The Ol’ Neighborhood Play

It’s a beautiful day in the Neighbor “Hood” Play.

  • The pitcher does a little shuffle: By the time the ball’s released his back foot is ten inches in front of the rubber.
  • The ball whizzing toward the batter is loaded with pine-tar or similar foreign-substance; or the ball’s been scuffed on a sharpened belt-buckle to make it dance a little, dip, or sail.
  • Then there’s the ol’ neighborhood play: The shortstop maybe not even straddles second base to double up the runner at first.
  • Standing on second, the runner transmits the catcher’s signal to the batter thro some even-more elaborate signal.
  • Two out and the ball’s popped up toward third as the runner, formerly on second now scooting by, orally distracts the infielder camping under it.
  • On the bench players decode the third-base coach’s signs.

Cheating? Gamesmanship? News for the Delphic Oracle? (“They pitch their burdens off.”)

Leo Durocher may have stationed someone with jewels and binoculars in the center-field clubhouse of the Polo Grounds. But the latest revelations round the Houston Astros of 2017 and beyond (there were rumors of whistled-signals from the bench in 2019, substituting the garbage can; and were batters wired for pitch-info?) replace all the rest with an electric amplifier….or maybe an Apple Watch.

To think: It all started with Mike Fiers (who’s had a whole other on-the-field history), the most-famous whistle (tho not literally, from the Astros dugout) blower since the White House real-world Ukraine phone call.

PED are serious enough. Ditto the Suits messing with the liveliness of the ball and players corking their bats, or pitchers doctoring baseballs to obtain an unfair-competitive advantage. But the reason the Chicago Black Sox Scandal of a hundred years ago remains the seismic U.S.-sports infraction to our time is that it leaves fans questioning whether they are yawning thro predetermined exhibitions. Pro wrestling.

Think further: about the clubs that go from rags to riches in only a few seasons….The hi-tech scandal hovers over the coming schedules and, surely, whatever seasons ahead.

The ukases (if they could be called that) of the commissioner have been timid and unimaginative and weak. No championship has been stripped: even officially questioned.

As 2020 dawns (with more rules changes), this is the most-serious and unexpected situation faced by MLB, which has seen attendance continue its slide, in decades.


About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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