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A Little Too Long to be a Tweet

May 31, 2017


A Little Too Long to be a Tweet


1.  Too Much Information


              Just a little thing that bothers me.   The Royals have a promotional tie-in in which, if a Royals player hits a grand slam home run out of the park in the sixth inning, somebody wins $10,000 or something. . .I don’t know what it is.    What interests me is those words "out of the park". 

              They don’t mean that it has to leave the Stadium; no one has ever hit a fair ball out of Kaufman Stadium, and, for reasons I won’t get into, it is clear that that isn’t what they mean.  The Royals have been running this promotion since sometime in the 1970s, I think, granting that I have no evidence for the duration of this other than my memory.  The designated fan wins a smaller amount of money when a Royals player hits any home run (out of the park) in the sixth inning.  What struck me the first time I heard that commercial, decades ago, was that it couldn’t possibly pay to buy the air time to say "out of the park", which only prevents the company from having to pay off if someone hits an INSIDE THE PARK grand slam in the sixth inning.   Think about it.   It only takes a second to say "out of the park", but they repeat this phrase I think three times during the commercial—and they have been doing it for forty years!   I would bet that, if they costed it out, whoever is paying for the commercial has spent tens of thousands of dollars, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, for the air time necessary to say the words "out of the park".  

              And what is the value of that?   The odds of somebody hitting a grand slam home run INSIDE THE PARK are negligible.   It just interests me, because, like the Win Rule and Rex Hudler, it is such a clear example of somebody doing something year after year and after year without thinking about what they are doing. 



2.  Kaat and Keith and Yaz


              A couple of notes from the national broadcast of the Red Sox/Cardinals game on May 16:

              1)  As I mentioned in a "Hey, Bill" a couple of weeks ago, Jim Kaat was one of my favorite players when I was a kid, but I never much liked him as an announcer.   But he did something in this game that really impressed me.   

              Talking about the Cardinals and Red Sox, Costas spoke at some length about Carl Yastrzemski’s fantastic September performance in 1967.   I would bet that Costas was not aware that his broadcast partner, Jim Kaat, probably had a better month in September, 1967, than Yastrzemski did.    Yaz hit .391 in September, actually .417 if you include the one game played on October 1; let’s say .417 with 9 homers, 26 RBI.  That includes 27 games, exactly one-sixth of the Sox season, so multiply by six, that’s a .417 season with 54 homers, 156 RBI.   Tremendous performance.

              Jim Kaat, in the same month, went 7-0 with a 1.51 ERA, 65.2 innings.   Do the math.   Which do you want:  a hitter who hits .417 with 54 bombs, 156 RBI, or a pitcher who works 394 innings and goes 42-0 with a 1.51 ERA?

              The Twins and Red Sox played the last two games of the year at Fenway.   The Twins went into the series a game ahead, lost both games and lost the pennant by one game.    Kaat started the first game, gave up no runs but had to come out of the game in the third inning with an injury.   Had he stayed in the game and won, the Twins would have won the pennant, and Kaat—not Yaz—would be immortalized for his fantastic September performance, carrying his team to the pennant.

              But when Costas talked at some length about what Yaz had done, Kaat didn’t say one word about it!   He didn’t HINT that he was there, that he was a key figure in this story, and that he was almost the hero of it.   I was very impressed by that.


              2)   Costas was talking about defense at first base, and said, as we often do, that Keith Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman that he ever saw, which I would agree with; I think he is the best I’ve ever seen, too.

              But Kaat, who was a teammate of Hernandez for several years, pretty clearly declined to endorse the idea that Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman of the. . .whatever.   He said that Hernandez was good, that he was the best at playing the bunt, that he had a good arm, but he said Kent Hrbek was as good as he ever saw, and he mentioned some other guys.   I just thought that was interesting.  



3.  And Then


              On the other hand, on a Pirates broadcast (5-18-2017) some moron is talking about the high strikeout numbers.    His theory is that baseball needs to expand; it has been too long since the last expansion, so that talent has gotten too compressed.   Like an All Star game.   He thinks if they expanded. . .well, if they had a BIG expansion. . .they’d get some minor league pitchers into the majors, and you might get a .400 hitter that way.    Those minor league pitchers wouldn’t be able to strike out so many hitters.



