Class and Finesse

In my last post, I examined the difference between baseball in football, saying that baseball had “class” and “finesse” compared to football. One of the commenters, C Dobbie, challenged those terms in relation to baseball, and I really appreciated that. Here is what he said:

“I am a British MLB fan. Baseball is one of the very few games where one player plays against the whole opposition team, which is where its greatness derives,
I place it second only to my beloved cricket – a much more sophisticated game in my opinion.
However I find it difficult to accept the adjective “classy” or the noun “finesse”.
How classy are the following
1. Arguing with umpires
2. Mass brawling among players
3. Runners deliberately trying to injure opponents
4. Pitchers deliberately trying to hit batters
5. Cheating in various forms
Not my definition of Finesse.
I still think its a great game but I-d like to see some of the above addressed.
C Dobbie”

Thanks so much for looking at my entry with critique and challenging me on this! 

OK, let’s start by looking at baseball and football. Looking at both sports, which would you say is more calm? I think most of you would say baseball. You might even say that baseball is boring because of the lack of action. I agree that the game can be slow, but that’s what adds so much to it. You have time to absorb what is happening. You can relax, eat, talk with other fans, and be fairly relaxed at a baseball game. Sure, you might be the kind of fan that’s constantly jumping around and screaming and never relaxing. That’s me. But generally, I think baseball fans are a relaxed sort of people. At least, compared to football fans.

Football is a big, brutal sport. I love it, and I think it has a class and finesse of its own. When you think about a football game, you think of constant action and brutality. The action is constantly moving, and moving fast. The fans get very into the game, screaming like crazy for their team. To me, football seems like so much more of an intense environment. I’ve never been to a major football game, only high school games. Even at that level, things are pretty crazy.

The games of football and baseball are obviously different. I’m not going to get into all the differences, because, obviously, it would be ridiculously difficult. These games are vastly different. The fans are similar in their passion for their games. Some people love only baseball. Some people love only football. Some love both, equally or not.

Now into the argument.

How classy are the following? Well, let’s see.

1. Arguing with umpires.

This is definitely a very debatable subject. Should players and managers be not allowed to question an umpire’s judgment? Umpires are an essential part of the game, there’s no doubt about that. And that position demands respect from the players and staff on the teams. All teams should respect what the umpire decides in the best call. But we’ve had a lot of bad umpiring in the last couple years. I’m not sure why. Though teams should respect umpires, I believe that they have to right to let their opinion be known if they think a call was not called rightly.

For those of us who are able to watch games on TV, it can sometimes be obvious whether the umpire made the call right or not. They will show the play over and over from different points of view and different speeds and you, the fan, can see how it actually went down. Maybe the manager in the dugout was able to see the play from a better angle than the umpire was.

I believe that a manager or player should not yell or act angry with the umpire, but just go out there and ask calmly why he thought the play should have been called that way. There are times when a manager goes out there yelling and screaming to fire up his team. But I think that managers should respect the umpire’s call and just ask calmly for an explanation.

Say that you’re team is in a huge playoff game, and an umpire calls a runner safe at home when it was painfully obvious that the runner did not even touch the plate. Of course the manager is going to be ticked, and it the heat of the moment, will rush out there and argue with them. Can you imagine how boring baseball would be if everyone just accepted what the umpires said without a word? When a play goes against you, you want to see the manager go out there and defend his players and his team. It may not be classy, but it’s part of the game.

2. Mass brawling among players

It doesn’t really happen that often, does it? Again, I think this is a spur of the moment type thing. “Mass brawling” is basically what football is, just with a little more discipline. Brawling on the baseball field is usually a result of an action like intentionally hitting a batter, or doing something that’s considered unsportsmanlike. This is a matter of defending a teammate. If a guy gets hit multiple times for no apparent reason, and he gets mad about it and goes after the pitcher, both teams are going to come out so they can defend their players. Most of the time, nobody gets hurt, and everybody just kind of mingles on the field. Is it classy? No. But it’s rare. It’s not something that you see everyday.

3. Runners deliberately trying to injure opponents

I wouldn’t say that runners deliberately try to injure opponents on a regular basis. Usually, the only reason to “deliberately injure” an opposing player is to prevent a double play by sliding hard into second base. That’s understandable. If he’s the lead runner, he does not want to get picked off or end the inning. He’s just trying to stumble up the second baseman or shortstop so that he can keep the inning alive for his team. I know that there are exceptions, of guys literally trying to hurt the player, but those guys get suspended.

4. Pitchers deliberately trying to hit batters

Not often done without provacation. Unless the pitcher or manager has a ridiculous grudge against another player, they are not going to go around hitting guys. I think most baseball fans can tell when a player getting hit was accidental or intentionally. You’re going to see a lot of intentional hitting in big rivalry games like Yankees-Red Sox. If one of the teams hits a player, intentionally or accidentally, the other team is going to seek retaliation, which leads to brawling and warnings and suspentions. It’s not a good thing. Intentionally hitting a player is not classy. It’s a bad mark on the game but it’s a part of the game nonetheless.

I don’t think it happens as often as it used to, back in the days of the spitball and things. The game has matured over the years.

