If you loved Michael Lewis’s Moneyball because it showed you a whole new way to look at baseball, then you are going to love The Baseball Codes by Jason Turbow (with Michael Duca). The premise is simple: the authors set out to document, once and for all, the unwritten rules of baseball.
Turbow and Duca answer all of the big questions: When is it okay to lay down a bunt to break up a no hitter? Can announcers talk about a perfect game while its in progress? Is it a good idea to stand at home plate and admire your home run? How many runs must your team be ahead before stealing a base becomes a bad idea? When pulled from a game as a pitcher should you head to the dugout before the skipper gets to the mound? Is it okay to watch a fight from the dugout? These are all important questions in the game baseball. Not knowing the answer to a particular question can cost you your spot on the roster or a fastball in the ribs.
Of course, all pitchers deny intending to hit a batter. In the post game interview the pitcher says “that one got away.” However, the authors point out that the intent of the pitch was usually understood by both parties. It’s part of The Code, a well understood system of rules and punishment that have become ingrained in how the game is played. Even if no one talks about it openly (also part of the code – keep it in the clubhouse).
Cheating (stealing signs, looking back at the catcher from the batter’s box, juicing balls, etc) is not only tolerated, it’s expected:
“Everyone cheats,” said White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen. ”If you don’t get caught, you’re a smart player. If you get caught, you’re cheating. It’s been part of the game for a long time. If you’re doing whatever you’re not supposed to do and you don’t get caught, keep doing it.”
Leave the definitive sentiment to Dick Williams, the Hall of Fame manager who won two championships with the A’s,and pennants with Boston and San Diego. ”Anything short of murder,” he said, “is okay.”
It’s part of the code!
An added bonus of checking out this book is that it caused me to stumble across my new favorite blog, The Baseball Codes. The blog picks up where the book leaves off and delivers day to day interpretations of The Code. I especially enjoyed their evaluation of the Alex Rodriguez/Dallas Braden imbroglio from earlier this season, which is also a nice primer for the book:
- A-Rod Crosses Braden – Literally – and Gets an Earful in Response
- A-Rod to Braden: ‘You Talkin’ to Me?’
- Point-Counterpoint on the A-Rod/Braden Affair
- Evidence Proves that A-Rod Wasn’t Alone
- Braden’s Perfecto Threatened By Bunt Attempt; Reaction Minimal
- Details Emerge from Braden’s Perfect Game; He Dropped the Ball
I love this kind of baseball writing. If you enjoy this sort of thing, add The Baseball Codes to your summer reading.