Are there no punishments for cheating in baseball?


I hate cheating in sports and feel that players who do so should be punished severely. I have written before on this when it comes to cricket where a player who violates the rules is punished and if the act is particularly egregious, such as showing signs of premeditation or careful planning or collusion, then the punishments become even stiffer for ‘violating the spirit of the game’.

So I was shocked by this report on a recent baseball game.

During the Mets’ Monday win over the Dodgers, Todd Frazier took a spectacular catch, diving into the stands to snag a foul ball and keeping hold of it despite tumbling over the barrier. However, the ball Frazier emerged with wasn’t the ball that had been hit by the Dodgers’ Alex Verdugo – it was a rubber ball that he had grabbed after losing hold of the original one.

The cheater then regales his teammates about what he did and how he fooled the umpire.

This TV reporter treats it like a piece of cleverness and the news host laughs about it.

This is disgusting. Why is this player not punished severely?

Comments

  1. says

    I agree: this is clearly cheating and it should be punished.

    A related interesting question however is when something that would clearly be cheating in another context is within the bounds of the rules for a particular game. You probably know Euchre, living in the midwest as you do. When I was taught Euchre, I was taught that there were no penalties for stacking the deck, nor any penalties for dealing without offering a cut. However, if you don’t offer a cut and deal anyway (this is the easiest way to stack the deck, though there are quick-fingered cardsharps who can do more complicated tricks to stack the deck despite a cut), if either opposing player calls you out for it, you have to gather the cards, reshuffle, offer the cut, and then redeal.

    In the vast majority of card games, stacking the deck is cheating, but in Euchre (as I was taught it) the opportunity to stack the deck is treated as a legitimate tactic in the game and a chance to develop magicians’ card trick skills, skills at keeping up distracting conversation, etc. These other skills were considered valid Euchre skills even though you’d get kicked out of a poker game for doing the same thing.

    So, yes, stick with the rules of the game you’re playing. This baseball player did not. However the differences in rules between games create some fascinating ground for exploration.

  2. Mano Singham says

    Crip Dyke,

    I play card games but have never played Euchre and do not know the rules, so your description was interesting!

  3. says

    It’s a lot like Pinochle, but scaled down to increase the pace of play and with simplified score keeping. It works well for family gatherings when you want to play a game but you don’t know when you’ll need to stop – each hand can be played fairly quickly….

    Ace is high, use only the cards 9 to A.

    In most circumstances:
    A beats K beats Q beats J beats 10 beats 9.
    The exception will be dealt with below.

    In addition, you have a bidding process, but it’s also simplified: you’re just pledging to take 3 of the 5 tricks. You don’t out-bid your opponents by bidding a “higher” suit or by pledging to take more tricks.

    Instead, you deal 5 cards to each player (in a 9-A deck there are 6 x 4 suits = 24 cards). The top card of the 4 remaining is turned up for all to see. If you want that suit to be trump, you order the dealer to “Pick it up”. Once the face-up card has been ordered up, the suit of that card becomes trump.

    The dealer takes up the card and discards one card without showing the others. The dealer thus has a significant advantage for knowing one of the cards that is out of play and for getting to select the best 5 cards out of 6 possible.

    The person to the dealer’s left has first option to order trump, then the player opposite the dealer – who is the dealer’s partner – then the player to the dealer’s right (the first player’s partner), then the dealer. If none of the players wish that suit to be trump when it comes to the dealer, a dealer who declines that suit as trump simply turns the card over without taking it into her hand. Then the players in the same order get to name any trump they wish EXCEPT the suit that was on the face-up card (It would be cheating to have a good hearts hand, deny the dealer the opportunity to take up a heart, then name hearts to be trump after the heart on top of the deck had been turned down).

    The first player to name any suit determined the trump, and between that person and their partner they must now take 3 of the 5 tricks. If they do, they get 1 point. If they take 4 tricks, they still get one point. If they take all 5 they get 2 points. If they fail to get 3, the other team gets 2 points.

    Once trump has been decided, two of the jacks are re-valued. The jack of the trump suit becomes the highest trump card. the jack of the same color now beats the Ace of trump but loses to the jack of the trump suit. So if trump were hearts, the order would be:

    Jack of Hearts beats Jack of Diamonds of beats Ace beats King beats Queen beats 10 beats 9.

