Baseball: Mini-Games Within a Game

Gene ZarnickCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2010

Not many of my friends like baseball.   They don't watch games, attend games, or appreciate the game in any sort of manner.  I have one friend who claims to be a baseball fan, but all he really did was buy an abundance of Philadelphia Phillies gear once they became relevant a few years back to make it seem like he was a fanatic.  I saw through it.

Why is the case?  Why aren't people gearing up for opening day and getting excited for America's pastime?  The reason is that most people don't understand what baseball really is; a bunch of mini-games intertwined within a game.

This is what makes baseball so special.  It's so different than any other sport that maybe people can't grasp everything that is going on.  I'll explain it to you though.

Pitching and hitting is the first mini-game.  Baseball teams consist of nine players on each team, but when a batter steps up to the plate it's only one on one.  I know there's a catcher there as well, but he doesn't really count.  Everything here is between the pitcher and the hitter.  This is all about execution in a duel and seeing who can better the other.  The pitcher must throw the correct pitch in the correct spot and try to manipulate the correct sequence to keep the batter fooled.  The batter must understand the pitches that are available and understand what the pitcher usually throws in the situation.

It's really a mind game that turns into the ultimate example of execution.  Go try and throw a pitch and hit a spot over and over again.  Also go try and hit a baseball that is rearing down at you going 90mph or more.  It's two of the most difficult things to do and not only do these players do it frequently, but they also must factor in all the variables of different types of pitches and strengths and weaknesses of a hitter.  It's the essence of what baseball is; a thinking man's game that forces immediate and precise execution.

Immediately after the bat touches the ball a new game is formed.  It is now when the remaining eight players on the field come into play on defense.  Again, thinking is always involved.  The defense positions themselves to try and cover the areas that the batter is most likely to hit to.  The batter will try to hit the ball where the players are not located.  This is another solo battle for the hitter except this time he is facing eight players trying to stop him instead of just one pitcher.  That is why achieving a base hit is an accomplishment and executing a hit 3 out of every 10 times is a really tough achievement.

Once a batter reaches the base then a multitude of mini-games come into play.  The pitcher and the runner have a mini-duel of trying to keep the runner as close as possible to the base.  Attempts to pick him off also occur.  We have the defense having to change their mindset and instead of protecting against just the batter they must also understand every situation that the runner is capable of executing and position themselves to try and obtain the best possible result once the ball is in play.  This usually means they want to get the lead runner out and when they achieve even more they can get a double play.  The game for the batter is altered as well.  Situations change depending on the score; what base the runner is on or who the runner is.  The batter may be called upon to sacrifice bunt, hit and run, or just swing away.  Every single situation that occurs changes each mini-game that is involved in the game of baseball.

There are many more mini-games involved in baseball from base running signals, hitting signals, and pitching signals.  We have umpires behind the plate that can change the scope of the game just by what they consider their zone.  There are the batting changes where a right handed hitter will come in to face the left handed pitcher just to better the hitter’s odds.  Pitching changes occur to do the same.

Every single thing that is done in a baseball game is calculated.  Each change, each new situation, changes the entire game from there on out.  This is what makes baseball so special and what people should appreciate about the game.

There's one last thing that makes baseball so much different than any other sport.

I think my favorite aspect about baseball is that it is the only sport where at the end of the game you can't just put in your best player on offense and say win this game for us.  I know there are closers in baseball, and for some teams they are the best players on their team, but more than likely they aren't their teams best player.  It's nice to be able have Peyton Manning throw to Reggie Wayne with 5 seconds left in a game.  It's great to have Kobe Bryant shoot a jumper for the win or have Sidney Crosby on the ice to try and perform some late game heroics.  Baseball doesn't have that.  What baseball has is an organized approach that forces the entire team to be prepared for every situation.

I'm sure every Cardinals fan wants to see Albert Pujols at the plate with a runner on second and the Cards down 1, but that doesn't always happen.  Sometimes Skip Schumaker will be up at the plate.

There are many reasons why people don't watch baseball. The length of it, the lack of scoring, it's boring, too many commercials throughout; I say those people don't appreciate the game.  Maybe they never realized how much is really going on at one time and how much the game changes from one play to the next.

Maybe they will now.