The Most Exciting Play in Baseball? Really?

Ok, this post is a tad late, but I am going to go with it anyhow.  After Sunday night's game, there were numerous references to the straight steal of home by Jacoby Ellsbury as "the most exciting play in baseball".  As the days passed I put some thought into this, and have decided that this is not correct.  The straight steal of home happens quickly.  There is very little structural drama.  It either works or it doesn't.  It is one of the most daring plays in baseball, and it is, for a brief second, dramatic and exciting.  But is it really the most exciting?  Is it any more exciting than any other close play at the plate?  Couldn't one (and one will, right now) argue that a batted ball to a gap, a relay, a close play at the dish is even more exciting, such as it contains numerous components that have to work in sequence and in concert, has more moving parts, and ascends, in developing fashion, to a climactic moment?  Isn't that build-up an essential element of drama, of greater excitement?  

I suppose the counter argument might be that this is a play that requires no batted ball, it is a play instigated by the runner in control of the moment, and therefore of qualitative difference. It is a play that doesn't rely on moving parts or external circumstances but rather the simple swashbuckling play of a single player. But I am not sure that the analysis has been that subtle or nuanced; the cliche repeated this week is that the straight steal of home is the most exciting play in baseball, without qualification. It wasn't referred to as "the single most exciting play in baseball in which the ball isn't batted", or something like that. What do people think? More interestingly, what is the most exciting play you have ever been present to witness, and why?  Offer anecdotes in the comments.

16 comments… add one

  • While I agree that the play is exciting, I don’t think for one second that it’s more exciting than a huge collision at the plate, where viewers have to wait and see if everyone is alive and if everyone who was supposed to hold on, did.
    In a close second, I think the in-the-park home run is pretty exciting (especially when the result is a collision at home plate) as well.
    Just a straight steal of home is most times irresponsible on the part of the runner (which you can tell on JD Drew’s face the other night that he wasn’t happy Jacoby took the bat out of his hand for him) when it’s not an absolute must have, which never happens.
    There are just too many factors to consider. Like Pedro v. Moose a few years back. The most exciting play was a silly single up the middle.

    Brad April 29, 2009, 4:54 pm
  • When it happened I considered it the most “embarrassing play in baseball.”
    The replays gave me the same feeling as a tuesday afternoon where you get the first memory glimpse of something super stupid you said when drunk the previous Saturday night.
    In all seriousness I agree there are definitely more “exciting” plays in baseball. I would say that in some ways stealing home plate is the most “shocking” play in all of baseball.

    walein April 29, 2009, 4:57 pm
  • Plays like Bucky F. Dent’s homer in the 1978 playoff are what stand out in my mind. No one, in particular Dent, saw that coming, which added to the shock value of it, regardless of which team you were pulling for.
    I don’t love baseball for the excitement factor, but rather for the drama and tension of it. I would have loved to have seen Koufax’s perfect game in 1965, but taken as a series of individual plays, it would have been pretty boring. One hit the whole game, the only run was unearned. But maybe the most perfect of all the perfect games. That, or Larsen’s, simply because it was the World Series.

    nettles April 29, 2009, 5:24 pm
  • “Couldn’t one (and one will, right now) argue that a batted ball to a gap, a relay, a close play at the dish is even more exciting, such as it contains numerous components that have to work in sequence and in concert, has more moving parts, and ascends, in developing fashion, to a climactic moment? Isn’t that build-up an essential element of drama, of greater excitement?”
    In this case, the Jeter relay to Jorge to get Jeremy Giambi out at the plate is definitely up there. Indeed, it was an extemely exciting play. I still remember it seeming to last forever.

    Nick-YF April 29, 2009, 6:03 pm
  • It’s pretty good but what about a walk-off HR? or a walk-off GS HR? How about a triple play? Watching a No-Hitter in the 9th inning is pretty exciting.

    johnny blue jeans April 29, 2009, 6:18 pm
  • There are definitely more exciting plays. I agree with Walein that “shocking” might be a more accurate word for stealing home.
    The most exciting play I’ve ever seen live was in Texas in 1991. Nolan Ryan had a no-hitter through eight, and one of the Jays hitters smoked a ball to right field. The ball carried and carried, and the stadium was COMPLETELY silent, until Ruben Sierra tracked it down in a half-dive sort of play. The place ERUPTED, chanting “Ruben, Ruben” for the next 5 minutes.
    Any play like that, where the suspense and excitement has a chance to build up, beats stealing home. An inside-the-park homer probably gets my vote.

