Word Crimes: The Hall of Fame — arguably — made a grammatical error on Greg Maddux’s plaque

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As Greg Maddux is my favorite player of all time, I obviously took a close look at his Hall of Fame plaque when it was unveiled yesterday. And when I did, something stood out:

source:

It’s the “less than 1,000 walks” that bugged me. I am of the view that it should be “fewer” not less. So, as Deadspin noted, I tweeted it out. This, as most grammar disputes do, led to some pretty impassioned debate.

Most people (myself included) are of the view that one uses “fewer” if one is referring to things in the plural which can be counted and “less” if you are referring to something that either doesn’t have a plural or can’t be counted. Examples: “fewer kids in this class than that class,” “fewer hot dogs on his plate than her plate” vs. “less time left in the game than we thought” or “I have less respect for the guy who puts ketchup on his hot dogs.”

Now, as is the case with all rules, there are exceptions. If the number stands alone without the noun named in reference to the lower quantity, you can use “less” (e.g. “He had 10 dogs, I had less”) or when you are referring to geographical distance or measures of time. Of course in this case such obvious exceptions do not apply. Walks are a finite thing which do not refer to distance or time, they do have a plural and they are mentioned properly at the end of the sentence.

Of course, just as there are always general exceptions, there are always increasingly obscure exceptions — or, short of that, traditions and customs of usage — which one can, if one is so inclined, find to justify their preferred usage. As this conversation evolved yesterday afternoon, many did find some slot in which to (arguably) place the Hall of Fame’s choice of “less” over “fewer” on Maddux’s plaque. I’m not suggesting it’s the easiest call on the planet. This isn’t an out or safe call here. It’s more of a first base ump’s call on a check swing. But I do think the majority of people who care about such rules — and the majority of the rules relating to the topic itself — falls in the “fewer” camp.

And to be 100% clear: my pointing this out was not borne of some “ah ha!” moment nor do I think it says anything negative about the Hall of Fame, the person who forged the plaque or anything like that. There’s no point other than to say “hey, that’s interesting.” And, obviously, I do not stand on some pedestal of grammatical superiority when I note all of this. I’m a low-A grammarian at best with tremendous holes in my game. Indeed, even my tweet pointing out this grammatical error had a typo in it.

But then again, my tweets aren’t literally forged in metal and placed on the wall of a museum for all eternity. Which is why I even brought this up to begin with.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Mariners 4, Nationals 2: Nelson Cruz‘s three-run homer in the sixth gave the M’s their first game with more than one run scored in a week and snapped their five-game losing streak. Five M’s relievers held the Nats scoreless over the final four frames. I know the game changes over time and stuff, but I really would like to go back in time and see the reaction of some pitcher from the 1920s if you told him that it wasn’t all that unusual for a 4-2 game to feature 12 pitchers.

Pirates 9, Braves 4: Bartolo Colon got shelled again — the Buccos lit him up for seven runs — and Adam Frazier hit a three-run homer. Ivan Nova cruised for eight, going into the ninth with a 9-2 lead, but he ran out of gas, gave up three hits and had to be lifted. He was mad after the game for not getting the CG. That pitcher from the 1920s would understand that much better, I assume. At least if he could get past the part about two men from the Dominican Republic pitching in a major league game.

Phillies 2, Rockies 1: Tommy Joseph homered in the seventh to tie things up at one and then singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th to give Philly a walkoff win. Odubel Herrera, meanwhile, wore a platinum sombrero, which is always worth noting.

Rays 4, Angels 0Matt Andriese scattered six hits over eight shutout innings. Colby Rasmus knocked in all four of the Rays runs with a two run single, driving in Evan Longoria and Steven Souza and a ground rule double, driving in Evan Longoria and Steven Souza.

Cubs 5, Giants 1: The Cubs got dingers from Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist and took their third game in a row. That was three of four from the Giants overall as they finish a 7-2 home stand. The champs, who moved into first place with this win and the Cardinals and Brewers’ losses, may finally be shaking off those early season cobwebs.