    No other cards, not even the jacks of the other color, change value.

    Play is just like bridge or Pinochle: The person to the dealer’s left plays the first card. Everyone playing after must play the exact same suit UNLESS they have none of that suit. The highest value card in that suit wins (other suits don’t count) unless one or more trump are played (which can, of course, only be played at all if you’re fortunate enough not to have any of the original suit). In that case, the highest trump card played wins the trick. After the first trick, the player who won the last trick leads off for each of the next 4 tricks.

    Meet your bid with 3 or 4 tricks, you get 1 point
    Meet your bid with all 5 tricks, you get 2 points
    Fail to meet your bid (the other team gets at least 3 tricks), and you got “Euchred”. That opposing team gets 2 points.
    Play a card that does not match the suit that was led for that trick while actually having at least one of that suit in your hand is known as “Reneging on the Lead” or more briefly as “a renege”. This is a violation of the rules, and if you commit this violation play ceases immediately, the hand is over, and the opposing team gets 2 points.

    The one exception to this play (and this scoring system) is that if one person thinks they have a truly exceptional hand (usually at least 2 jacks of the same color plus 1-2 Aces, preferably at least one of the Aces being a trump card), they can order their partner not to play. They do this by accepting trump (ordering up the Up card, or after all 4 persons have declined it, naming one of the other 3 suits) and announcing in the same moment, “I’m going alone” (or whatever your customary words are).

    …curiously, in most places I’ve played Euchre, the penalty for a renege is the same whether or not one of your opponents is “going alone”. However, in some locations to discourage you from purposely reneging when it’s clear your opponent will get 4 points in order to reduce their gain to 2 there is a local tradition that a renege against an opponent going alone gives 4 points to the other team. I’ve seen lots of disagreement on this point, mostly because the people with whom I played would only ever renege by accident and some of them objected to the idea that they might do so on purpose to shave points from the other team. The 4 point rule was thus seen as insulting to their sportsmanship. In other places, usually where there is also a greater than usual amount of deal-stealing and deck-stacking, reneging against an opponent going alone is taken as a natural game maneuver to try. If it is not noticed – or studiously ignored – by your opponent, nothing is lost by the opponent. Therefore one could argue that the person going it alone would only take the 2 points if they were worried the hand wasn’t going as well as expected, therefore there’s no need for a 4 point penalty to discourage this play (since you’re mostly giving 2 points in a situation where the person going alone would only have earned 1). It’s interesting how local styles of play affect rules like this.

    When someone chooses to go alone, the opposing partners still play as a team, just as normal. The loner’s partner, however, does not participate at all, so that team only has one chance to take each trick.

    This changes nothing in play or scoring (you still have to take 3 tricks to meet your contract) EXCEPT if you choose to go alone and win all 5 tricks by yourself, you score 4 points instead of the usual 2.

    ==================================================================

    Rules which appear to operate more as traditions, but in fact are typically enforced as ordinary rules:

    The deal:
    Cards are dealt in 2s and 3s. You may do this in varying combinations, but each player must end up with 5 cards after 2 passes, and each partner in a partnership must get the same number of cards in the same round.

    If North is dealing, East would be to North’s left. The following are valid deals:

    First Pass:
    East: 2
    South: 2
    West: 2
    North: 2
    Second Pass:
    East: 3
    South: 3
    West: 3
    North: 3

    First Pass:
    East: 3
    South: 3
    West: 3
    North: 3
    Second Pass:
    East: 2
    South: 2
    West: 2
    North: 2

    First Pass:
    East: 2
    South: 3
    West: 2
    North: 3
    Second Pass:
    East: 3
    South: 2
    West: 3
    North: 2

    First Pass:
    East: 3
    South: 2
    West: 3
    North: 2
    Second Pass:
    East: 2
    South: 3
    West: 2
    North: 3

    Further, as I’ve stated, because there are a small number of tricks each with a focus on one suit, it’s not that hard to surreptitiously take up the cards from the previous hand’s tricks in a knowing order, then appear to shuffle without losing track of four cards from a particular trick. If you can then conspire to get 3 cards under those four and place all 7at the bottom of the deck, you’ll have 3 of those cards in your hand with the 4th being the UP card which determines the only initially valid option for the trump suit. Once the dealer selects that suit, the dealer picks up that card and throws away the least desirable of the 2 cards dealt together in the first pass, making only one of the dealer’s cards random.

