Every way to make an out, ranked
Perhaps more than any other sport, baseball thrives on spontaneity. Once the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, nearly anything can happen -- from the surreal to the spectacular: Just think of how many different ways a batter or runner can get themselves out on a given play.
Not all of those ways are created equal, though. So, naturally, we ranked them -- all of them, 23 to 1, in accordance with the 2018 MLB rulebook and in ascending order of entertainment value.
23. The Infield Fly Rule
We understand and appreciate why it exists, but nothing is more anticlimactic than a batter being ruled out before the opposing team gets the chance to do anything.
From the Infield Fly Rule to its close relative. A popup is deflating as soon as it leaves the bat -- like someone blowing up a balloon only to turn around and let all the air out at once. At least that near certainty occasionally results in some memorable shenanigans, though.
21. Bunted third strike
The novelty here is outweighed by the immediate and abrupt sadness.
Groundouts can produce some spectacular defense, but the overwhelming majority lead to routine outs -- plus, you know the ball is on the ground as soon as it's hit.
Fairly routine, but it gets points for initial excitement as the ball leaves the bat. And hey, everyone loves a good reflex test:
18. Ran outside of the basepaths
This might seem a bit low at first, but it sounds more enjoyable than it actually is: Most runners only leave the basepath when they're giving themselves up. It's the ending to a weird sequence of events, not the weirdness itself.
17. Left the base early
An odd play, but one that only reveals itself after an appeal and some lengthy discussion between umpires -- more unique than entertaining.
Flyouts may seem to belong in the same category as groundouts, but they offer a bit more suspense: For a few moments, we're left wondering whether that ball might leave the yard or drop in for a hit. Plus, home run robberies are technically flyouts, too.
15. Strikeout swinging
Sure, they're not the most democratic plays in baseball, but everybody loves a good K. Two things keep it from placing higher: 1) They obviously happen all the time and 2) there are a lot of highly amusing ways to record an out.
14. Picked off
There's undeniable artistry to the pickoff, but it usually can only be appreciated in hindsight -- by the time you realize what's happened, the play's over and you're left waiting for the replay.
13. Missed a base
This can fall into the same appeal trap as leaving a base early, but it brings an added dash of "you had literally one job".
12. Strikeout looking
Swinging strikeouts get all the love, but hear me out here: It takes something truly special to cause a Major League hitter -- a man who has dedicated his entire life to swinging a bat -- to let strike three sail on by. I mean, just look at how satisfying this is:
Luis Severino, 99 mph Paint on his 94th Pitch. 🎨🖼️🖌️— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 3, 2018
11. Coach's interference
Fun fact: In the 19th century, it was fairly common practice for base coaches to try all sorts of things to distract their opponent, from shouting at opposing fielders to pretending to be baserunners. While serving as Brooklyn's third-base coach in 1890, George Smith got so worked up waving a runner in that he decided to run all the way home himself -- leading the catcher to tag him rather than the actual baserunner.
But while it's hilarious that Rule 6.01(a)(9) deems it interference when "the base coach leaves his box and acts in any manner to draw a throw by a fielder," it's such a rare sight that we can't quite place it as high as we'd like to.
10. Batter's interference
The answer to the question, "What if the sad trombone sound achieved sentience?"
9. Caught stealing
Both fortune and our ranking system favor the bold, and what could be bolder than trying to swipe a base? Baseball is at its best when it holds you in suspense -- and there's no better distillation of that lump-in-your-throat feeling than the brief moment between realizing that the runner has taken off and watching the catcher release his throw. (Plus, straight steals of home are possibly the most exciting few seconds in the game.)
8. Thrown out trying to tag up
Speaking of lumps in your throat: As soon as the ball leaves the bat, everyone at home and in the ballpark knows what's about to happen, and all that we can do is wait and see whether runner or outfielder will come out on top. It's essentially an attempted steal played out over hundreds of feet instead of 60, and who wouldn't want to see that?
7. Thrown out trying to take an extra base
Take all of the above -- the suspense, the one-on-one challenge -- then add in the frenzy that's been building as the runner flies around the bases.
6. Runner's interference
This one encompasses a lot -- from hard slides to intentional distractions to giving your fellow man a quick hug while rounding first -- and nearly all of them will make you want to check the replay.
5. Caught in a pickle
Even your run-of-the-mill rundown provides ample opportunity for weirdness, but if you're lucky, you'll get to witness a few seconds of uncut, improvisational madness.
4. Briefly attempted to run to second only to be tagged out before getting back to first
As you're probably already aware, players are allowed to overrun the bag at first base ... provided, of course, that they don't make any attempt to advance to second. Make even the slightest move, and suddenly they're fair game -- which has led to much hilarity in the past:
3. Passed the lead runner
This has it all, really: It's rare, it's visually hilarious and everyone watching can see it unfold in front of them in real time.
2. Batted out of order
Batting out of order, on the other hand, isn't as rare as you'd think -- it's happened at least a dozen times since 2000. But as the Mets and Reds showed us back in May, nothing can wreak complete, confused-math-lady-meme chaos on a game quite like a small clerical error:
1. "Running the bases in reverse order in an attempt to confuse the defense or to make a travesty of the game"
This is a real rule, taken verbatim from the MLB rulebook -- and yes, there's a very specific reason why someone thought to include it in the first place.
On Aug. 4, 1911, Washington Senators infielder Herman "Germany" Schaefer was at first while his teammate, Clyde Milan, stood at third as the would-be winning run in the team's game against the White Sox. Schaefer took off for second, hoping that the steal attempt would draw a throw to second base and allow Milan to score.
But Chicago's catcher wouldn't fall for it, pocketing the ball and simply letting Schaefer advance. Now standing on second, there was little he could do but hope that the batter came through ... or, alternatively, he could just steal first base and try again.
Schaefer took his lead on the wrong side of the bag, took off for first on the very next pitch and then tried to steal second again. The shenanigans were for naught -- on Schaefer's second attempt, Milan got thrown out at home -- but they did force MLB to stipulate that running the bases backwards was in fact outlawed.
And, thanks to