly and home runs and cool catches are cool.”

It’s free, you know.

Let us study this baseball thing

The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are a Brewers affiliate in the Midwest League, and they’re best known for being the team that made me realize that spoonerisms could be applied to teams, too*. However, they’re now known for winning a baseball game in the absolute dumbest way possible:

With two strikes and two outs, the Burlington Bees’ pitcher threw a pitch that was so nasty, it made the opposing hitter look like an idiot. Which is the goal. It’s the point of baseball if you’re a pitcher, give or take. Use deception to make the other player take a foolish swing.

Baseball is a simple game in which pitchers are supposed to make hitters look like idiots, but there’s a little known by-law that states they can’t make hitters look too idiotic. For if the pitch bounces and the catcher doesn’t complete the play, the runner can reach first base safely. It’s the worst rule in sports.

It’s extremely funny in this case because I’m not invested in either team, but it’s still the worst rule in sports.

What would this look like in basketball?

Harden, down the lane, lays it up and BLOCKED, IT’S BLOCKED, REJECTED BY wait … hold on … it appears that the blocked shot hit the free throw line. Oh, my, the block hit right on the free throw line, and Harden is heading to the line for free throws. Wow, that’s a break for the Rockets.

Just the dumbest rule. Now gimme football.

Garoppolo takes the snap, looks upfield, and he’s TAKEN DOWN IN THE BACKFIELD BY WATT. The blitz was on and .. hold up … and, uh oh, it seems like Watt’s left pinkie just grazed D.J .Reader’s helmet on the way down. Oh, no, what a turn of events. Instead of 4th-and-16, the Niners will get an automatic first down once this is overturned on replay. You can’t touch a teammate’s helmet on a sack, folks.

This isn’t to say that the Timber Rattlers wouldn’t have won the game by playing better baseball. The pitcher could have covered home. The catcher could have eaten the ball instead of trying to make a miracle play. The runners on base were probably there for a reason, and that reason probably had to do with the pitcher(s) screwing up.

But the weird-ass rule that allows a batter to reach first after performing exponentially worse than he wanted to is still the worst.

ALEX TREBEK: If you make this inventor a martini, make sure you cotton to his demands to use gin … not vodka.

CONTESTANT: Who is Eli Barkley?

ALEX TREBEK: No, I’m sorry. Unless … yes, you did accidentally reference a lesser-known Sesame Street character, so you get double money for that clue. Those are the rules. For some reason.

If I am commissioner, this is the first rule to go.

At the same time, that play is still extremely funny, and I’m going to go watch it again.

* Rimber Tattlers

Baseball is good, actually

Unless you’re a Nationals fan, in which case you’re not amused by David Bote’s ultimate grand slam. But for the rest of us — except, I guess, Cardinals fans, Brewers fans, and anyone who doesn’t like seeing Joe Maddon happy — it’s fun and good to watch a team hit a grand slam while trailing by three in the bottom of the ninth.

At this point, Bote’s grand slam is a baseball-news cycle behind us. It looked like this, if you haven’t seen it:

But it’s still worth talking about ninth-inning grand slams down by three runs. I’m fer ‘em. Unless they happen against my team, in which case I’m definitely aginn ‘em. There weren’t a lot of opposite-field singles in my backyard daydreams.

GRANT (age 7): It’s the BOTTOM OF THE NINTH, bases loaded, two outs, down by three runs. Up comes Grant, their last hope. He takes two quick strikes and then …

GRANT (age 7): [tosses ball in air]

GRANT (age 7): [sticks elbow out]

GRANT (age 7): It hit him! It hit him! And the line keeps moving! They’re one run closer, and the crowd is going wild.

GRANT (age 7): [fake crowd noise]

Hell, no. In my backyard, it was always a grand slam with three runs down, two outs and two strikes. And it’s not just kids who have this daydream, either. If your team is down by three runs heading into the ninth, you’re thinking it too. Grand slam. It’s so simple. Get three runners on base, hit the ball over the fence. You’ve seen your team get three runners on base this season, unless you’re a Royals fan. You’ve seen your team hit the ball over the fence.

You’ve seen a raccoon before. You’ve seen your neighbor’s porch before. So it wouldn’t be that unusual to see a raccoon on your neighbor’s porch. It’s just a combination of two completely normal things.

A grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, down by three, is completely normal. And yet it’s so incredibly freaking rare. For all of the blessed moments Giants fans have experienced over the years — from Willie Mays to Barry Bonds to three championships to the home run they’ve hit this year — older Giants fans still talk about this Milt May home run, and that wasn’t even at home. There still hasn’t been a grand slam down by three in the bottom of the ninth in San Francisco history, much less a perfect backyard version with two outs and two strikes.

But everyone still keeps daydreaming. The reason that it’s the best backyard daydream in sports is that it’s the perfect combination of likely and unlikely. There you are … it’s the bottom of the ninth … two outs …

What Shohei did

He hit a dinger, but enough of that. I’m more fascinated with the idea that Shohei Ohtani has different walkup music for the bases empty and runners on. When the bases are empty, Ohtani has a little neo-disco in his heart, hoping to get a party started. When there are runners on base, the mood turns to anticipation. Extremely descriptive anticipation. I don’t watch a lot of golf, but I’ll be sure to notice Tiger Woods’ sweaters in the future.

