Starting in the mid-90s, states started adopting habitual offender laws which put criminals who have been convicted of multiple felonies away for life. You probably know such laws by their popular name: “three strikes and you’re out” laws.
Gideon Cohn-Postar wonders took a few moments to stop and think about how random it is that someone’s fate and freedom can be dictated by a baseball rule:
What if, like balls, the number of strikes had varied a bit in the late 1800s? The fact that balls were so variable suggests that it was entirely possible that in slightly different circumstances, four strikes could have meant you’re out … the only reason four and three seem “natural” is because they are what we have grown accustomed to … The almost certainly rhetorical question I have struggled with the most however, is whether the only reason we have Three Strikes Laws at all, and the debate, misery, and justice they imply, is because of an arbitrary rule in what was once a children’s game.
It makes one reflect, as Cohn-Postar does with a series of rhetorical questions, upon baseball’s place in the national psyche. About how weird it is, when you really think about it, that lawmakers could so easily adopt a baseball analogy for matters of such extreme importance.
It makes me wonder what the justice system would look like if baseball had not shaped so much of the culture and the language. Would we have “six fouls and you’re out” if basketball was as big a deal? Should football’s popularity mean that “four downs and you punt?” makes more sense, culturally speaking?
My word, can you imagine what it would be like if one broke the law in a world where bowling was the national pastime? That would be chilling indeed.
Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.
Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.
With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.
As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.
As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.
I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.