4.   Multiball

              I have an idea for a game which I think would be a terrific spectator sport, although we will never know unless lightning strikes.   Suppose that, to start with, you visualize a baseball field, only you imagine the field with five bases, rather than four.    The angle between the bases is 108 degrees, rather than 90, so what would be the foul lines have to move out by nine degrees each.  

              The baselines are longer in Multiball than they are in baseball, let’s say 150 feet, so that to run a full circuit of the bases the runner has to run 750 feet, rather than 360.    There is no outfield; the entire game is played around the bases; for that matter, you could sell seats in the infield, if the seats are not so high that they obstruct the view from the other seats, and the infield patrons understand that their backs will be to the action most of the time.  

              And the bases are not bases; they are nets, small nets setting on the ground and about two feet high.    On each pathline, about two-thirds of the way down the line—that is, about 90 feet from the previous net--there is a crosshatch, like a Band-Aid laid across the line.   This is where the defender stands.   The defender’s box is about four feet by six feet, with the longer distance being the distance across the pathline. 

              The runner—we will call him a kicker.   The kicker has a ball, like a soccer ball, and the kicker’s goal is to kick the ball down the pathline, past the defender and into the net.   The defender must stay in his box.  

              The kicker has two options.   He can kick the ball THROUGH the defender’s box, or he can kick the ball in the air OVER the defender’s box.   If he kicks the ball THROUGH the defender’s box, the defender has to allow the runner to pass through.   If, on the other hand, he kicks the ball OVER the defender’s head—let’s say he kicks it more than seven feet high—then the defender has the right to block the runner if he can.   He cannot use his fists or elbows, and he cannot strike the defender above the shoulders, but he can push, grab, trip or tackle the kicker to prevent him from passing through—and the kicker can do the same things to defend himself.   If the kicker is knocked to the ground or if he is grabbed and held, then the kicker is done for the circuit.   In baseball terms he is out.    If not, he goes on down the line, then he can put the ball in the net, and go on to the next net.  

              There have to be some pathline rules.    The pathline is about four feet wide, and the kicker must keep the ball in the pathline, with two exceptions.    If the ball strays a little bit outside of the pathline, that’s not an issue as long as the kicker can return the ball to the pathline on his next kick without himself stepping out of the line.   The general rule might be about 18 inches; if it goes so far out of the pathline that the kicker cannot recover it FROM the pathline, then he’s done.   

              The other exception is the "passing kick", the kick that gets the ball past the defender.   The passing kick has to land in the pathline, but if it then bounces or rolls out of the pathline, that’s OK; that’s not a violation.  It is understood that that’s a "hard kick", a contested event, and the kicker doesn’t have the same degree of control over it.  

              After the ball is past the defender, the kicker recovers control of the ball, and guides it into the net.  

              It’s a five-on-five game; each kicker gets one turn in each inning, and all five kickers play defense.   No substitutions are allowed within an inning except for injury—that is, if you play offense in the inning, you have to play defense—and the defenders cannot switch pathlines within an inning.   From inning to inning a team can make one substitution—one between each inning—and the defenders don’t have to work the same pathlines in one inning that they did the previous inning, nor do they have to take their turns as kicker in the same order.  

              After the kicker gets the ball past the defender he has five seconds to get the ball in the net; that’s just a little rule to keep him hustling, prevent him from wasting time.  After the umpire signals that the net has been made, the kicker must immediately retrieve the ball from the net (he may use his hands), place it on the ground near the net, and place his foot on top of the ball to signal to the defender that he is ready to attack the next net.    

