I have two different sides as a baseball fan. Especially recently, there’s the statistically minded fan who really wants the Pirates to gain as much of an advantage as they can from every aspect of the game. This part of me hates sacrifice bunts, looks deeper into players to figure out if they are over-performing or under-performing, and wants to see young players play through their struggles. This is the side of me that shows the most when I write here.
But there is another side to me as a baseball fan. There is the side of me that likes some bad baseball decisions because they tend to make the game exciting. Sending a runner around on a close play at the plate when he probably should have been held up results in one of the most exciting plays in sports. Sacrifice bunts and intentional walks, which are loathed by the sabermetric community, enhance the drama in tense situations. I’m genuinely excited when Joel Hanrahan comes into games in the ninth inning, even when he should have been used in a jam in the seventh.
This comes up because I was lucky enough to go to the Pirates game on Friday night, which turned out to be one of the craziest and, as a result, more entertaining games that I can remember seeing. Watching Rod Barajas get waved around was one of the most exciting baseball plays that I can remember. The horror that I felt at seeing it, the sinking feeling when the throw beat him there, and then the joy, disbelief, and mirth after he avoided the tag. Jose Tabata got caught sleeping off of first base, but I was excited as a fan, yelling at Pedro Alvarez: “GO HOME! GO HOME!”. In the end, the Pirates made terrible baseball decisions, which offended the first part of me as a baseball fan, but it resulted in an incredibly fun and exciting game for me as a Pirates fan.
In the end, I think that baseball is plenty exciting without teams making poor decisions. Also, if Barajas had been tagged out and Tabata hadn’t managed to stay in a rundown, which were the two likely outcomes of those events, I would be writing a post about how bad the Pirates decision making was. In the end, I want to see the Pirates make sound decisions that make it more likely that they win. But I think that it is important to recognize that there is some value to the excitement that bad baseball decisions can cause.