Deep thoughts: what the heck is “Old School Baseball” anyway?

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When Cole Hamels hit Bryce Harper, he defended himself by saying it was just a case of “old school” baseball.  Others said that by Harper taking his base and then stealing home, it was “old school baseball.”  Some others — most notably Cal Ripken, earlier today — said that they were unaware of any tenet of old school baseball that involved throwing at guys. Of course, any number of Don Drysdale or Bob Gibson fans would beg to differ.

The point is that I don’t think there is any agreed upon definition of Old School Baseball.  Rather, I think it’s just a slogan people use to justify whatever the hell it is they want to justify, with the claim — well-intentioned or otherwise — that it conforms to some tradition or another.

I understand the impulse, of course.  Indeed, in this it’s one of the most basebally things imaginable, because baseball as we know it would practically cease to exist if we were to pretend that what goes on now is unconnected to what happened in the past. The ballparks, the uniforms, the strategies and the language of the game would be totally different if they were devised new today. It’s a game whose very essence requires a historical connection.

But that reference to history becomes meaningless if we rely on it too much.  If, instead of justifying his actions, a player or his fan or media surrogates simply say “hey, old school baseball.”  Or, less flippantly, “that’s the way it’s always been done,” they’re saying nothing. They’re saying “we don’t have to think about what just occurred, or defend it.  It’s fine because it’s always been that way.”

We don’t accept that in most walks of life. When it comes to on-field strategy, we are accepting it less and less these days. But we seem oh so willing to accept it when it comes to deportment or the unwritten rules or any of the culture surrounding the game.

I wish we’d be as critical about that as we are with just about everything else in life.

Yankees sign CC Sabathia to one-year, $10 million deal

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Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Yankees have re-signed left-hander CC Sabathia to a one-year, $10 million contract. The deal does not come with options and is still pending a physical, which is expected to take place later today.

Sabathia, 37, is poised to enter his 18th season in the majors and his 10th in New York. He went 14-5 in 27 starts with the 2017 Yankees, improving on his 2016 totals with a 3.69 ERA, 3.0 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9 over 148 2/3 innings. He provided a welcome boost in the playoffs, too, keeping the Yankees alive in an ALDS Game 5 clincher and returning in Game 3 of the ALCS with six shutout innings.

The Yankees weren’t Sabathia’s only suitors this winter, which comes as little surprise given the southpaw’s durability and consistency on the mound, to say nothing of the leadership role he’s assumed in the Yankees’ clubhouse. From Sabathia’s agent, Kyle Thousand (via Joel Sherman of the New York Post):

There were very competitive offers out there that really made CC take his time. In the end, he feels there’s unfinished business to attend to. Loves his teammates, clubhouse and the moves the Yankees are making this offseason. [He] wanted to come back for his 10th season with the Yankees.

Chris Cotillo of SB Nation adds that the Yankees had freed up the $10 million for Sabathia’s contract after trading Chase Headley to the Padres last Tuesday. The club is expected to continue pursuing additional pitching depth this offseason, and has been linked to names like Zack Greinke, Chris Archer and Gerrit Cole so far.