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


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.

Clayton Kershaw completes spring training with a 0.00 ERA

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Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.

In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.

The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.

The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.