    This is totally and completely legal. However, a cut is traditionally offered to the person on the dealer’s right, and must be allowed if the dealer doesn’t originally offer but the person owning the right of cut then asks for one. Failing to offer a cut isn’t penalized (other than with needing to reshuffle and redeal if you got partway through your deal before called on this), but it creates a suspicion of deck-stacking. Many deck-stackers prefer to offer a deal happily and conspicuously every time, then start stacking the deck just in case a cut is declined later in the game as people trust more because of your helpful offers.

    Stacking the deck and then offering a cut is dangerous, however, because now you have a stack of cards of one suit that were not shuffled and are somewhere in the deck – not necessarily where you would like them to be. Many people choose not to attempt to stack the deck for that reason.

    Also, dealing obviously carries with it significant advantages. The opportunity to deal is usually randomly determined at the beginning (although it could also be offered by consensus) and then proceeds to the person to the last dealer’s left. (So now the most recent dealer has the right of cut).

    If it’s not your turn to deal and you pick up the cards and deal anyway and no one challenges you on this, then once you finish the deal by turning the UP card so all can see its suit, you have “stolen the deal” and even if your opponents belatedly realize the deal was stolen, the hand which was fully dealt must be played as is, with deal then proceeding to the last dealer’s left as normal. Stealing the deal is much more common than stacking the deck, in part because there’s no potential penalty (as with the unshuffled cards of a single suit potentially ending up in an opponent’s hand). But even so it’s hard to get away with stealing the deal more than once or twice in a single evening.

    Stacking the deck and stealing the deal are most easily accomplished not through slight of hand, but through distracting conversation. Get a person who loves to talk going on a subject they enjoy, and you just might be able to steal more than one deal in a row. (I myself once dealt 3 times in a row and I played against someone who was very, very good at this and would steal the deal at least once in every 10 point game. She told me that she had once dealt 5 times in a row. It seems improbable, but in an exceptional case with a drunk or loquacious opponent, it’s apparently possible.

    There are other little tings – it’s traditional to take the 5s out of the discarded half of the deck and use them as score-counters. You start out with one 5 face down over the another which is face up. When you score a point, you move the face up card so that it covers the bottom card less completely, revealing one suit-marker per point scored until 5, then flipping the top card face up but fully covering the bottom 5 and preceding to uncover suit-markers one-per-point again until the bottom card is fully uncovered and the game is one.

    However, these types of things aren’t coded as “rules” and it’s perfectly acceptable to keep score via pad and paper (or at least it was with the folks who taught me). Everything that was taught to me as a “rule” is contained above. Euchre is largely a game of the Midwest and certain parts of Canada (Ontario to parts of Alberta), so it’s pretty regional, but it also has even more local quirks. Players from Wisconsin might have their own rules about what constitutes a decline of a cut, for instance (where I learned it one taps the top of the deck as it is offered to you, but you needn’t say anything…but in other places you must say aloud that you’re declining a cut, and a dealer who believes that a nod was sufficient can be made to redeal if the person with right-of-cut stops them before the UP card is turned).

    Part of the fun of Euchre for me was meeting people who had different ideas about which traditions were important enough to count as “rules” and which were local flavor to be cultivated but not enforced.

    If you ever try the game, give me a shout and let me know how you liked it. It’s best if you join up with some people who are experienced with the game first. Even though the rules are straightforward, they don’t contain the kind of game-strategies that help you stack the deck or steal the deal, and then there are all the colorful traditions that you’ll simply miss completely.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    The culture of sports is interesting, and I believe it says a lot about the sort of people who watch it. I know nothing about US baseball culture, but it seems from the description to have taken a lesson from professional football (actual football, not hand-egg, the game only Americans call football). Cheating is absolutely rife right up to the top level in absolutely every single game I’ve ever seen, but worse, so is open intimidation of match officials. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8Xjd5cWjw0
    Incidents like this are why I consider football is not worth watching.