Anyway, the idea of different songs for different situations is definitely inspired, and more batters should do this. Heck, relievers should do it. Start an inning from scratch, I want my regular closer’s music. Come in to clean up a mess? I want the Cramps. If I’m trying to get a lefty out, maybe put on that song where Hank Williams threatens Stalin with tanks.

This … this might be Ohtani’s greatest contribution to the sport, after all. At least, if he’s not going to be a two-way player anym…

Shohei Ohtani is slated to throw a bullpen on Saturday, per Mike Scioscia.

— Maria I. Guardado (@mi_guardado) August 7, 2018



This season wasn’t the Ohtani-fest that we were all hoping for, but it sure could have been worse.

The unwritten rules of shaming your friend in front of his home crowd

If you’re reading on Google AMP, Apple News, or the HGTV Baseball For The Home app, you can see the video here. It’s of Felix Hernandez humiliating his good friend, Adrian Beltre, and then laughing at his humiliation.

Your browser does not support HTML5 video.

I spent a lot of last week getting maudlin about Hernandez’s demotion, and this clip also reminds me that we’re careening toward a Beltré-less future. We deserve a decade more of this, at least.

ANYWAY, to the larger point: This is very much against the unwritten rules. Not the part where the pitcher laughs at the batter. If they weren’t good friends, it would be against the unwritten rules, but their relationship makes it okay.

No, the unwritten rules are very clear in this instance: Don’t have fun. At least, don’t let on that you’re having fun. Certainly don’t look like you’re having fun with your sworn enemy. That part is actually in the written rules:

4.06 No Fraternization

Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform.

Sharing a giggle sure seems like fraternization to me. And if it’s not, it’s unusual enough to qualify for those unwritten rules.

Here’s the most important part of that video, though: It makes me smile. It probably makes you smile. It’s human, it’s relatable, it’s funny as heck. Baseball doesn’t need this every inning, but a little more would only help.

Bless these two silly warriors. Even if we don’t get that decade, at least we’ll have moments like this.

Baseball picture of the week

Adam Engel had himself a freakish, flukish, phenomenal week. He robbed three home runs in just one week, and it’s worth remembering that some center fielders can go their entire careers without getting one. It’s a mix of skill, timing, and opportunity, and I can’t remember anything like this happening before.

They made for good pictures, of course. The best part was they kept getting better as the week progressed, too.

The first robbery wasn’t captured by either of the two sources in the SB Nation photo tool. I could take a screenshot, but then that’s not really a proper picture, is it?

The second one was captured, and it was a fine shot:

New York Yankees v Chicago White Sox
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The terrified-but-enthralled kid watches as the ball nestles safely in the glove. For my money, the best picture was just a few seconds after:

Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Ryan LaMarre is in the process of being raptured as fans everywhere go bananas. Such a good picture. And it gets better the more you zoom in.


Everyone’s talking about how to market Mike Trout this, and how to market Mike Trout that, but the real answer is to have kids watch center fielders rob home runs. That’s the coolest possible thing, and it can convert even the biggest baseball skeptic.


Do you think that kid will ever forget Adam Engel? No way. That might be a top-three moment in his young life. The ice cream might make it top-two.

And yet that picture might be tied with the final robbery, which serenely captures the moment before the catch.

Cleveland Indians v Chicago White Sox
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

I can’t choose between them, but the good news is that I don’t have to. They’re all pictures of the week. And bless Adam Engel for being absolutely ridiculous.


When the baseball is good. I mean, really, really good.

This week in McGwire/Sosa

McGwire15 AB this week360 AB for the season

1 HR this week46 HR for the season

.267/.542/.600 this week.286/.467/.708 for the season

Sosa22 AB this week453 AB for the season

2 HR this week44 for the season

.364/.483/.636 this week.309/.378/.638 for the season

Both are still on pace to break Roger Maris’ record at this point, but there’s a little bit of a slowdown. And even though I know what happens, I’m starting to get a little worried. Maybe we imagined the whole thing?

Spoonerism of the week

In which we introduce an immutable law of spoonerisms: Almost every spoonerism with the name “Bubba” is funny by definition. There have been eight Bubbas to play in the majors. They all have world-class spoonerisms.

Bubba Trammell

I’d like one Tubba Brammell, please, extra brammell sauce.

Bubba Phillips

Phubba Billips.

Bubba Crosby

Crubba Bosby.

Bubba Morton

Mubba Borton, who fought with the Gungans at Naboo.

Bubba Church

Chubba Burch. Although I think the original name might be even better.

Bubba Harris, Bubba Carpenter, Bubba Floyd

Hubba Barris, Cubba Barpenter, Flubba Boyd. Bubba is an inherently funny name, and guess what? That leads to inherently funny spoonerisms. I can’t pick just one. Right when I think Cubba Barpenter has the lead, Flubba Boyd is right next to it.

There are new hopes on the horizon.


But even if we don’t get lucky enough to have more Bubbas, we can appreciate the ones we’ve already had.

Also, Dubba Berby. Good day.

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