The Rundown: Baseball Writing’s Humble Beginnings, Maddon Gets New Gig, Costas Not Interested in Marquee Network

“In our sun-down perambulations, of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing base, a certain game of ball…Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms…the game of ball is glorious.” – Walt Whitman

No baseball yesterday, so what did you do? I re-started the classic documentary series Baseball by Ken Burns, and I’ll watch an episode each week, which will get me through the end of the year. By then, the hot stove should be more than a little toasty and we will have an idea of the direction Theo Epstein will take in building his 2020 roster.

To me, baseball seems like such a Midwestern thing, but its roots are grounded in New York. That’s where Alexander Joy Cartwright played with the various permutations of the great game we now know and codified the first set of ground rules with some help from co-founders and teammates of his Knickerbockers ballclub. The birth year of baseball is officially recognized as 1845.

At its outset, baseball was always destined to be the sport most associated with analytic sportswriting. Indeed, box score inventor Henry Chadwick is the father of baseball reporting, popularizing a then unknown sport by glorifying its majesty with astounding, poetic imagery while recording statistical entries.

“Americans do not care to dawdle over a sleep-inspiring game, all through the heat of a June or July day,” Chadwick wrote. “What they do they want to do in a hurry. In baseball all is lightning; every action is as swift as a seabird’s flight.”

As baseball’s first regular columnist, the writer defined and documented many of the terms we still use today, including runs, hits, putouts, assists, and errors. Additionally, Chadwick was the first to tally pitchers’ strikeouts, denoting them with the letter K. He also introduced the concept of earned and unearned runs in his nationally syndicated column, and was the first to calculate batting averages for his readers.

In fact he was so good at writing about the sport that league owners tasked Chadwick with writing the game’s first official rules book in 1858. Some of the rules changes he first introduced to baseball during the next few years, though commonplace now, seemed beyond radical at the time:

  • All sanctioned baseball games would be played by the same set of standardized rules.
  • The institution of called strikes.
  • League-sanctioned umpires.
  • A game would be considered complete after nine innings, with the team with the most runs being awarded the win. Previously a win was awarded to the first team to plate 21 runners.
  • A batter would be called out on any batted ball, fair or foul, that was fielded on a fly. Batters were called out if a ball was fielded on a fly or one bounce prior to this amendment.
  • No base could be made by the batter on a foul ball.

As I write this column today, I can’t help but think of the millions of words and phrases that have been used to describe this beautiful sport thanks to Chadwick. When you remove all of the modern bells and whistles, there is no greater pleasure than watching a game from a seat in your favorite stadium. Baseball is pure of soul, and carries the ability to anchor itself to the hearts of its fans with a like-mannered passion that no other form of entertainment can. There is no greater joy than writing about the game.

Cubs News & Notes

  • It appears that it is a two-man race between David Ross and Joe Espada to be the next manager of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Club.
  • In case you were wondering, Bob Costas has no interest in being part of the Marquee Network, nor was he courted by the Cubs. I’ve never understood why Costas is always mentioned when there is a potential opening in the team’s broadcast booth. After reading this piece, I still have no clue. I’m hopeful the Cubs retain Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies.
  • Joe Maddon was announced as the new manager of the Angels. Papa Joe gets a three-year deal that is worth between $12 million.
  • Congratulations on the new gig, Joe. Thanks again for the five-year party.
  • Nico Hoerner is in a position to perhaps play a huge role with the Cubs next season.
  • It’s possible that the front office could add as many as three more catchers to the team’s 40-man roster in the coming month.
  • Epstein and his family are being sued by Arizona homeowners for damages incurred during his stay in 2015 while the Cubs were in spring training. Julian Green, vice president of communications for the Chicago Cubs, said the lawsuit is “baseless.” The president of baseball operations claimed his landlords refused to do anything about dozens of scorpions that lived on the property, including venomous pests found in his children’s bedrooms. Yikes.

Thursday Stove

Per Dave Schoenfield of ESPN , the Cardinals may pursue ($) Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson in free agency this winter. The club doesn’t usually sit at the high roller’s table of the free-agent market, which may rule out Rendon, but Donaldson could be a fit. The veteran was mentioned as a potential target for St. Louis last year before he signed a one-year, $23 million deal with the Braves in late November.

Washington first base coach Tim Bogar has been linked to the Mets in regard to their managerial opening. The Nationals are idling as they await the winner of the Yankees-Astros series, so Bogar could theoretically interview during the extended downtime.

Joe Girardi has officially stepped down as Team USA manager in advance of the Premier 12 Olympic qualifier, leading many to speculate that an announcement that he will be managing somewhere next season is forthcoming. Scott Brosius will replace Girardi as manager of the US amateur team.

The Padres could be nearing the final steps in their search for a new manager, as two candidates, Ron Washington and Jayce Tingler, will receive second interviews for the position.

Never heard of Tingler? I’m here to help.

The Giants, Padres, and Mets have all shown some interest in Royals special advisor Mike Matheny as a possible candidate to fill their managerial vacancies.

Extra Innings

The Said It

  • “Please make it clear — I have the greatest respect for that organization, its history and its television history. But I don’t see my next primary broadcast job, if there is to be one, doing baseball, especially on a local level.” – Bob Costas
  • “It was not long before I was struck with the idea that the game of base was just the game for a national sport for Americans.” – Henry Chadwick

Thursday Walk Up Song

It Was a Very Good Year by Frank Sinatra. In praise of baseball’s storied history.

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