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Exposing the Good, Hard-Nosed Play

By : Aaron Booth

A few times a year the baseball world gets worked up about a violent collision at home plate (or second base), especially if the collision results in an injury. This year Buster Posey and Tsuyoshi Nishioka were seriously hurt in baserunner collisions. While I have thoughts about these particular plays, how they shook out, who was at fault, and whether or not there was malicious intent (there wasn’t), I’m not interested in that today.

Take a step back. What are the discussions that flow from these plays every year? This very first question that gets asked is, was it a dirty play? Once that question is asked, the answers pour in. The fans of the team with the injured player are outraged. They’re convinced that the instigator came to the ballpark that day with evil intentions in his heart and a plan to execute it. The fans of the team of the instigator line up to tell us how the instigator is really a good guy, and he feels really bad about the situation, and he was just doing what everybody else does. The writers, commentators, and “baseball people” will tell us that it’s a good, hard-nosed baseball play.

That line, “a good, hard-nosed baseball play,” is what got me thinking about this. When do we hear this line? Usually right after the question about whether or not that last play we saw was dirty. Nobody describes a sliding catch in the outfield as a good, hard-nosed play. Running to first on a dropped third strike isn’t a good, hard-nosed play. Those things are just plays. Likewise, ordinary collisions on the field are not described as good, hard-nosed plays either. If the runner and the shortstop collide in mid-base path we use another word for that: accident. It’s not a good, hard-nosed play; it’s an accident.  Chest-first collisions at home plate, take out slides and retaliatory beanings are the kinds of plays that get described as good, hard-nosed plays. Those plays are described that way because they need justification. We need to be reminded of it every time that the play was both good and hard-nosed, which apparently is also good.

The funny thing is, a large percentage of the interested parties need to be reminded of this every-single time player limps off the field after a home plate collision. Why is it that we need to be reminded that it was a good, hard-nosed play every time? Why can’t we remember the last time this happened and accept the play as being good and hard-nosed from the outset? The reason is that we just don’t buy it. We need to be told every single time that it’s good and that it’s hard-nosed so that we’ll keep believing it.

The whole thing is kind of like the tooth fairy. My oldest child has been visited by the tooth fairy several times, but each time she says, “Come on, Dad, you and mom put that dollar under the pillow, didn’t you?” We in turn dodge the question and repeat the myth. If you repeat a story (or a lie) long enough, eventually you’ll believe it. (Governments have understood this for centuries.)

So the next time you see this play, and the talk radio and Sportscenter banter begins by asking, “Was this a dirty play?” The answer is, “Yes! It is a dirty play.” We’ve been over this a hundred times. If it wasn’t dirty, we’d only need one explanation about it being a good, hard-nosed play, and we could refer back to that. The very fact that we have this discussion two or three times a year should tell you that that at the very root of it we all know baseball shouldn’t be played this way. It is the way players are taught to play, and they’ve been taught this for decades, but it’s a dirty play, and calling it a good, hard-nosed play does not cover the stain on wall.

 
Aaron Booth lives in Monroe, LA with his wife a five children. He makes his living in the real estate world, which gives him the opportunity to listen to a lot of audio, including a fair amount of sports radio and podcasts. Aaron loves his i-devices and 24-hour sports media, but also fondly remembers the days when he calculated his fantasy standings from the newspaper. You can follow him on twitter @da_booth.