Admit there is no more beautiful play in baseball than the bunt
If you want me to say that sacrifice bunts are a poor way to score runs, fine, I'll admit it. I'm not scared of the truth. I've seen the run expectancy charts.
If you want me to say that bunts are a waste of outs -- that most precious baseball commodity -- then fine, I'll agree with you there, too.
But if you want me to say that bunts are bad, I never will. Because bunts are beautiful. Bunts are like a setting sun over a field of wildflowers, or a mother's kiss upon the cheek. Do we hate the magic of a warm, spring evening because warm, spring evenings don't increase a team's chance of winning? No, that would be silly.
Bunts are art upon the baseball field.
Baseball, like most sports, is a pursuit of brute strength and athleticism. Batters swing from their heels for home runs. Pitchers load up to fire 95-mph plus fastballs. Baserunners push their hamstrings to their very snapping point to reach the next base.
The bunt is the exact opposite.
It means to deaden the ball. The batter squares and simply wants the wood to meet horsehide, dropping the ball softly onto the green grass. As every broadcaster makes clear when a batter struggles to do it, it's not as easy as it appears.
Laying down a bunt is a skill, like playing chess or cooking a souffle. The bunt involves a delicate touch and years of dedication.
The defense's response is also beautiful. The pitcher races in with confusion -- "Should I grab the ball?" he seems to ask. "I know my job is to throw the ball, but throwing to a base in this position is an existential dilemma that I'm not prepared for." The catcher runs out, his mask thrown to the wind, ready to fire. And the corners crash in, with the other infielders wheeling around to cover the bag. It's a practiced ballet of infield chaos.
Sometimes, it's an unpracticed ballet, and that is even better:
And all of this ignores the most beautiful element of the play: It's a sacrifice. When the hitter moves the runner over, he is giving up the most precious thing he has: his at-bat. It's an offering that says, "I have faith in this team. I have faith in the next batter. I know that this at-bat, where I could homer or strikeout, double or ground into a double play, is not for me. It is for the good of the team." And the hitter is justly rewarded with high fives when he returns to the dugout.
When the next batter does single and drives in the run, is there a better feeling of elation? Or when the pitch goes wide and the runner scores instead of merely standing 90 feet closer? That is the feeling of nails scratching that one spot in your back you couldn't reach, or a hot cocoa on a frigid day.
You will remember the player who hit the ball. You will remember the name of the player who scored. But you will probably forget the man who put him in scoring position with his sacrifice.
So, join me in appreciating the bunt as a spectacle for the eyes, if not the scoreboard. Allow it to be a work of art in the middle of the game.