              Once that kicker has started toward the second net, the next kicker must immediately place his ball at the starting point, and place his foot on the ball to signal that he is ready to begin.   There are multiple balls in play; there will be multiple kickers attacking multiple nets at the same time, as each kicker must attack the next net as soon as the pathline is open.  In theory, there could be five kickers attacking five nets at the same time, with five defenders trying to stop them; that would be very rare, but it could happen.   With multiple balls in play you would probably have to use different colored balls to prevent confusion; it might go white-yellow-green-blue-red, or something like that, and the nets and the defenders might also be color-coded to match the order of the balls.  

              To score a point, the kicker must complete a circuit of the nets, the same as in baseball.   I anticipate games of 10 innings, although you could play a different number, 7 or 12.   Assuming it is 10, a team can score a maximum of 5 points in an inning, and has exactly 50 kickstarts in a game.  

              The math is critical, as it is in baseball.   The defender can’t "win" the battle too often, or the game doesn’t work.   If the defender wins the battle of the pathline 60% of the time, then a kicker will complete the circuit only 1% of the time, so that most games would end 1-0, and often you would have to play extra innings to get a point.   That’s not what I want, at all; I want games ending 14-11 and 16-6.    If the defender wins the battle half the time, then the average score would be 1.56 points per game; if the defender wins the battle 40% of the time, the average score about 3.9 points per game.  

              If the defender gets a stop only about 25 to 30% of the time, which is what I want, then the average score would be 8 to 11 points per game.     Obviously you would have to play-test the game to make sure that the kicker could beat the defender most of the time, and also, I would suggest that each league should write it into the rules that the defender should not win the contest more than 30% of the time, and that the league will adjust the rules if he does.   There are different things you could do to help the kicker if need be; for example, you could make the pathline six feet wide and the defender’s box four feet wide; the defender can then dive out of his box to block the ball, but otherwise has to defend from a smaller space.   Limiting the defenders’ mobility increases the kicker’s ability to beat him with fakes and decoys.   Think of an NFL defensive back defending his space, but unable to move around freely to do so.

              I think that this would be a great spectator sport, for six reasons.  

              First, there would be constant action; more action then you could watch, with few stoppages of the action once the inning begins.

              Second, since all the athletes would be required to play both offense and defense, I believe that it would require and would reward exceptional athleticism.

              Third, games need moments of tension, moments like the moment when a fly ball is in the air and might go out of the park, or like the moment when a runner might be safe at home or out, or like the moment when a pass is thrown deep and the receiver has a chance to catch it.   This game would have constant and plentiful moments of tension.

              Fourth, since the game is "orderly" in the way that baseball is orderly, it would be amenable to records which would describe the skills of the players both on offense and defense—nets per kickstart, circuits, singles, doubles, triples, etc., and also stop percentages on defense.  

              Fifth, the extended pathlines between the nets create longer races between kickers and defenders, extending the moments of tension.

              Sixth, there will be strategy involved.   Strategy will evolve in ways that cannot be anticipated, but strategy is built into the game in the decision of whether to kick through the defender or over him, and also because there is no point from which the kicker MUST launch his attempt; he can kick the ball from 10 feet away from the defender, or from 40 feet away.   

              There is no quarterback in the game; there is no pitcher.   All five players have the same assignments, with this exception:   that the defender who is assigned to guard the first net will have to work harder than the defenders who guard the other nets, because not everybody will get to the second net, and even fewer will get to the third net.    Probably the team would rotate players who were assigned to guard the first net, since this would require more energy than defending the other nets.  

              It’s a mano-a-mano sport, with little teamwork built into it that one can see in advance, but set up to expose constant one-to-one contests.  


COMMENTS (27 Comments, most recent shown first)

I would guess that they clarify 'out of the park' so they don't get into litigation that involves the scorer.

I remember going to Dwight Evans' second game back at Fenway as an Oriole: he hit a ball into the triangle and raced around the bases, getting to home before the throw. I thought he had hit an inside-the-park homer, but the scorer called it a triple with an error on the outfielder. I bet the Royals have that language in to prevent some fan from being pissed off about an inside-the-park homer being ruled a triple-and-extra-base later on down the track.
7:21 AM Jun 6th
......Well, if I were Willie Wilson, I mighta thought they were wanting to screw me.....