    By contrast, the culture in rugby league (which is a tiny bit like American football, but is somewhat safer due to the lack of pads, helmets, body armour, gloves etc. and more interesting to watch because play stops once every forty minutes instead of every fifteen seconds), is of absolute respect to the referee. For instance: only the captain can even TALK to the ref – any player who even addresses an offhand comment to the ref as he walks past risks a sending off. The captain willl address the ref as “sir”, and if he argues or questions his decisions – he’ll be sent off. Cheating still happens, but it’s not encouraged like it is in football.

  5. says

    @ Crip No. 1

    When I learned to play cards in the Navy I was rabid advocate of the advice of John Scarne’s advice regarding cutting the cards. His advice focused on what is sometimes called The Whorehouse Cut:

    A form of cut in which the cutter holds the cards in one hand, removes the bottom half with the other and places them atop the remaining half, pulls a packet from the center and places those cards on top of the remaining cards. This cut is named after John Scarne, who lectured and wrote about gambling thieves, and introduced this form of cut as a means of foiling cheaters who had stacked the deck.

    His most hard and fast rule was to never sit in a game where such a cut is prohibited. I followed the rule assiduously.

  6. says

    I’ve got no problem with cheating in baseball if it means making the game interesting. I received free tickets to a game once and it was the only time I’ve ever walked out of an event I’ve attended because I was worried the boredom would literally kill me.

  7. jazzlet says

    CD
    Thnks for the description of Echre, it’s one of those card games I’ve seen referenced in books, but never known how it was played, or even that involved bidding for tricks.

    The only game I’ve ever played where cheating was allowed if you could get away with it was Cheat, which I haven’t played since I was a child. If the rules of the ame permit it fine, but if they don’t then penalties should certainly result.

  8. ridana says

    Dammit, now I’m in the mood for Euchre! Alas, I don’t know anyone to play with in CA. Online players move too fast for my decrepit brain, and I can’t cover with mutterings and such. I’ve never heard of the stealing the deal or cutting rules before, but maybe that’s just because no one I’ve ever played with had the skills to do it, so it never came up.

    As for baseball, yes it was cheating, and if the opposing team wished to make a complaint about it, something would be done, but they haven’t, so it won’t. I suspect that the reason many people are cheering it is because 1) it wasn’t premeditated, like corking the bat or scuffing the ball, 2) they admire his quick thinking, and 3) he got away with it.

    The other part of it is that this particular instance was very like the sort of trickery that the rules do allow, like faking a throw back to the pitcher and then tagging out the unwary runner who though it was safe to wander off the bag. And because so many calls come down to a split-second decision by the umpire, or how the umpire sees a 95 mph (153 kph) fastball coming across the plate, there’s almost as much competition between the players and the umps as there is between teams. Getting the ump to rule in your favor is the name of the game.

    So if the ump got fooled by a clever cheat on the spur of the moment, one that was serendipitous in the first place, that’s not seen by most as a hanging offense. If he’d brought the extra ball with him for just such an occasion, it would be viewed very differently I think. Likewise if it had been during an important game like the playoffs. If he tried that during a World Series game, he’d need bodyguards for awhile.

  9. Mano Singham says

    Crip Dyke @#3,

    Thanks for that explanation of the game. It seems to be quite similar to a card game that we used to play in Sri Lanka known as 5-3-2. It has the same elements of card play (such as tricks and trumps and a reduced deck of cards) but requires much less time and effort to learn than bridge. I am at the moment teaching a group of eight people how to play bridge. Some of them have never played any card games before (which surprised me) and getting them to understand the concept of trumps and tricks (and even the card hierarchy as AKQJ…) was not easy. It would have helped a lot if they had played 5-3-2 or Euchre and got the hang of cards.

  10. says

    @mano:

    It would have helped a lot if they had played 5-3-2 or Euchre and got the hang of cards.

    As I understand it (I am not from the midwest, but I went to college in Michigan and everyone in my dorm who came from Michigan played Euchre), this is frequently how the game is used. As kids they were all taught to play Euchre, and only after mastering Euchre were some of them taught Pinochle or Bridge. Not everyone moved on to the more complex games, but Euchre was considered an important stepping stone for those who did, and if you were young (I am told) you weren’t trusted to join a Pinochle or Bridge game if you hadn’t proved you had the basics down by playing Euchre.

    Now I’m interested in 5-3-2. More googling for me!

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