Tuesday 3 July 2012

Bottom of the 1st, June 28th 2012.

Stupid tricks, as a rule, do not work. That's what makes them stupid. In grade three, when the schoolyard clown pointed to your shirt, got you to look down, and flicked your nose on the way up, that was a stupid trick at work. You, (and I to be honest), tried to spot that trick as quickly as possible. It lacks sophistication, and when frequently attempted, it is easily thwarted.

There are lots of places in baseball to try a stupid trick. The middle infielders, as they make plays around the bag, make motions and noises to indicate they are going to be part of the play, when, in fact, the ball is traveling elsewhere. The catcher will pump-fake to second with runners on first and third, trying to trick the runner on third into a mistake. The pitcher has an entire section of the rulebook defining the limits of his trickery. If he gets too tricky, he is the only player with penalties outlined for his tricking transgressions. The balk rules are more nebulous than the trick plays they prevent.

But, like a dime-store magic trick, when applied properly, stupid tricks can pay off.

The pump fake is a great starting point to deceive another baseball player. If you have ever played fetch with an enthusiastic dog, you have likely used the pump fake to break up the monotony. I can remember being ten years old and launching my arm through a vicious throwing motion at point blank range, all while holding tight to the ball in my hand. The reaction was most satisfying, at least for the first time or two.

I'm sure you are wondering what, indeed, the pump faking of a ten year old has to do with a game played in the National League on June 28th, 2012. Coming into third base, Carlos Gonzalez. On the left of your GIF, Ryan Zimmerman, or Captain Pumpfakery, for our purposes here.

That stretch will not save you Carlos!
Those are two highly paid, professional athletes. They are making millions of dollars, and are dedicated to their craft. They are also playing at schoolyard level fakery that would make and 10 year old T-ball player proud.

The crack research team at Baseball is Magic has determined that this nifty little sleight of hand was performed in the bottom of the first inning, with the score 1-0. Zimmerman has Marco Scutaro in front of him, just about to cross home plate. Gonzalez then makes the critical error everyone fooled by a magician always makes, he looks where Zimmerman wants him to look, which is the opposite of where he should be looking.Instantly, he pays for taking his eye off the ball, being tagged out after rounding third.

This play saved a run, erasing a baserunner that would have scored on Tyler Colvin's home run in the at-bat that immediately followed the play. The play may have garnered more notice, but the game turned into an 11 inning romp, with the Rockies prevailing 11-10. Which means that CarGo is probably happy that everybody forgot about his falling victim to a stupid trick.

Well, everybody but you and I, that is.

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