Last week on the ESPN radio show Mike and Mike in the Morning, John Kruk was on to talk about beanball codes in baseball. Mike Greenberg asks him whether he’s ever gone up to the plate knowing that the opposing pitcher is going to hit him in retaliation for something. Kruk tells this story.
The batter before Kruk (I couldn’t get the name) hits a milestone home run and gets so excited that he does a cartwheel crossing home plate. This is a huge sign of disrespect for the pitcher according to baseball norms. Kruk was appalled, says has no idea what the batter was thinking. So now Kruk walks up to the plate knowing he’s going to get hit. He asks the catcher where he’s going to get it and the catcher tells Kruk “I wouldn’t dig in too much if I were you.” First pitch is up and in (at Kruk’s head) and Kruk has to dive to the ground trying to avoid it. Then Kruk tells Mike and Mike: “And look, I wasn’t gonna charge the mound. Because I deserved it!” (Exact words). And after a pause: “if anything, I’d charge the dugout [to fight his teammate]!.”
Two interesting things from this story. First, it’s a clear case of collective responsibility. Kruk himself claims that he deserved the beanball hit even though he wasn’t the one that violated the norm. The pitcher holds him responsible and he accepts responsibility even though he didn’t endorse the act and had no control over it whatsoever. Second, you can see how collective responsibility norms encourage self-policing within groups. If you’re going to be held accountable the actions of your teammates, then you have plenty of incentive to make sure your teammates stay in line. But if they do violate a norm in the heat of the moment, you have to accept that you deserve what you get in response. Is there anything irrational about this? Not that I can see.