National Post:

Rasmus, 25, was the centrepiece of a three-team, 11-player trade that liberated him from a troublesome period in St. Louis. At the time, he was batting .246 with a .332 on-base percentage, 11 homers and 40 RBIs.

His line with the Jays included a .191 average, .223 on-base mark, two homers and 13 RBIs in 30 games. In his previous 11 games, he is three-for-40 with 17 strikeouts.

Allow me:

Michele Catalano on American McCarver:

Last night was a reminder of why we love the game. There are times as fans when we get frustrated and annoyed with shoddy ownership, millionaire crybabies, Bud Selig and off-field antics, but the incredibly dramatic finish to the 2011 regular season was a thing to behold. For a while, it didn’t matter who you were rooting for or against. Anyone who is a baseball fan knew they were witnessing the greatest finish to a season ever and we reveled in it. That drama, that intensity, the pure joy in Tampa and the despair in Boston — that whole emotional roller coaster is what makes being a sports fan both an awesome and a nerve wracking experience.

Last night’s baseball was amazing. I watched the Phils play the Braves for most of the night (after my Cards went up by a ton) and enjoyed every minute of it. These were two very exciting wild card races and one unbelievable September.

I love this sport and I’m not looking forward to the long winter (except for getting hockey back—that’s cool).

It happened a few times so I figured I would keep track. :)

  • During the Brad Pitt-narrated video montage intro.
  • When they announced the families of the shooting who were there for the game and the presentation of the lineup card. (I think this was everybody crying.)
  • During the singing of the national anthem. (This was more out of sorrow for how it was sung.)
  • During the Chevy commercial about bringing babies home.
  • During the Pepsi Max “Field of Dreams” styled commercial.
  • When Joe Buck introduced Tim McCarver. (Just kidding. This was me crying.)
  • When Heath Bell handed the kid by the dugout a backpack with a signed baseball – “I can’t sign during the game but I can sign before.”
  • When the camera panned across the people in the stands with the Stand Up to Cancer signs. (She thought it was about Stan Musial – you know, “Stand for Stan.”)
  • When Rollie Fingers gave his mustache to the Pepsi Max delivery guy in that commercial.

She was scared enough that she would cry if the NL blew the game in the ninth inning that she gave up and went to sleep.

I love my wife and I love that my wife loves baseball.

A good first start for talking about how to play or watch a game is to begin with speaking of how you win said game. The objective of the game of baseball is deceptively simple:

At the end of nine innings, the team that has scored more runs is the winner.

This is a simple concept for those who have followed baseball for years, but for someone new to the game, I have just introduced three new concepts in that one sentence. We’ll break things down even more over time, but to help you in your understanding of how a game is won, the best place to start is to also teach you how to read the line score.

An Example Line Score and How to Read It

The best example is a real one. Here’s the completed line score as seen on from a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, played in St. Louis:

A few notes about how the line score is composed:

  • The home team (the team in whose city the game is played) is always at the bottom half of the line score. This is not merely cosmetic; the home team is granted an advantage in the game by batting last in each inning.
  • At the right end of the line score is the running total for the three basic stats for each team in the game. These are:
    • Runs, which are the only scoring tally in baseball and were discussed in the game objective above. A run is scored when a batter successfully reaches each of the four bases in succession and touches home plate,
    • Hits, which are recorded when a batter strikes the ball with his bat and successfully reaches base before being put out, and
    • Errors, which are officially recorded defensive mistakes where an out should have been made with what is termed “ordinary effort” but the defensive player did not succeed.
  • Some line scores will include a running total labeled LOB, which indicates runners who were left on base (or “stranded”) by reaching base but not touching home plate before the end of their team’s offensive half of an inning.
  • The remainder of the line score is broken into a grid that shows the number of runs scored in each half-inning. The game starts at the top of the first inning and proceeds from there.
  • In this line score, you can see that St. Louis won the game, with the final score being six to one.

Innings

A game of baseball is broken into nine innings. Each inning has a top and a bottom, according to the place in the line score. I’ll put the line score back up so you can see that again:

In the top half of each inning, the visiting team plays offense and the home team plays defense. This continues until the defense records three outs, which is called retiring the side.

After the third out, the teams switch sides and play the bottom half of the inning, likewise until three outs are recorded. The home team plays offense in the bottom half of all innings to give them an advantage, especially in later innings.

As an example, look at the fifth inning in this line score.

In the top of the fifth, the Cubs scored one run before their three outs, and the Cardinals scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth before their three outs.

