When I was growing up, I learned everything I know about baseball from watching TV. My dad was more of a football guy. He still is.
He knows the basics when it comes to baseball, how to throw, catch, camp under a fly ball, etc. But baseball has a lot of little things in it that can really make the difference between winning and losing. Things that are not really obvious, but make a lot of sense once you learn them. When these situations came up, the TV announcers knew them, and would always point them out.
Professional baseball players used to always follow these little guidelines. It was probably taught to them way before reaching the big leagues. If not, surely it was taught then.
Things like not swinging at the first pitch after the batter before you just walked on four pitches
Or how about taking a strike when your team is trailing in the late innings?
There is also advice that you don't steal when down in the late innings, especially with fewer than two outs, and ESPECIALLY with your big hitters coming up.
Or from the defensive side, when leading by more than one run late in the game, move your outfielders back a few steps to prevent extra base hits.
Then there is when leading by more than one late in the game, on a grounder make sure you get an out, not necessarily the lead runner.
Don't let a throw from the outfield go all the way to home plate when you have no shot at the runner, allowing other runners to get in scoring position.
These are little things, but in the old days, these were followed or players got fined. Teams would hold "Kangaroo Courts" and put offenders "on trial" for committing these offenses and dish out fines. This was in the day when not every player made millions of dollars, so it didn't take long before guys figured out that you don't break these rules.
Nowadays, these rules get broken all the time, even by the best teams and players in the game. You see guys make plays that just make no sense. Announcers will sometimes get on them for it, but now it's become so commonplace, it even goes unnoticed by them.
For example, Rays-Angels, Monday night, May 10. A game between two of baseball's best. It's 4-0 Angels in the eighth inning. Carl Crawford reaches first with nobody out. He takes off from first and the ball is bounced up the middle. A sure base hit turns into a double play because the shortstop is now covering second. He catches the ball, steps on second to get Crawford and throws on to first. So instead of two men on and the tying run coming to the on deck circle, which was Carlos Pena by the way, it is now two outs and Evan Longoria up, with the tying run nowhere near coming up.
Longoria of course, hits a double and later scores the Rays first run. But what might've been in that inning had Longoria's double been with no outs and two runners on. What are the Rays thinking having Crawford steal four runs down in the eight, with no outs and the meat of the order up?
Then in the ninth, more of these little rules get broken. First, and this may be nit picking, but it's something that used to be taught, when you are not the tying run in the ninth, get on base. You are not up there to hit a home run. Shorten your swing, make contact, get on base, and stay put.
With the score still 4-1 and one out, bases empty, Willie Aybar hits a home run. That's great. Except it now makes it a 4-2 game, and you still need base runners. What if he had struck out while swinging for the fence? The next batter, Jason Bartlett, reaches on an infield hit. Then Crawford hits the first pitch to right field, where it is caught for the second out. Ben Zobrist then beautifully works a walk to get the tying run to the plate.
Not to be outdone, the Angels for whatever reason, do not have the outfielders backed up to prevent an extra-base hit with Longoria up. He hits one in the left-center field gap for a double which ties the game.
If teams such as the Angels and Rays,who are blessed with loads of talent, would start paying attention to details like these, the sky is the limit. But baseball seems to have a way of punishing these misdeeds. How often do you see a team get a base hit following a guy getting picked off? Or how often do you see a guy walk after someone gets caught stealing second? It seems to happen all the time.
It's really simple. Don't do things to get yourself beat. If your team is down in the ninth inning and you are on second base, with first base open, stand on the bag. Your run means nothing. The ONLY way you can hurt your team is to get picked off. Why take a lead?
Don't swing the bat late in the game early in the count when you are behind. You need baserunners. Hitting a home run does not do you that much good. It doesn't put the pitcher in the stretch. It doesn't get a rally started. A walk does.
When you are on defense, with a lead late in the game of two or more runs, get the sure out. If the ball is hit to first base with a runner on first, just step on the bag. That lead run is meaningless. Get the sure out. I saw Carlos Pena commit this sin earlier this week. His throw was wide and instead of getting an out, there were now two men on and nobody out. This is how late inning leads get blown.
Know your situations. If you are on first base late in the game, and your team is down, why steal? This is especially true when you have a lefty at bat. If the first baseman is holding you on, he has a huge hole to hit the ball through. If you steal, that hole is shrunk considerably. Which begs the question, should the defense be holding the runner on?
A lot of times, if you do steal and make it, all you've done is taken the bat out of one of your best hitter's hands. Because the next move is to now walk him since first base is open.
Or here's another one that nobody seems to follow anymore. NEVER swing at the first pitch when the first two hitters did just that and made outs. Under no circumstances should a pitcher have a three-pitch inning. But now it seems if the scouting report says "get to this guy early in the count", they all just jump on the first pitch automatically.
Or how about when the pitcher is hitting and he makes the second out, the leadoff hitter used to ALWAYS take a strike, maybe even two to let the pitcher catch his breath after running the bases? The hitter would take his time getting in the box, whatever it took to prolong his at bat. Now that guy is likely to swing at the first pitch if he likes it.
It's all about common sense. Don't give the other team extra outs on defense. Don't take the bat out of your good hitter's hands on offense. When did these "rules" need writing down? Big League players should know them already.