Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Baseball v Cricket

I love this time of year and what it brings to the senses: the crack of the bat, sunlight in your eyes, the smell of the grass.

Baseball? No, cricket. Opening day is almost here, but down in the Caribbean, sixteen countries are vying for the Cricket World Cup. These two games share a common origin, but each have developed a following in different parts of the world. Typically, baseball fans know little of cricket and think their game is superior, and vice versa. You can read Wikipedia's comparison between cricket and baseball for all the details, but we are here today to decide once and for all which game is better. There are ten categories worth ten points each, plus a bonus category worth up to five points. Play ball.

Best current player
You could easily substitute one of a handful of other players here, but Albert Pujols serves as a good representative. He has a career .332 batting average and has 250 home runs in six seasons. In his career, he has been named Rookie of the Year and MVP, and last year won the World Series with the St Louis Cardinals.
Ricky Ponting is currently the number one ranked batsman in the world, so this choice is a little easier to make. He has a 59.29 batting average (his average runs scored per batting appearance) and 58.95 strike rate (runs per 100 balls). If you look at just the past five years, his batting average jumps to 74. Putting it bluntly: he already ranks as the number three batsman of all time.

Best historical player
Most of Babe Ruth's records have fallen to various players over time, but none of them had the complete package the Babe did. He is known for his batting, but remember, he was a pretty good pitcher in his time with the Red Sox as well.
99.94. Any cricket fan in the world recognizes that number as Don Bradman's career batting average. Second place is a full twenty runs less; the rest of the pack tops out at 61. And these aren't just the Australians—we're talking worldwide, all-time players. Statistical analysis by Charles Davis in The Best of the Best reveals Bradman as the most dominant player in any major sport. He says by comparison, a baseball player would need a career .392 average to equal Sir Don's dominance.

Best rivalry
Yankees/Red Sox: Love 'em or hate 'em, this is the best rivalry in the game. This intense rivalry stems from proximity, civic pride, divisional competition and the Curse of the Bambino. Fairly lopsided in the Yankees favor, but intense nonetheless, and more competitive of late.
Australia/England: This rivalry dates to 1882, when Australia beat England on an English pitch for the first time, shocking the hosts and creating the legend of the ashes. It wouldn't be the last time. This rivalry is also rather lopsided, but both sides, and much of the cricket world, closely follow the Ashes Series.

Best venue
This is another one that is up for debate, but I'll go with Wrigley Field. It's got ivy, day games and tons of history.

Lords is considered the home of cricket. Many of cricket's greatest moments, particularly in the Ashes Series, took place here. It might be iconic, but I don't care for the look of the Media Centre.

Game length
Three hours is a fairly standard time for the completion of a game in most major sports, and baseball fits the bill.

There are variations of the game, but the most popular is test cricket, which lasts for five days. Even one day cricket lasts (surprise!) a day, or about six hours of playing time, plus lunch and tea breaks. Only the new (and often maligned) Twenty20 fits within the three hour window.

You win. Or you lose. Short of a rainout, that's it.

You win. Or you lose. Or, if you score the same number of runs, you could tie, although this is very unlikely. Or you could draw (which is different than a tie) if the game is not complete after the alloted time has expired. Yes, it is possible to play a game for five days and basically get no result.

Despite last year's World Baseball Classic, baseball is primarily limited to the US, the Caribbean, and parts of East Asia. And the WBC had to get a little creative to find sixteen teams—even Australia qualified.

Cricket's strongest players are mostly within England and the Commonwealth. According to the International Cricket Council, there are ten full members, 32 associate members (cricket firmly established) and 55 affiliate members (cricket is played). By the way, the US is an associate member, but did not qualify for the Cricket World Cup.

Baseball is notorious for the phrase 'if you aren't cheating, you aren't trying'. Corked bats, pine tar and of course steroids are all issues in the game today. Players and managers arguing with umps is also common, and a player would never correct a call to his own detriment. The redeeming factor is the unwritten code of respect that requires teams to stop stealing bases with a big lead or not show up a pitcher after a home run.
Cricket players often police themselves during a game and arguing calls is rare. About the worst you get is sledging, the cricket equivalent of 'we need a pitcher, not a belly itcher'.

World Series Trophy—My little league trophies were cooler than this.

The AshesNow this little urn tells a story, and you can read a little about it here.