Really it doesn't sound too far from if they'd said a grand slam by any player whose initials aren't WW,
10:53 PM Jun 3rd
To clarify - I brought up Willie Wilson, but I wasn't saying or thinking they did it because of him. I just was saying the economics of the move were altered during the time period he happened to be on the team.
12:08 PM Jun 2nd
Sounds like the Royals have been running that ad since Willie Wilson played for them.

So maybe it was about him. But now?
8:58 AM Jun 2nd

Ever hear Hernandez talk about his childhood? Practically child abuse. His dad decided when he was like 5 or something that he was going to be a first baseman, and gave him tests and quizzes every night on strategy and who covers what base and when to charge a bunt...
7:51 PM Jun 1st
I can only think of that old Seinfeld line (I think it was him, in a stand-up routine, not on the show), "Who are the ad geniuses who came up with this one?"

It's like they're alerting the world to the fact that they're a-holes.

Y'know, it's not impossible that Bill's piece and our stuff on this little page will get a movement going. If the promotion gets fixed, we should claim credit. :-)
2:55 PM Jun 1st
Yeah, I hear that slam inning ad every game.

And every time I think, 'you really want to run an ad that tells everyone what a chicken shit company you are?'

If they had any brains, which no corporation seems to have any more for anything other than being crooked, they'd make it a MILLION dollars for a grand slam inside the park home run.

Even if it ever happened, they'd have gotten so way more than a million dollars of free publicity.

2:40 PM Jun 1st
I had never much cared for Kaat as a broadcaster, but I really enjoyed his input during the WBC this spring. I don't think his input changed much - is it possible the WBC was simply a better backdrop for him, a place where his unique perspective filled flowed for the WBC ways it clashed with the major league game?
2:12 PM Jun 1st
But, MarisFan61, 43-Man Squamish has actually been played:​
1:20 PM Jun 1st
(Joel Horlen, later known as Joe, but never Jim)

Not important, just sayin'. :-)​
8:56 AM Jun 1st
In May of 1967 Jim Kaat threw 20 2/3rds innings and allowed 42 baserunners, 24 runs, 23 earned. That was the 2nd-worst ERA by any MLB pitcher in any month of 1967 (min 20 IP). I don't know if he was hurt or what, but the Twins went 1-5 in his May appearances and only pitched as many as four innings once.

On the other hand, his great September wasn't that great. For example, that same September Gaylord Perry pitched 69 innings to a 0.78. Jim Horlen threw 65 innings to a 0.84 and went 5-1. Bob Gibson went 3-1, 0.96 in 37 innings. Nellie Briles went 5-0, 1.34 in 47 innings. Sonny Siebert and Dick Hughes each threw about 40 innings to a 1.40. Jim Bunning threw 60 innings to a 1.48.

Kaat's 1.54 ERA was 8th-best in the majors in Sept/Oct '67 (Min 30 innings). He was 2nd to Perry in innings, led in Ks and wins. But there were four pitchers with 50+ innings and 50+ Ks and an ERA of 1.54 or lower that month.

I think you could argue that Kaat's May was worse than his September was great.
6:28 AM Jun 1st
Sorry I shoulda put this first : didn't Kaat win a huge amount of Gold Gloves as a pitcher and thus cementing his opinion as towards "D" ......
11:09 PM May 31st
I think I remember some later article where Yaz said that Kaat getting hurt was the key to the BoSox winning in '67. I liked Kaat as an announcer - I think he was transitional in that he and McCarver went from Ya Ya baseball to some real questions about the game ..... and Kitty had a white 'fro .......
11:07 PM May 31st
Fireball Wenz
I'm guessing Kaat may have mentioned Vic Power and George Scott among his top first basemen. Maybe Wes Parker and Jim Spencer.