(We’ll talk more about how outs work later.)

Note that there’s no clock in baseball of any kind. A team is permitted to continue their half of a given inning until three of their players are put out. There’s no limit to the number of batters who come up in a half-inning, and no rule placing a maximum on the number of runs that can be scored.

Two things to note about innings and how they work:

  • If a game is tied at the end of the ninth inning, additional innings are added to the end of the game until there is a winner. Both halves of the inning are always played to give the home team the chance to answer any leads by the visiting team. This is called extra innings.
  • If the home team has more runs after the top of the ninth inning, the bottom half of the ninth inning is not played. You can see this in the box score above, being marked with an “X”. Similarly, if the home team scores to take the lead at any point in the bottom of the ninth inning or in the bottom of any extra inning, the game immediately ends when that run scores (since there is no point in continuing play).

The Basics

What you’ve read here is the minimum necessary to understand how the game is scored and how your team wins the game. In future posts, I’ll cover more of the concepts listed here, such as how an out is made, how runs are scored, and how teams play offense and defense.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment. I’ll be happy to answer them for you.

In the envelope in which I received a recent Cardinals ticket order, there was a game schedule. This year’s marketing theme for the Cardinals organization is “We Are Cardinal Nation”.

On the back of the schedule there was this text. I found it especially neat.

We are Cardinal Nation.
We are the 3 million in the stands and the millions more at home.
We are generations of generations.
We are a father, a son, and a scorecard.
We are Ducky, Dizzy, and The Rajah. Albert, Yadi, and Waino.
We are a hard nine.
We are a kid, an old radio, and a disregard for bedtimes.
We are curtain calls and the Clydesdales.
We are sac bunts, hitting the cutoff, and the 4-6-3.
We were “America’s Team” before there was such as a thing as “America’s Team.”
We are 1, 2, 6, 9, 14, 17, 20, 24, 42, 45, and 85.
We are “Go Crazy Folks” and “That’s a Winner.”
We are Hornsby’s .424 and Gibby’s 1.12.
We are Bonilla’s hamstring and a rookie named Albert.
We are Robison, Sportsman’s, and Busch.
We are “Seat Cushion Night.”
We are Ol’ Abner, among other Shannon-isms.
We are “Brummer’s stealing home!”
We are 1892, and 1982. (And not to mention ’26, ’31, ’34, ’42, ’44, ’46, ’64, ’67, and ’06.)
We are the Gashouse Gang, Slaughter’s Mad Dash, and Brock for Broglio.
We are backflips on Opening Day.
We are peanuts, Cracker Jacks, and home runs that break things.
We are a porch swing, a summer night, and the crackly of the Mighty ‘MOX.
We are Whiteyball and the baby blues.
We are Mike Laga and the Legendary Foul Ball.
We are “Meet you at Musial.”
We are 42,396 on a Tuesday night.
We are 475 home runs, 3,630 hits and 3 MVPs, despite WWII.
We are George Kissell.
We are two birds on one bat. And always will be.
We are 43 Hall of Famers, 10 World Championships, and counting.
We are the first team this side of the Mississippi…
And the best fans this side of anywhere.
We are Cardinal Nation.

For lots of Americans, the game of baseball is something that has deep cultural and family connections. For people like myself, my father, and my children, we have grown up listening to and watching baseball, both in person and through various media. Because of this, lots of Americans have an ingrained understanding of the game, the rules, and the various complexities behind it.

Baseball is, as a game, very interesting and rich in strategy and statistical depth. You can watch it and follow it on many different levels.

But what if you haven’t been steeped in this American tradition? What if you come from lands distant, or if you had never seen a baseball game? Are you going to a game for the first time? Are you interested in learning about another sport, one with a storied history and tradition? Are you marrying someone who is a baseball super-fan but you don’t know the first thing about a foul ball, a bunt, or an infield fly?

The following posts are for you. In them, I’ll try to explain the basics of baseball, then moving into more complex aspects of the game, using “real” language and images whenever possible to highlight specific things about the game. It can be difficult to get a handle on the game at first, as many of the rules and concepts are inter-related. It’s hard to know where to start.

If, as you read, and as I write these posts, you have questions or you feel confused, please feel free to add a comment and ask your question or suggest an additional post. I will do what I can to build on this guide based on the needs of its readers.

I’ve added a link in the navigation for this site for these posts; I’ll also try to update this lead post with a table of contents of sorts to try and keep things organized.