Baseball is Overdue for Changes

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Top photo of the Dodger Stadium Arm Barn by Claudia Gestro

Thank you, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). You have inspired me to write a column about a sport I have long stopped following and helped me realize why. It is not the game or the players, but the horrible sexist, violent, criminal, and confusing terminology used in the sport. I realize now I was woke decades before I knew I wasn’t.

In case you do not know this, PETA came out recently and suggested changing the term “bullpen” to “arm barn.” Bulls apparently have feelings for more than being used for entertainment in bullfighting and PETA was nice enough to take on their cause and suggest changing a horrible term long used by baseball.

Unfortunately, the term “bullpen” has nothing to do with bulls. It gets its name because the average person thinks it is bulls#$& that a player who throws to one batter is paid a million dollars a year. The rest of the time, the pitching staff sits back there and just bulls#$& with one another. They see who can hit a target with their tobacco chew, fart so bad they clear a row of the bleachers and bet on who must go into the game first.

Still, PETA got me thinking about other aspects of baseball and I soon found myself outraged over their terminology.

Why Sex?

Braves 1B Freddie Freeman is wondering why he gets stuck on first base (Claudia Gestro)

First base is not just the first base a hitter runs to. It’s also where they are lucky if all they get is a handshake from the first base coach. Apparently, there is no kissing in baseball. Players, today, seem content with remaining at first base and waiting for someone else to make the next big move. In today’s game, this means hoping for a home run because who wants to do all the work to score like in the good old days?

A couple times a game, you see a determined player make a move for second base. This is where if they are lucky, an infielder touches them with their glove and lets them know they are thinking about them and have missed seeing them for a while. Sometimes the runner takes offense to the forwardness of the other player and words are spoken.

Few base runners try to get to third base. Maybe it is because they do not want to be denied and face the embarrassment that comes with it. Baseball players love to rip on their teammates and the worst comes when third base is denied. It’s okay to get turned away trying to score. At least the player had the courage to try, but to get turned away going for third is a horrible experience.

The goal for every player who gets on base is to score, so when they do, it’s celebration time. Even guys who have not scored in ages get in on the joy of watching one of their teammates score which is why baseball attracts so many voyeurs. If you can’t score, at least enjoy watching others and dream.

Perhaps this is why baseball believes in the importance of health and requires pitchers to use a rubber when facing a randy opponent. Baseball loves to tinker with the rubbers used in games. The size of the rubber makes a difference as does the thickness of it.  Pitchers need the assurance a rubber will perform to standards if they are to confound a batter with an occasional screwball.

Finally, maybe to appeal to more women, baseball relies on sex. Why else would the ump command, “Batter up!,” before he comes to the plate and takes a swing at a high hard one? I am pretty sure if you dig deep enough into the sport’s history, the game may have been created by Abner Doubleday, but the terminology is the work of Larry Flynt.

More Than Just Sex

Believe it or not, baseball is more than just sex and is filled with other inappropriate terms. PETA might want to focus on the actual cowhide used to cover baseballs instead of the term bullpen. How many baseballs does a cow’s hide actually cover?  Why are all baseballs covered with white hide and not spotted or brown hide?  More cows might watch baseball if they knew they had a chance to see one of their own used in a game, but because all baseballs look the same and they all happen to be white, cows of color are clearly underrepresented. It’s time to correct this wrong.

A split seam fastball is clearly an offensive term to fat people who are far more likely to split the seams of their pants after a trip to the concession stand. There is a forkball but no knife or spoon ball which is a terrible slight to silverware. Home plate lacks a napkin, and why is it always left to the fourth hitter to do cleanup? Shouldn’t every batter pitch in and do chores?

Trea Turner of the L.A. Dodgers is rarely caught stealing bases (Claudia Gestro)

Baseball has a dark secret that only fans are aware of. Criminal behavior is part of the game. It’s why bases and signs are stolen while the MLB offices are only concerned about betting. Betting is legal and stealing is not so why do they allow crime while trying to prevent fun?

Why is there a hit and run in baseball when it is against the law in the stadium parking lot? I grew up in an era where if you hit someone and ran away, you were a coward and could expect payback on the playground. And for the life of me, why a pinch hitter and pinch runner? The only time pinching is close to okay is on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, which falls about two weeks before the baseball season begins.

Some balls are foul, others are fair, but never are any great or magnificent. Why does the league settle for mediocrity when society demands greatness?

There are also terms that are just plain confusing. For instance, why is only one batter deemed a designated hitter? I thought all batters were supposed to hit the ball. Is this why team batting averages keep dropping every year? Besides, every player has feelings and when a manager only selects one to hit the ball, the others lose incentive to even try.

Free agency is an oxymoron if you ask me. A player who hits the free agency market is anything but free. In fact, most are very expensive to sign by other teams which is why most end up in large markets like New York or Los Angeles. It’s also why you never hear fans in Oakland complain about how much money a player on the A’s is paid. As soon as minimum wage is increased, the team holds a fire sale and starts over.

There’s never anything funny about a player hitting a blooper. If you ask me, a blooper in baseball happens when Jose Canseco has a fly ball bounce off his head and over the wall for a homerun. That always makes me laugh. Or it’s when Jose Canseco tries to pitch only to blow out his arm and need surgery. That also makes me laugh. In fact, almost anything Jose Canseco ever did made me laugh.

Squeeze play is another term I do not get. Why does baseball use this?  I do not know anyone who has ever seen the band Squeeze play live which might explain why we no longer see a squeeze play in baseball.

One thing baseball does deserve credit for is their continued desire to advance the rights of all women. Despite some of their horrible and sexist terminology, without baseball, there never would have been an ERA.  Unfortunately, like everything else in baseball, they have it ass backward by awarding pitchers with a low ERA over those with a more enlightened one.

Now if you will forgive me, I need go watch the pigskin move up and down the gridiron while a tight end makes a key block on an end around. At least football has its act together.