Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.

The nerds won the bunting war

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Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal wrote a story about how sacrifice bunts have gone down dramatically over the pat decade and chalks it up, correctly, I think, to sabermetrics and clubs getting super sophisticated about analytics. Most of those analytics show that bunting, in the aggregate, is a bad play which reduces run-scoring rather than enhances it, ergo it’s on the outs.

This is another one of those things which will likely lead to people arguing the apples of analytics vs. the oranges of simply enjoying baseball and traditional strategy. I hope we can agree that we don’t have to have such arguments, however.

Personally speaking, I have been convinced of the lack of utility to bunting for as long as I’ve been reading the work of Bill James and his progeny and I’ll disagree with a manager’s choice to bunt far more than I’ll agree. But I still greatly enjoy watching a well-executed bunt play from time to time, or a great defensive play that results from a bunt. The thing is — and this is really hard for some sabermetrically-oriented fans to remember sometimes — is that we don’t have to consume the game from the perspective of an armchair manager or GM. We can just watch the spectacle. Bunts can be good spectacle sometimes.

When the Braves are in the World Series this fall and Fredi Gonzalez calls for a bunt, I’ll get mad. But if it works, heck, I’ll enjoy it.

Why MLB’s domestic violence policy does not require a criminal conviction

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When Aroldis Chapman was suspended under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, a good number of people — some of them commenters at this site — took issue with it because “hey, he wasn’t charged with a crime.” The same has been said about Jose Reyes and will be said about him again when he is suspended, as he certainly will be.This is perfectly acceptable under Major League Baseball’s policy, of course, which specifically says that a criminal prosecution or conviction is not required for the league to investigate and discipline a player.

That language is not self-justifying. It’s well-considered and is part of the policy for a very good reason: a huge number of domestic assaults — ones that really happen and for which there is copious evidence, not just he-said, she-said situations — go uncharged and aren’t prosecuted for reasons other than the merits of the case.

Sometimes it’s because, as the case in Reyes’ situation, the victim does not cooperate with authorities. And, of course, there are a lot of reasons for that in and of itself which have nothing to do with the actual crime that occurred. In other cases, especially cases involving athletes or other famous perpetrators, it’s because the authorities are loathe to treat a famous person like they’d treat anyone else accused of a crime. They get special treatment and serious charges are often diminished or swept under the rug completely.

Today I read something that, while having nothing to do with baseball, speaks very well to how that dynamic works, both through law enforcement and in media coverage of famous men accused of serious crimes. It’s by Ronan Farrow at the Hollywood Reporter and it involves the sexual abuse accusations of his sister, Dylan Farrow, against their father Woody Allen. Allen, of course, was never charged with a crime in the matter. Nor, until recently, was Bill Cosby charged with anything despite years of allegations in his case. Farrow talks about how and why there were no charges in his sister’s case despite there being considerable evidence and how the fact that there were no charges does not mean nothing bad happened.

Farrow is a lawyer and, importantly, — and contrary to what so many people like to say in these situations —  he’s not at all arguing for criminal sanction against his father without due process. Rather, he’s interested in the way in which figures who are plausibly accused of bad things are treated by those around them and, especially, by the media in these cases. How they’re given free passes because so many don’t want to consider that the famous or powerful can be bad people or refuse to consider it because they fear repercussions or a lack of access if they do deal with the accusations frankly. Finally, and most importantly, he talks about how, perversely, the lack of charges and lack of scrutiny on the famous person is often turned back around and used as a cudgel to attack the victim anew.

Again, the story is not about baseball and not about domestic violence, but the dynamic that Farrow identifies is identical to the dynamic that so often plays out when athletes are accused of domestic violence. It’s the reason why MLB, in its wisdom, decided not to simply outsource its domestic violence operation to law enforcement and choose to throw up its hands if and when charges are not filed. And it’s an excellent reminder for all of us, when we discuss these cases, to understand that what appears on a docket sheet is not necessarily reflective of the facts of a case.

Regardless of what happens with the police and the court system, we should continue to scrutinize — fairly — those accused. And we should not disparage or disbelieve accusers simply because the legal system is ill-equipped to deal with these most difficult cases.

Video: “The Natural,” starring Bartolo Colon

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A baseball fan and video editor named Mark Evans took what was already wonderful — Bartolo Colon‘s improbable home run over the weekend — and made it absolutely fantastic. How? He spliced footage of the dinger into the final baseball scene of “The Natural” and elevated both the dinger and the movie.

Some mistakes you never stop paying for. Some joys never stop being rewarding: