Category Archives: Articles

Sports Illustrated Meets the Code

Today’s news: The kickoff of my new column for Sports, covering — what else?

Last month I wrote in this space about the spate of verbal indiscretions committed by people around baseball who should really know better. Since that time, it’s only gotten worse. A natural topic to start with.

The SI pieces will be coming roughly ever couple weeks, and I’ll republish them here. I’ll still be writing regularly for this blog, as well. Enjoy.

- Jason


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Brian Wilson and the Ways of the Crossword

Just a quick word to point out an article I wrote recently for the New York Times, about Brian Wilson, the crossword puzzle and what is no longer an unrequited love affair.  Also, you can check out a brief write-up of the piece on the Timescrossword blog.

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Playoffs in San Francisco a Busy Time

Posts  to this site have been fewer in frequency lately. This is partly due to the limited number of games offering fewer chances for the unwritten rules to crop up.

More so, however, is ongoing playoff coverage. As the Giants continue to win, I’ve been busy covering them for a number of news outlets.

I’ve had two articles in the New York Times recently, one—which came out online today, in advance of tomorrow’s Sunday print edition—details what’s happened to Pablo Sandoval this season in terms of his diminished success.

Another, which came out a couple weeks ago, talks about Buster Posey, and the Giants’ decision to keep him in the minor leagues to start the season.

Not quite the Code, but hey, it’s the playoffs.

- Jason


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The Unwritten Rules of Baseball Fights

The media rarely expresses fascination with baseball’s unwritten rules with quite the same fervor as it does shortly following a Code-based incident. Thus, 41,600 results for a Google search of “Nyjer Morgan” and “unwritten rules.”

Some, however, even manage to look beyond the momentary fireworks to examine the bigger picture.

Such was the case with ESPN’s Patrick Hruby, who last week discussed the unwritten rules for baseball fights. For a 500-word summary, he pretty much nailed it.

The main Code tenets upon which he touches:

Everyone fights
Key statement: “Unless you’re playing clubhouse cards with Bobby Bonilla and Rickey Henderson, on-field attendance is mandatory.”
Key thesis: “More people means more grabbing, pulling, pushing and holding each other back in a big, harmless sea of sunflower seed-spitting humanity; by contrast, nobody leaving the dugout would mean hitter versus pitcher, unrestrained, exchanging dangerous blow after dangerous blow. In essence, a hockey fight.”
Baseball Codes tie-in: Chapter 22: Everybody Joins a Fight

Look angry
Key statement: “True pros know that the safe dissipation of bad baseball blood is a lot like an ancient scapegoat rite. Ya gotta honor appearances.”
Key thesis: Hruby brings up a moment that was also touched upon in The Baseball Codes, involving Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. From TBC: “Derek Jeter once took heat from teammate Chad Curtis for laughing with Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez as the field cleared after a fight between the Yankees and the Mariners in 1999. The pair’s main mistake wasn’t joking around instead of fighting—it was failing to look more serious as they did so.”

Hruby also touches on some tenets that have been raised in recent baseball fights. From the Reds-Cardinals fight in which Johnny Cueto donned his kickboxing cleats:

Keep it clean
Key statement: “Baseball players have bats. They also wear spikes. Two things you almost never see in basebrawls? Stickwork and stomping.”

And from the Nyjer Morgan-Florida Marlins fight:

Coaches fight at their peril
Key statement: “For every Pat Listach, the Nationals third base coach who pinned Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad in the brawl Tuesday night, there’s a Don Zimmer.”

Good stuff.

- Jason


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Your Weekend Dose of Nyjer Morgan

It’s all Nyjer Morgan, all the time around these parts. The latest is a blurb I did about his situation for SportsGrid. It’s mostly a summary of the positions I’ve been explaining and re-explaining to the commenters on the recent stories here.

Don’t know SportsGrid yet? It’s new, and it’s fabulous. (Check out the Behind the Grid section, which is consistently entertaining.)

- Jason

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Bringing the Code to Sports Illustrated

Following the media’s love affair with Nyjer Morgan yesterday (and by “love affair,” I mean “incessant coverage of”), I put together a piece for Sports, covering the timeline of events leading up to Wednesday’s brawl.

It’s largely based on the article I first posted here, so there’s little need to double-dip if you’ve already read the first one.

Still, it has a pretty picture. Also, you’ll be one click closer to Joe Posnanski.

- Jason


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I’ve Been Sermonized

From the “Ways to Tell You’ve Made It” file: I don’ t know Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, and am unfamiliar with Temple Judea—which makes it all the more remarkable that he chose as a sermon topic baseball’s unwritten rules, and name dropped, of all people, me.

I’m in no position to judge anybody based only on religious beliefs, but this much is clear: the good rabbi is a man of staggering intelligence and discerning tastes.

That’s one down. Time to step up, Catholics, Buddhists and Sikhs.

- Jason

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Welcome to the Wages of Wins

David Berri is a professor at the Southern Utah University, and has the power to work magic when it comes to the statistical analysis of basketball. He wrote the book, Wages of Wins, and maintains the Wages of Wins Journal, where he waxes continuous about the state of the NBA, viewed largely through the statistics it produces.

I interviewed David a few years back for a story I wrote for Popular Science, and he recently returned the favor, interviewing me for his Web site. You can find it here.

- Jason

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Braden’s Roots Inform Demand for Respect

Bay Citizen launched about two weeks ago, offering hope for a sustainable non-profit journalism model. A few days later, I wrote a story for the site about Dallas Braden, which touches on his run-in with Alex Rodriguez, and his perfect game.

The piece isn’t precisely unwritten-rules related, but it’s still relevant to the conversation.

The theme I was after concerned the topic of respect, and what it meant to Braden as he grew up in Stockton. Respect, after all, was the basis for his exchange with A-Rod, and I wanted to find out what about his past informed his perception of the concept.

He told me a number of good stories, several of which were stripped from the final edit. I offer up two of them here.

During the late 1990s, it didn’t take particularly deep insight to recognize that Stockton’s Amos Alonzo Stagg High School was not as well off financially as some of its athletic rivals. This fact was not easily hidden.

In spite of this—or maybe because of it—when a visiting team showed up one day with its own lawn chairs upon which to settle behind the dugout fence during a game, members of Stagg’s junior varsity baseball team felt both anger and embarrassment. The bench provided by the school, it seemed, was too old and splintery.

One of the Stagg pitchers that day was sophomore Dallas Braden, who to this day looks back on the moment with disbelief.

“Are you that much better than us that you can’t sit on our dugout bench, on our slab of wood?” said Braden, who, as a member of the Oakland A’s, has gained more name recognition over the course of this young season than perhaps anybody in baseball. “It’s a slap in the face, a lack of respect for our facility and for us kids. It was as if we just weren’t good enough; that we were almost lucky that they came down and spent the afternoon playing baseball against us.”

And this:

The pitcher tells a story from his youth, when he brought home a friend’s Whiffle Ball bat, only to have his dog chew the handle. Though the bat was hardly ruined, and though money was always tight, his mother insisted that he replace it.

“She said to me, ‘You’re going to go and get him a new bat, because that’s what you would want done for you,’ ” he said. “I was nine. It didn’t matter that it could be taped. It was the principle of the matter. . . . My mom didn’t want to go to bed with that on her mind, knowing that she didn’t teach me the right way to do things.” . . .

Wooden benches on a prep ballfield or a pitcher’s mound in the Oakland Coliseum; poor kids in poor cities or millionaires playing a child’s game for a living; in Stockton or Oakland or New York City, the concept of respect doesn’t change.

You break a kid’s bat, you buy him a new one. It’s as simple as that.

It’s insight into the mind of a guy who understands baseball’s code better than most of his contemporaries, despite being just 26 years old and in his fourth season as a big leaguer.

It also helps explains what the Code is all about.

- Jason


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Weighing in on Replay in the Times

In the wake of Perfect Game-gate this morning, the New York Times asked me to weigh in on the notion of baseball implementing a comprehensive replay system. Turns out they placed me in some pretty select company; also contributing were Keith Olbermann, longtime Times writer Gerald Eskenazi and Will Carroll, from Baseball Prospectus. Read the story here.

Needless to say, nobody took a stand against replay (although Eskenazi was non-committal). Now it just waits to be seen whether umpire Jim Joyce makes Olbermann’s Worst Person in the World list.

- Jason

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