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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why Baseball is Unique

I just want to take a little while to think about what makes baseball so special. I will to avoid blanket statements like "baseball is the best game ever invented" or "all other sports are stupid" but baseball has several aspects that separate it from other major sports. I will focus on, what I consider the "major" sports in the United States, baseball (MLB), football (NFL), Hockey (NHL), basketball (NBA), and soccer (MLS). I am, for now, limiting my arguments to team sports that involve an object shared among players, such as a ball or a puck.

I will start with what might be the most obvious difference between baseball and the other 4 sports. In baseball there is no time limit and therefore the game is truly never over until it is over. In hockey, basketball, football, and soccer there comes a point in almost every game where it is simply impossible for the losing team to win. You cannot score 3 touch downs or 4 goals with 15 seconds left, it just ain't gonna happen unless The Flash is on your team and even then it'd be tough. In baseball both teams have the exact same chance no matter what. The odds may be insane, you may be down by 10 runs with two outs in the 9th, but it is still POSSIBLE to come back and win. You can't down the ball to waste 90 seconds. There is no anti-climax. It always comes down to the last out!

Baseball is the only one of the 5 major sports where the object doesn't score the points! The players do! Now, like hockey and soccer, you can only score one point at a time, which is my preference in a sport, but it is different in that when you have men on base, you have points waiting to be scored! Though one ball in play may score more than one run each run counts as one point. There are no extra points for hitting the ball further or multiple points for no reason........6? really? wtf? (then you can add one more!..........?). Anyway, no sport besides baseball has points being put in a "more likely to score" situation as with runners on base.

There is no possession of the ball in baseball and if you'd like to argue that the team in the field has possession than it is the only sport where the DEFENSE is in control of the ball! I'd like to pause here to say that when I say "ball", "puck" is also valid most of the time. Furthermore because there is no set "possession" there are no steals or take-aways. The team controlling the ball will control the ball until they accomplish there goal of getting 3 outs.

The baseball field is different from the courts and fields played on in other sports as well. All 4 of the others have set dimensions and two distinct ends and each team defends one end and tries to score on the other. In baseball, while the baselines and pitching mound are universal, all the other dimensions may be whatever the creator's heart desires! This gives a baseball field and stadium a hugely unique feel and taste unlike any other sport. Both teams defend the same plate and both score on the same plate. I would be interested to see a mirror image baseball field where you play both ways though like football or soccer, I think cricket is kinda like that? I could be wrong.

While I will admit that baseball probably requires the least pure athleticism of these 5 sports, I would argue that baseball requires the most precision in finely tuned skills. Pitching and hitting require a tremendous amount of athletic ability but they require even more honing and repetition to master. I'm sure many great athletes can throw a baseball very hard, but to able to hit a spot while pitching and create the movement we see by great pitchers is closer to art than sport. Watch film of Greg Maddux pitching in the late 90s and tell me that's not art. Also the speed and quickness required in the hands to hit major league pitchers and to make some of those spectacular defense plays is unique to most other sports.

This next point may raise some argument but I also think that baseball requires the most mental ability to excel at. I will take nothing away from an NFL quarterback. The quickness of their thought process and decision making in excellent, however there are so many variables and new situations in baseball every day that it takes an incredible amount of awareness and adaptability to do well. In football, basketball, soccer, and hockey, you have a play list. You memorize your job and you focus on what you are supposed to do and you do it. Most games follow a similar pattern. You find a man to pass to and you shoot or in football you block and get the ball across the line. In baseball every aspect of the game can take on a completely new appearance. There are so many different situations on defense and at the plate and even as a pitcher that you have to know exactly what is going on and be completely alert to everything around you. I would say that baseball players have the most to think about during the course of a game.

I'm sure there are more and if I wanted to get insanely specific I could go on and on but for now that sums it up. Now, in my opinion, these are some of the reasons baseball is the best! I respect the athletic ability of all the other players in the other sports but baseball is my game!

1 comment:

  1. Some other differences:

    1) In baseball, a coin isn't tossed for who will be offense or defense first, or what territory is the home team's versus the visiting team's for X amount of time. Instead, the visiting team always bats first while the home team bats second. This will be the order for the entire game, until 9 innings or more are played. A game won't switch "possession" so that the home team will bat first and the visiting team will bat second halfway through, unlike other sports that change directions by time periods.

    2) A head coach in baseball is called a manager. Coaches are his assistants.

    3) Coaches are allowed on the field during a baseball game. Managers, too, if they have a complaint to make.

    4) No penalties in baseball, although they do have errors and ejections. The team otherwise does not suffer any loss of territory or turns.

    5) Speaking of errors, does any other sport have a stat for official "mistakes" that don't penalize a team or player?

    6) Baseball has dugouts. Everyone else has benches.

    7) Most other ball sports have strict regulations for how many timeouts a team can take, and for how long. Baseball has unlimited timeouts, and, theoretically, the timeouts last as long as necessary. There is no set amount of time.