It is on rare and happy occasions, perhaps akin to a white buffalo riding Halley’s Comet into a quiet Christopher Russo, or a loud Christopher Russo accepting his fate as the victim of the same cometary bovine, that that we hear analysts speak of players who “do things the right way.” This way of doing things correctly, or at least not incorrectly, is an achievement so exceptional, so absolutely white-buffalo-riding-Halley’s-Comet-into-a-blissful-dream uncommon, that fans might go years or even decades without hearing an expert place it squarely atop the scale of things as they have now been done. Yes? But have you ever stopped to consider – I mean really stopped, like at a crosswalk – how things are best done the wrong way?
Right way: Pitcher pitches ball, follows through, assumes defensive position.
Wrong way: Pitcher pitches ball, follows through, stimulates parieto-occipital junction to achieve lucid dreaming, in which state he becomes – and is aware that he becomes – a rabid hyena in the wilds of the Serengeti, whereupon he eats the shortstop before snarling at a group of hungry umps whose runt he quickly devours.
Right way: Batter hits ball, drops bat, runs toward first base.
Wrong way: Batter hits ball, drops bat, cracks eggs into a bowl and adds half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, four tablespoons of milk and a dash of cinnamon.
Right way: Infielder crouches for grounder, fields it, throws to first.
Wrong way: Infielder crouches for grounder, fields it, hoists up the John B’s sail, sees how the mainsail sets, calls for the captain ashore, “Let me go home.”
Right way: Runner waits for outfielder to catch ball, tags, sprints toward plate.
Wrong way: Runner waits for outfielder to catch ball, tags, engages in a fierce pas de deux with the third baseman – a sort of push-pull adagio that yields to a passionate coda in which the frisson of male bonding immediately flares into the strain of mano-a-mano survival, the runner turning toward the dugout and the fielder holding him back in a gesture that is part caress and part sleeper hold.
Right way: Outfielder judges trajectory, settles under fly ball, catches it.
Wrong way: Outfielder judges trajectory, settles under fly ball, vomits.
Right way: Batter squares to bunt, gauges pitch location, bunts.
Wrong way: Batter squares to bunt, combusts.
Right way: Catcher crouches behind plate, gives sign, prepares to receive pitch.
Wrong way: Catcher vomits, combusts.
Right way: Runner takes lead, watches pitcher, breaks for second base.
Wrong way: Runner takes lead, watches pitcher, gives birth to twins.
Right way: Shortstop catches toss, touches second, fires to first for double play.
Wrong way: Shortstop catches toss, touches second, fires to third for no reason, compounding the error by criticizing U.S. foreign policy as it relates to China.
Right way: Outfielder sprints into gap, dives, extends to make catch.
Wrong way: Outfielder drinks moonshine and makes crude remarks.
Right way: Third baseman charges bunt, fields barehanded, fires to first.
Wrong way: Third baseman returns overdue library book.
Right way: Second baseman sprints to second, catches throw, tags runner.
Wrong way: Second baseman sprints to second, has erection lasting four hours.
Right way: First baseman stands near bag, extends glove, keeps runner close.
Wrong way: First baseman converts jock strap into origami swan.
Right way: Batter takes strike three, accepts conclusion, returns to dugout.
Wrong way: Batter takes strike three, rejects conclusion, goes full Rambo, disguising himself with foul-line chalk and waiting for his chance to pounce.
Right way: Player gets uniform dirty, wants to win.
Wrong way: Player gets win dirty, wants to uniform.
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.