Jayson Stark recently penned a great ESPN.com column on the baseball rule book and included a 10-question true-or-false test that several baseball people agreed to take.
This stuff is right in my wheelhouse, not because I'm an expert by any means, but because I find some of the rules really intriguing.
The results of the quiz were fascinating, and you can find it online at espn.com or linked with this story at dailyherald.com. For the record, I got 6 of the 10 right, which thankfully was considering a "passing" grade. Whew!
I have often thought of crazy, yet plausible scenarios based on baseball's wacky rules and Stark's study spawned even more. In honor of his piece, I will construct some of my own potential situations using his template.
Consider this: The Cubs are in their first World Series in well over 100 years (you gotta like where this is going so far!) and it's Game 7, bottom of the ninth at Boston. Tie game, Daniel Nava is at third with one out and James Russell gets Dustin Pedroia to hit a foul pop up near the first base dugout. Anthony Rizzo leans over the railing and makes a great catch, tumbling feet over head into the Red Sox dugout for the key second out. Or so we think. Because he fell out of play and held onto the ball, Pedroia is out, but Nava is allowed to advance one base and trots home with the World Series-winning run (OK, not such a fun ending).
How about this one, and it has as much to do with a scoring quirk as it does with the rule book. Jeff Samardzija is throwing a no-hitter when he walks Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen with two outs in the top of the ninth. Because the Cubs have a 6-0 lead, Anthony Rizzo plays behind McCutchen at first as Garrett Jones then pulls a blistering ground ball that takes a funny hop off the lip of the infield grass and hits McCutchen on the left heel. McCutchen is immediately called out and the game ends. But the no-hitter is ruined because Jones is credited with a base hit.
Yes, both cases are once-in-a-lifetime possibilities, but under the rules of baseball, they absolutely could happen.
I have talked a lot with infield coaches over the years about another scenario and how a savvy infielder might test a runner's knowledge of the infield fly rule.
Let's say it's the bottom of the ninth, Cubs at Cardinals. Tie game, bases loaded, one out. Allen Craig hits a high pop-up to shallow short. Umpires immediately call an infield fly, so Craig is out. But Starlin Castro lets the ball drop right in front of him. An unsure Matt Carpenter (sorry Matt, somebody's gotta be my guinea pig here!), thinking he needs to break up a force at the plate, takes off from third and Castro throws to Welington Castillo, who tags Carpenter for an inning-ending double play.
Most coaches agree that because of the extraordinary circumstance, many runners would temporarily panic and think they need to run and that you might be able to pick up a cheap out.
However, there are risks. If you don't catch the ball, it could take a weird hop and bounce too far away or you could blow a rundown and end up losing the game.
Even the most savvy players can temporarily forget these complicated rules, and in a split-second contests can be won and lost.
It's what makes baseball such an intellectual -- and often mind-boggling -- game.
• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]