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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Infield Fly Rule as Mitzvah

On last week's edition of Tablet Magazine's Unorthodox podcast, a listener letter (read at the 1:07 mark) argues that baseball is the most Jewish sport, because it has "long tradition, weird and obscure rules that are subject to interpretation and doesn't change on a whim."

I like it, but it got me thinking: Which of the 613 Mitzvot is analogous to the Infield Fly Rule?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 21, 2018 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink


The reason for the rule always seemed more of what a Scott might describe as "against the spirit of the game"... I won't speculate if my stereotype is ethnically correct but the concept is part of my impression.

Any rule that incentivizes behavior contrary to core goals creates a moral hazard towards actions being rewarded that cost society more? A building insured to pay for more than its value after a fire promotes arson. A situation that promoted dropping the ball removes the idea that fielders will try their hardest to catch the ball and runners should use good faith assessment about the arc of a ball and run or not based on athletic potential of opponents ... being tagged running in a forced out or double play switched them into... run as fast as you can mode.

There is moral hazard in a rule that creates a cost to the overall enjoyment of fans and participants expecting purities of certain roles.

Baseball has all sorts of trickery built in but within character roles.

The pitcher is supposed to decieve the batter to prevent the batter a successful hit. .. to suggest expected "spirit" expectations of the spectators... think of the boos heard for intentional walks ... sure there is some campyness to those boos but i would assert fans also feel a certain violation to the spirit of the game that the pitcher must face down each batter trying to strike each out.?

Mitzvots? I am not versed on the Mitsvots but a very brief google on "Mitzvot for moral hazard" referenced a few in one article including this snippet:

in Pirkei Avot 2:1: “Calculate the cost of a mitzvah against its reward, and the reward of a sin against its cost.”

Posted by: Mike22 | Oct 22, 2018 6:28:12 PM

The infield fly rule enshrines a relatively straightforward fairness principle--albeit it one that requires a measure of judicial discretion in its application.

An analogous mitzvah might be the requirement that in taking the eggs of a nest, we must permit the mother bird to go free (thereby not unfairly taking advantage of her paternal instincts and prudently ensuring the preservation of a valuable resource). This positive mitzvah suggests that the Torah frowns on unfairly turning double plays.

Posted by: DovTov | Oct 22, 2018 11:09:42 AM

Not conversant in the 613 mitzvot (though I did once recite the 4 questions at my now-wife's home one passover), but would only venture that the reciprocal nature of the infield fly rule (if they use it we'll have to use it - baseball's vresion of the MAD doctrine?) - let's make sure no one uses it) might just be a rule to ensure the "golden rule applies to baseball: Rabbi Hillel replied, "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary. Go and study it." Course then there's sign stealing etc., so nevermind.

Posted by: Steve | Oct 22, 2018 6:56:01 AM

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