5. Cheating in various forms

This is probably the saddest part of the game today. All the taking of illiegal substances had been terrible for baseball. Classy? No way! The players who are doing this kind of stuff are cheating the game. Unfortunately, the majority of the players in MLB are taking substances of some sort. Players are doing anything to get an edge over the competion, whether it be for selfish reasons or just wanting to help their team. Most of the time, it’s selfish. These players want to be bigger, better. They want bigger paychecks. They want have an advantage over other players in the minors. There are a lot of guys out there whose dream is to play baseball. If the only way to get there is to get better, they’ll do anything to make that happen.

It’s extremely sad. The game is almost turning fake. The competition is very, very tough. You have to perform or you’re out.

There are other forms of “cheating” that are a very established part of the game. Trying to steal signs, for instance. You rarely think about it when you’re at a game, but there’s some major stuff going on down on the field. The coaches, manager, catcher and pitcher, and all sorts of players are exchanging signs and trying to figure out the other team’s signs.  
 

It’s not classy. It’s cheating.

I’m not saying that this game is perfect. I’m not saying that it doesn’t need to be improved. As another commenter, mccombs2425, said, “all those arguments aren’t the best for baseball but its been apart of the game since forever. its part of the game. and the way other players don’t argue and don’t hit batters deliberately is what makes it classy. but like any other sport their are a few bad apples. i.e. milton bradley”

The game, at its bare bones, is amazing. If we didn’t have to cheating players, the unfortunate brawls, and any other thing that makes the game tainted, baseball would have class and finesse. When you’re out at the ballpark having a good time, you need to forget all the bad stuff and just enjoy the game as it is. There’s nothing we can do to change it.

You can’t say that the beauty of a center fielder making an improbable catch, pulling the ball back from over the fence isn’t finesse. The full-out dive of a shortstop, grabbing the ball in his out-streched glove, springing up, and getting the runner out at first. The confident stroke of a star hitter, sending the ball way out into the stands. What about an opposing player, whose hit found it’s way into the pitcher’s face, who puts his arm around the pitcher’s teammate and prays for him, forgetting their uniforms and prejudices? That’s classy. Or a runner who slides into second base and gently knocks the shortstop off his feet so he can prevent a double play and then makes sure the guy is OK. He understands. It’s part of the game.

Baseball had class. Baseball has finesse. It also has problems, but this game is amazing.

Thank you, again, for your challenge on this subject.

3 Comments

I wouldn’t necessarily use the past tense in saying “baseball HAD class”. There is still class present in the game, but those players who perform with class aren’t the ones getting shown in the ESPN highlights; rather, we see the hitters admiring their home runs or flipping their bats, or showing up the other team in some way. But there still ARE players out there playing with class. Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, Derek Jeter come to mind. Finesse – definitely. A pitcher painting the outside of the plate for a called third strike. An acrobatically turned double play. A perfectly placed bunt. Those are all finesse.
As for football, I’d love to see those end-zone celebrations toned waaaay down – that is the opposite of class.
Sue
Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts

I apologise for not knowing how to access the identity of the original poster of the “classy” and “finesse” article who was kind enough not only to devote a lot of time and care in refuting my arguments, but addresed me by name whilst doing so. I regret I cannot reciprocate owing to my own ignorance. May I refer to you as “Sir” / further apologies if you are a “madam”.
I am glad that Sir so graciously agrees at least partially with me about the lack of class in some of my assertions and I hope he will be equally glad that I agree at least partially with some of his.
Iam conscious of my position as a foreigner who is not steeped in the ancient traditions of the game. I cannot hope to be as knowledgeable as he so obviously is. But I do realise that those ancient traditions are a vital part of the game and must be preserved. But would a great game not become even greater if some minor changes were made.
1. What,s wrong with NOT arguing with umpires. I am always amazed at the enormously high standards of MLB umpires. They get the vast majority of difficult decisions right. They,re probably the best in the world in ANY sport.
Sure, they make mistakes, but who doesn,t, they,re only human.
2. Mass brawling. So what if it does occur only rarely. It shouldn,t happen at all.
3. I,m not referring here to the runner trying to distract the fielder at the base. I am referring to the runner who veers
far off base after having been out solely to impact the fielder. I stand to be corrected, but did not Ty Cobb wear shoes with sharpened spikes when running. Or is that story apocryphal.
4. If I were to repeat outside the ball park, the actions of a pitcher trying deliberately to hit a batter, I would, quite rightly, be charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon. There is no place for that in the game regardless of the “provocation” offered.
In saying all that, however, I cannot help but agree with Sir and Sue that there are many classy actions and great finesse in some aspects of the game. My own favourite is the fielding. I am awestruck at the high degree of skill and speed shown in almost every ground play and open jawed with amazement at double and triple plays. Fielding is probably the only aspect of the game that is better than it is in criccket.
I suspect we,re going to have to agree to disagree on my points, but at least we,ve had a civilised exchange of views.
C Dobbie

I agree that we will have to agree to disagree :) But yeah, this has been fun to think about and you brought up some very valid points. I’m Kaybee, a madam :) You are right about Ty Cobb, but that was a long time ago. I believe that if anything happened like that in the game today, that player would be ejected from the game and then suspended. Yeah, defenders are a favorite of mine, too. The game really is amazing, but there are some things that are not the greatest. Every sport has their black marks. Thank you again for bringing up these points and being able to “discuss” them with me!

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