Red Sox 6, Rangers 2: The Bosox likewise seem to be turning things around. They take their fourth straight. Here, five Boston pitchers combined to rack up 20 strikeouts with starter Drew Pomeranz getting 11 in six innings. Closer Craig Kimbrel got four in the ninth thanks to a batter reaching on a wild pitch strike three. Did you ever stop to think how random that rule is by the way? I’m not sure what the logic is of a batter being able to run to first due to a dropped strike three. There has to be some — most baseball rules are based in some utility as opposed to mere gamesmanship — but I’m not sure I’ve ever read or been told why that is. If I have, I forgot. Time to go Googling.

Padres 4, Mets 3: Dinelson Lamet made his big league debut and held the Mets to one run over five and five relievers had his back after that. Michael Conforto was 1-for-5 with four strikeouts. He also did this:

 

The conditions were terrible — fog and mist and stuff, so it’s not really his fault – but I can’t recall ever seeing a guy do the hands-over-head move to protect himself for a lost ball that fell THAT far away from him.

Diamondbacks 4, Brewers 0: Are you Johnny Ray?
Are you Slim Ray?
Are you Paid Ray?
Are you Sting Ray?
Are you Nick Ray?
Are you Jimmy Ray?
Who wants to know? Who wants to know?

 

Astros 7, Tigers 6Carlos Correa, Marwin Gonzalez and Juan Centeno all homered off Justin Verlander in Houston’s five-run fourth inning, but the Tigers clawed back to tie it, thanks in large part to Justin Upton who hit an RBI single and homered. Jake Marisnick hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth, however, and that held up. Based on Marisnick’s reaction it seems like he thought it was the ninth and that he just hit a walkoff:

After the game his teammates were ribbing him about it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Marisnick said with a grin when asked about it. “No comment.” Heh.

Dodgers 7, Cardinals 3: Down 3-2 in the fourth, Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda singled in two to help his own cause. Hyun-Jin Ryu, meanwhile, made his first major league relief appearance and tossed four scoreless innings to earn the save. After the game Ryu said that he wasn’t really comfortable with the role and feels, in his heart, he’s a starter. Manager Dave Roberts, meanwhile, talked up how “lethal” Ryu was in long relief with Maeda and it was revealed that he and the front office had been talking about this for a while. Stay tuned for some drama over this.

Royals vs. Yankees; Reds vs. Indians — POSTPONED:

All at sea again
And now my hurricanes
Have brought down
This ocean rain
To bathe me again
My ship’s a sail
Can you hear its tender frame
Screaming from beneath the waves
Screaming from beneath the waves
All hands on deck at dawn
Sailing to sadder shores
Your port in my heavy storms
Harbours the blackest thoughts
I’m at sea again
And now your hurricanes
Have brought down
This ocean rain
To bathe me again

Odubel Herrera went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts today

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Did you have a bad day? It’s OK. We all do sometimes. It’s just part of life. Even ballplayers have bad days. Even the good ones.

Odubel Herrera is a good one. He’s only 25, but he’s already got two seasons of above average hitting under his belt. Dude gets on base. He could be a regular for tons of teams, so there’s no shame at all in him having a bad day. And boy howdy did he have a bad day today. He went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in the Phillies extra innings win against the Rockies.

“I feel that I am making good swings but I’m just missing the pitches,” Herrera said.

Well, that is how strikeouts work.

Four strikeouts in a game is known as a Golden Sombrero. Players don’t strike out five times in a game very often so they don’t have an agreed upon name, but I’ve seen it referred to as the “platinum sombrero,” which seems pretty solid for such a feat. Six is a titanium sombrero or a double platinum sombrero, though there are references to it as a “Horn,” for Sam Horn, who deserves something to be named in his honor. Horn is like Moe Greene — a great man, a man of vision and guts — yet there isn’t even a plaque, or a signpost or a statue of him!

But I digress.

The last time a Phillies player did it was when Pat Burrell K’d five times in September 2008. The Phillies won the World Series that year, of course, so maybe this is an omen. [looks at standings] Or maybe not.

Anyway, get a good night’s sleep tonight, Odubel. Shake it off. Tomorrow is another day.