10:04 PM May 31st
Hernandez was the best at fielding bunts, had such a good arm that he was used as the cutoff man sometimes, and had great range on ground balls. However, the best I saw at catching throws was John Olerud. No knock on Keith, it's just that he was 6' tall, but Olerud was 6' 5", with long arms and soft hands. You practically had to throw the ball into Flushing Bay to get it by him. It was no accident that the Mets infield set a record for fewest errors when Olerud was at first base. I've long thought that this ability to catch throws is an underrated part of a first baseman's job, since he fields more throws than anyone save the catcher.
8:15 PM May 31st
Look at it this way:
It's simpler than 43-Man Squamish.
7:28 PM May 31st
My head exploded halfway through Multiball....
6:03 PM May 31st
If I were in Jim Kaat's place, no way could I have restrained myself from mentioning my September 1967 performance.

In fact, as a Tigers fan, I have to point out that they were right there with those teams fighting for the pennant (with the White Sox close at hand) - and that good ol' Mickey Lolich pitched 58 innings with a 1.54 ERA down that last month's stretch.

In the interests of history, though, I have to point out that his efforts were undone by Detroit's budding ace Denny McLain who won 20 games in 1966, 31 games in 1968, then another 24 in 1969. His final month of 1967 logged only 16 innings of 8.27 ERA. He has a criminal history and carries a cloud speculation that he may have thrown those games.

When Minnesota and Boston squared off for the last two games of their seasons, Detroit had four games to play against the Angels. They split both double-headers to end up tied with Minnesota for second 1 game behind. McLain was the losing pitcher in the Tigers last game.
4:26 PM May 31st
Fireball Wenz
RE: "out of the park." It strikes me that this is there way of making sure that *extremely* casual fans realize it has to be a home run, not just a run.
4:19 PM May 31st
Fireball Wenz
About multiball - It strikes me that the key is that no one approach to scoring should be optimal. That's the key to the strategy (going through vs. over).

The weakest point is the multiple balls problem. Every other "ball" sport allows you to follow the action by focusing on the ball. Here, you don't know what you should be watching. Something spectacular could be going on at Net 4, but you're watching Net 1. Do you know those pinball machines that release five balls at once if you hit a certain target? I hate that.

But who knows? If I had never heard of baseball and someone described it to me, I'd probably have 200 objections to it.
4:18 PM May 31st
My guess: "out of the park" was carefully and proudly negotiated by a junior lawyer for the insurance company that underwrites the contest who's only knowledge of baseball event probability came from Little League games.
3:56 PM May 31st
About Multiball: It has possibilities. :-)
My only complaint, which is also a complaint about soccer which is the most successful sport in history so what the hell do I know :-) that there isn't really any THROWING (unless I'm missing something).

I don't understand how soccer is so successful despite essentially omitting anything with the hands/arms (except by the goalie), which are the parts of the body that we do most things with and which are the parts of the body that are involved in most human physical skills.
2:01 PM May 31st
I've seen (on TV) 1 inside-the-park grand slam -- by Mel Stottlemyre. I guess they were playing him shallow, he hit it over the CF's head and it bounced and rolled to those monuments in front of the 461 foot sign. (Or maybe it was 463 then.)

BTW, IMO if anything the prize should be DOUBLE if it's inside the park, not zero.
1:54 PM May 31st
Willie Wilson had 13 career inside the parkers, the most of anyone since 1950. But I dont know when this promotion started, the may be irrelevant...
1:29 PM May 31st
I had no idea Kaat had such an amazing September in '67. Of course Yastrzemski's performance that month, and that year, has entered legend, but it's indeed amazing to think how close the situation was to maybe being so different. Maybe the Twins win, maybe they even defeat St. Louis in the World Series, who knows?

Without Kaat's third inning injury, maybe he's in the Hall of Fame, with some postseason heroics burnishing his credentials. The Twins could have been world champs twenty years earlier.
12:35 PM May 31st
Re: the homerun pay-off. It could be argued that it was a reasonable investment during the Willie Wilson era to exclude inside-the-park homeruns with those 3 words.

Although, it can also be argued that if someone did hit an inside-the-park grand slam there would be at least some pressure on the company to pay off anyway.
10:18 AM May 31st
It makes at least as much sense as rugby. (To me, anyway,)
9:09 AM May 31st
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