Running the bases
A runner who is entitled to occupy a base and has not been displaced may not be tagged out with the ball. Runners may attempt to advance from base to base on any fair ball that touches the ground. When a ball is hit in the air (a fly ball) and caught by the defending team, runners must return and touch the base they occupy (tag up) after the ball is caught. Once they do this, they may attempt to advance at their own risk.
Baserunners may attempt to advance while the pitcher is throwing a pitch. The catcher (or pitcher, in lieu of delivering the pitch) often tries to prevent this by throwing the ball to one of the infielders in order to tag the runner. This pick-off attempt is usually unsuccessful in tagging out the runner but is effective in keeping the runner closer to the base. If the runner is tagged out while diving back to the base, it is called a pick-off. If the runner attempts to advance to the next base but is tagged out before reaching it safely, he is caught-stealing. A successful attempt by the runner is called a stolen base. If a pitch gets away from the catcher, runners may also try to advance. This may be a wild pitch, if the pitcher is held responsible for the ball getting away, or a passed ball if the catcher is deemed to be at fault.
The standard dimensions of a baseball field, with 90 feet (27.4 m) between bases, generate many close baserunning plays. On one hand, an infielder who cleanly fields a ball hit on the ground, then throws it quickly and accurately, will usually get the ball to a base before the runner reaches it. However, any hesitation or mistake on the part of the fielder may allow the runner to reach the base safely.
Each team is allowed to substitute for any player at any time, but no player, once removed from the game, can return. It is very common for a pitcher to pitch for several innings and then be removed in favor of a relief pitcher. Also, because pitching is a specialized skill, many pitchers are not good hitters, so it is common to substitute for a pitcher when his team is at bat. This can be done by inserting a pinch hitter who replaces the pitcher for his time at bat, and who is in turn replaced by a relief pitcher when the team returns to the field on defense. Most leagues (notably Major League Baseball's American League) also allow a designated hitter, a player whose sole purpose is to hit when it would normally be the pitcher's turn. A designated hitter does not play in the field on defense, and may remain in the game regardless of changes in pitchers.
Many amateur leagues will allow a starting player who was removed to return to the game in the same position in the batting order under the re-entry rule. In nearly all adult leagues, substitutes cannot return once removed. Youth leagues often allow free and open substitution to encourage player participation.
Pinch Hitter also refers generally to any substitute batter who has not previously appeared on the field. Similarly, a pinch runner may be used to substitute for any baserunner.
Each team is run by a manager, whose primary responsibility during the game is to assign players to fielding positions, determine the lineup, and decide how to substitute players. Managers are also assisted by coaches in helping players to develop their skills.
Any baseball game involves one or more umpiress, who make rulings on the outcome of each play. At a minimum, one umpire will stand behind the catcher, to have a good view of the strike zone, and call each pitch a ball or a strike. Additional umpires may be stationed near the bases, thus making it easier to see plays in the field.
Another figure in baseball worth noting is the official scorer. The results of baseball games are summarized in tables called box scores. The scorer is responsible for a number of judgments that go into the boxscore. For example, if a batted ball is misplayed by a fielder, the scorer may choose to charge the fielder with an error instead of crediting the batter with a hit. Within certain guidelines, the scorer also determines which pitchers are credited with winning and losing the game, and whether a relief pitcher will be awarded a save.
The style of play
Baseball has an antique, unhurried pace. Both football and basketball use a clock, and fans must often watch games end while one team degrades the competitive element of the game by killing the clock rather than competing directly against the opposing team. But baseball has no clock; you cannot win without getting the last man out, and a rally can start at any time.
In recent decades, observers have criticized professional baseball for the length of its games, with some justification as the time required to play a baseball game has increased steadily through the years. One hundred years ago, games typically took an hour and a half to play; today, four-hour nine-inning games are not uncommon. However, this is primarily due to increased commercial breaks more than a decrease in playing speed. Increased offense and more pitching changes also prolong the length of the game.
Baseball is a team game—even two or three Hall of Fame players cannot guarantee a pennant by themselves. In the last years of the 20th century, a trend toward building teams based on a more even distribution of talent throughout the lineup became noticeable. The Seattle Mariners and the Florida Marlins were two teams that began moving away from the previous belief in building teams around superstars. Team salary caps led to the decision by many owners to pay more solid players decent money rather than surrounding one or two expensive superstars with a below-average set of teammates. It remains to be seen if this strategy will be successful.
Paradoxically, the game places individual players under great pressure and scrutiny one at a time. The pitcher must make a good pitch or suffer reproach; no one can help him throw the ball. The hitter has a mere fraction of a second to swing the bat; no one can help him then. If the batter hits a line drive, the outfielder makes a lonely decision to try to catch it or play it on the bounce. Baseball history is full of heroes and goats—men who in the heat of the moment distinguished themselves with a timely hit or catch, or an untimely strikeout or error.
It is a beautiful, leisurely game on the surface (some would say boring) but sudden and fierce beneath. Many pe
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