Retaliatory Practices: Baseball Justice Gets Clinical

Isn’t it great when scientists give serious consideration to things they probably shouldn’t be giving serious consideration to? Case in point: the recent study from researchers out of Brown, Hofstra and Boston universities, which determined that while fans don’t think a guy drilled in retaliation necessarily deserved it, they enjoy it anyway.

The study itself is behind a paywall, but the good folks at Miller-McCune have excerpted it for our enjoyment and edification. What we learn from the surveys, conducted outside Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, and online:

  • Fans were asked in general terms about how appropriate they felt it would be for a pitcher to drill a member of the opposing team in response to an injury suffered by one of his teammates as the result of being hit by a pitch.
  • Turns out that just short of half the fans surveyed felt it would be acceptable.
  • Somehow, 19 percent of Red Sox fans thought it was okay for a pitcher to retaliate against a third, unrelated team, despite the fact that such a scenario makes absolutely no sense.
  • More fans—70 percent—felt that retaliation is appropriate if the drilling victim was the pitcher responsible for the HBP that started it all.
  • The labspeak summary of this concept is, “Endorsement of collective punishment is widespread, but not as widespread as endorsement of individual punishment.”
  • Only 25 percent of the fans who approve of retaliation feel that the target of said retaliation is responsible for the situation. In other words, the guy getting beaned in response to a prior kerfluffle has nothing to do with it.
  • Still, more than a third want to see him drilled anyway.

Two key takeaways here. Between the four surveys, researchers interacted with only a few hundred people—not exactly a huge sample size. More importantly, the vast majority of respondents were fans of either the Yankees or Red Sox, so how representational can they be? (More knowledgeable than your average fan, sure, but also more bloodthirsty.)

Ultimately, this kind of thing is the reason that players don’t much like to talk about this section of the unwritten rulebook. Things like retaliation, that make sense to them within the context of the game, strike a large portion of the fanbase as vulgar and irresponsible. Ballplayers have known about this divide forever, without benefit of scientific studies. Maybe they’re smarter than us, after all.

(Via Baseball Musings.)


2 thoughts on “Retaliatory Practices: Baseball Justice Gets Clinical

  1. Keep in mind that the Code was established before the American (Jr.) League created the designated hitter. No Yankee or Red Sox pitcher is now able to experience retaliation in the traditional way. How many fans know the feeling of a hardball thrown by a child, much less a top athlete? Can’t feel it from here. Let the big boys work it out, and yes, the players don’t want to talk about it. Get er done!

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