Niagara Gazette

July 22, 2013

Base Paths: A simple game, if not for the rules

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Every time his buddy Ken Ruggiero writes about the rules of golf, Base Paths sighs, “thank God for baseball.”

Golf obsesses over casual water and loose impediments. Both sound like medical matters. What idle genius took time off from writing the tax code to compound regulations for a game involving little than swinging a stick and swearing?

Seldom do both golfer and ball move simultaneously, yet more rules govern than the diamond games, however chaotic to the unpracticed eye. Obstruction and interference take some ‘splaining but in the main, baseball seems to run itself.

That said, when Base Paths becomes commissioner he will mandate two changes in the record-keeping, one for hitters, one for pitchers.

Recently at Geneva, a Power runner on first couldn’t avoid a batted ball. It seemed to pursue him like an old debt. The umpire rightly stopped play and called him out, although he did err in allowing a runner at second to advance to third.

At any rate, the scoring rules award the batter a base hit in this instance. That’s absurd. Some day, somebody will lose a no-hitter on this and they’ll get around to fixing it. But all logic screams “fielders’ choice, time at bat, no hit, putout credited to fielder nearest the play.”

In another New York Collegiate League game, a starting pitcher went four shutout innings and left due to pitch count with a big lead that held up to the end. Three relievers finished the innings, 2-2-1.

Records-keepers invoked an NCAA rule to give the starter the “W,” but in a pro game the official scorer would need to decide who had pitched the most effective relief and award it to him. Rehabbing Josh Johnson lost well-deserved decision for the Bisons in May, four efficient innings, followed by five innings of muddling. Chained by the rulebook, scorer Kevin Lester honored the second reliever, even though he needed help by the sixth.

Then there was a seven-inning game about five years ago, suspended by rain in the fifth, Bisons leading 7-1. By the time it resumed a month later, the starter had been called up and it took four relievers to save it, 7-6. None completed an inning, but only they were eligible for the win.

Here’s how Base Paths would rewrite it: “In the event the starting pitcher leaves the game for reason other than ineffective pitching (i.e., pitch count, injury, suspension), he may still be credited with the victory so long as he has pitched a plurality of innings, and the lead has not changed hands.”

Always wanted to get the word “plurality” into the rulebook. Beats loose impediment. Ken, keep it out of the casual water.

Doug Smith offers his weekly wit and wisdom on the diamond with Base Paths. Email Doug at