    Atheose April 29, 2009, 6:56 pm
  • I would venture that the inside-the-park home run is the most exciting play in baseball. The hard hit ball, the miscue / funny bounce, the realization in the crowd that he has a chance to come all the way around (building to a crescendo as he rounds third), the relays, the race to the plate…
    I’m getting all hot and bothered just thinking about it. Do that next, Jacoby.

    Brownie April 29, 2009, 7:05 pm
  • I haven’t had a practice since the Jacoby steal (run of games on back to back days) but when we get back to practice tomorrow we will certainly be working on this. On the rare occasion we face a lefty it’s a good way to steal a run when you need one and your not hitting. Agree with most of you it’s a pretty exciting play, still like the I.T.P.H.R the best though.

    John - YF April 29, 2009, 8:35 pm
  • Ehhhh. This post falls into the “Front Pager Trying to Be Overly-Cleverly Contrary” category.
    Stealing home is a damned exciting play, and anyone who pretends not to get that is posturing.
    The cited notion that the play doesn’t take long to happen, and that this speed diminishes the excitement is a good example of the FPer straining to make a point. (How long did it take Dave Roberts to steal 2nd?)
    The reasons this play is so exciting are obvious:
    (1) It’s very rare;
    (2) The element of surprise;
    (3) It takes extraodinary timing and intuition;
    (4) It takes real guts.
    Most exciting? Well, of course the word “most” is invariably open to debate. I’d say the most exciting *situation* in baseball is two outs, bottom of the ninth, winning run at the plate. But we’re not talking about situations here, we’re talking about plays.
    Extremely exciting by any measure? No doubt in my mind of that whatsoever.

    Hudson April 29, 2009, 11:05 pm
  • Stealing home is a damned exciting play, and anyone who pretends not to get that is posturing.
    Who is doing this, Hudson? You’ve created a false opposition that doesn’t exist so you can make a point that has already been made numerous times and that nobody disagrees with. Your reasonably insulting and strained opening quip might as well be directed at yourself.

    SF April 30, 2009, 6:07 am
  • The cited notion that the play doesn’t take long to happen, and that this speed diminishes the excitement is a good example of the FPer straining to make a point. (How long did it take Dave Roberts to steal 2nd?)
    Hudson, you’re proving our point right there. Nobody knew Jacoby was going to steal home, and it was over before people realized what was happening. The Dave Roberts steal was different: EVERYONE in the stadium–the fans, Torre, Rivera–knew that Roberts was going to try to steal second base, and this built up the excitement and intensity.
    Jacoby’s steal was exciting, but there are plenty of other more exciting plays.

    Atheose April 30, 2009, 7:21 am
  • Stealing home was pretty exciting, and well enough executed, but err.. honestly I kind of looked away for a second and he scored. Didn’t really expect it.. and this was with the bases loaded!
    Definitely not accounting for situation (ALCS, bottom of 9th.. etc) an inside the park home run is the most exciting for me – there’s enough time to build excitement, rare enough that you might doubt it, and the play at home is usually close.

    Lar April 30, 2009, 9:44 am
  • im definitely in the camp of its not the most exciting play in baseball and basically just echo what has been written above. I think that baseball is a game in which tension builds on many levels, through the season, during a game, and during a play. The build up of the tension followed by the release of a well executed exciting play is what keeps me watching. I cant actually point to any one type of play that is always most exciting since the context makes a difference to me….

    sam-YF April 30, 2009, 10:24 am
  • There was a great piece in Sports Illustrated years ago about the triple being not just the most exciting play in baseball, but “the most exciting 12 seconds in sports:”
    http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1029927/index.htm
    I would mostly agree that the intensity, rarity, and components of a triple are extraordinarily exciting, and its defensive counterpart, the triple-play, is all the rarer and probably more amazing to witness. But the triple play is so rare that it’s hard to call the most exciting play in baseball.
    In a common, average baseball game, any play at the plate is thrilling. It’s a moot point to try and differentiate between what causes a player to hurtle toward home, but I think we can agree that watching the ball and the runner converge at the dish is particularly spectacular.
    Stealing home, then, is in the same category as the triple play for me. It’s over quickly and you’re happy you saw it, but it’s SO RARE that to call it the most exciting play in baseball would be depriving us of a lot of excitement.

    Pesky April 30, 2009, 12:07 pm
  • It’s certainly exciting when it happens, as it can breathe a whole new life into a game.
    I would think that the most exciting play in baseball would be an inside-the-park homerun. There’s action at every angle, and even more exciting if it ends with a full on collision between the runner and the catcher, with the ball popping free.

    Chris - SF April 30, 2009, 1:45 pm
  • well i think the play was interestin but not all exciting i somewhat agree with you.

    endia rankins August 21, 2009, 1:34 pm

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