4 Taking One for the Team:
Baseball and Sacrifice
Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal
fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness. Baseball has
—Comedian GEORGE CARLIN
It's a cool Saturday afternoon in June, with several high-profile interleague matchups on television. Two of these games provide a study in contrast. In the Yankees-Mets game, Alfonso Soriano reaches base to lead off the game. The next batter, Derek Jeter, lays down a perfect sacrifice bunt: the ball deadens on the dirt in front of home plate, easily advancing Soriano to second. When Jason Giambi bloops a single, to left, just out of the shortstop's reach, Soriano races home from second. The “Bronx Bombers” open the scoring thanks to two at-bats that together travel about 120 feet.
A couple of hours later, in the ninth inning of a ballgame that they would win in extra innings from the Red Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies get their leadoff batter to first base. With the heart of the order coming up, getting him into scoring position is of paramount importance. The next batter, Placido Polanco, is a rising star, but in this case he pulls the bat back on the first strike, and then pops the bunt up to the first baseman on the next pitch. The sacrifice fails; the runner remains at first, and is still stranded there when the inning ends.