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Coding Baseball <body> Frank Robinson was furious. The irascible Hall of Famer wasn’t known for his genial personality, particularly on the field, but in this particular instance, he was especially angry. Despite holding a sizeable lead, St. Louis had stolen a base in a 1982 game against San Francisco, and the Giants manager was steamed. Cardinals skipper Whitey Herzog took note of his counterpart’s ire and scrawled a note that he asked the batboy to deliver to the opposing dugout. Jim Kaat, then at the tail end of a long and prosperous pitching career, was in the dugout to witness the altercation and still remembers the message. “It said, ‘If you agree to stop scoring runs, we’ll stop stealing bases,’” Kaat says with a laugh. To the baseball purist, the Cards had broken one of baseball’s laws by stealing despite its big lead. It can’t be found in the official rulebook, but for generations, there had been universal agreement that teams didn’t try to pour it on by grabbing extra bases while sitting on fat advantages. Herzog couldn’t claim ignorance of the tradition, because by the time he reached the St. Louis dugout, he had been in baseball for three decades. He also couldn’t trust that Robinson, one of the game’s fiercest competitors, was going to surrender despite a huge deficit. “Even a 5-1 or 6-1 lead isn’t safe, because so many people can go downtown,” says Kaat, an MLB Network analyst who will call Showcase games this season. Kaat and Herzog have a point. When you are trying to win a game, it doesn’t make sense to let up, especially given baseball’s unpredictable nature and the large body of evidence that supports the idea that no lead is safe. But baseball’s unwritten code of conduct doesn’t always adhere to logic. Its goal is to ensure players respect the sport and the opponent, no matter what the situation. </body>


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