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.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.