Personally, I like the simplicity of the home whites/road grays. But I hate the softball team look of the alternate colored jerseys.

Test cricket looks great with the whites. One Day and Twenty20 looks ridiculous with the pajamas.

Bonus: Kooky Traditions
More than a few baseball players don't step on lines, always step on bases or some variation when running onto the field.

Cricket has the Nelson, representing a run score of 111. Named for Lord Horatio Nelson, supposedly for a missing eye, arm and leg, the score is thought to be unlucky. Umpires are often seen standing on one leg while a batter is on this score.

Well, the numbers don't lie: Cricket wins 83-78. Neither game is flawless, but you can't go wrong with either one. The good news is this: you don't have to choose. So enjoy the start of the baseball season, but make an effort to catch some of the Cricket World Cup action over the next few weeks, even if they are playing in their pajamas.


heather said...

I shared your write up with a few true blue Australians to see if you had the cricket half of your analysis right. Here is one of the emails I got:

"As an aussie bought up on cricket in the summer and footy in the winter, I am very impressed with this comparison and I even learnt about the Nelson!! Lord's is the home of cricket and a pilgramage must be made there at least once in one's life but some would argue that the MCG and SCG are great places to play cricket as well. I agree with the media centre...awful. The main room in Lords even has a portrait of our Warnie which I think has upset some of the locals.

My sister went to the baseball when she was in the States earlier this year - one of the New York Teams - and loved it!!!"

rus said...

Let play a little Jeopardy.

"I'll take SPORTS for $200, Alex."

"Answer: WNBA, World's Strongest Man, and Cup Stacking."

"What are three sports more interesting than cricket?"

Chris said...

Cute, Rus, but have you actually ever watched cricket? Many people say the same of baseball.
As for the first comment, MCG and SCG are great, but if you have to pick one, it's got to be Lords. Baseball venue was an even tougher tough pick—Wrigley, Fenway, Yankee Stadium, not to mention newer parks like Camden Yards and AT&T Park (formerly SBC (formerly Pac Bell)).

El Person said...

I like cricket, or rather Bangladesh cricket, but I love baseball, or rather the Giants. Oh, and Yankees-Red Sox doesn't even come close to Dodgers-Giants in terms of intensity.

Chris said...

el person, you're kidding, right?

El Person said...


Chris said...

I like both the Dodgers and the Giants more than the Yanks and Sox, and that is a good rivalry, but the country practically stops down for a Yanks/Sox series.

Chris said...

Just read the Caple article you linked to. What we have here is a difference in the definition of what a great rivalry is. I concede Dodgers/Giants is much more balanced, but Yanks/Sox is much more fierce. To me, that makes is the better rivalry--the sports world stops to watch that series. Only California cares about Dodgers/Giants.

El Person said...

I think that's more a result of ESPN and the East Coast bias than anything. If the Giants still played in New York and the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn, you would get that Yankees-Red Sox effect, multiplied tenfold.

rus said...

You mean to tell me that the Rangers/ Astros battle for the Silver Boot isn't on par with Yankee/ Red Sox or Dodgers/ Giants?

I refuse to believe that.

Chris said...

El person, I condidered East Coast Bias when I made my last comment but rejected it. I'm not EC either, but I think that argument is untrue for the most part. This rivalry is overcovered in the media, but Yanks/Sox is huge because these teams are consistently winners, not because ESPN tells me I have to like it.

Chris said...

And Rus: um, no.

rus said...

I'm with Chris on this one. Yankees/ Red Sox is the biggest rivalry not because of the East Coast bias, but because for several years they had grudge matches in the playoffs. I was living in New York in '04 and '05 and it was crazy. Greatest sports moment not involving one of my favorite teams is when the Red Sox won four straight in the ALCS against the Yankees after being down 3-0. Awesome.

El Person said...

You may be right, but you'll never get me, a Giants fan, to believe. Oh, and the Cricket World Cup is ridicoulously hard to get back in the United States. I envy you, Chris.

Chris said...

It is true we get the CWC here, at least the Australian games, but it's on TV overnight. I tried to stay up for the AU/England game a couple nights ago and fell asleep in the second over.
As for viewing in the US, isn't there a local sports bar with the games? That's what I have to do for all my US sports viewing here.

El Person said...

I haven't found one with cricket matches yet. Still looking.