I’m not usually a big fan of sports analogies in the context of political and social issues. Describing as policy success as “hitting a home run,” saying that anything other than a slam dunk “is a slam dunk,” referring to some politician being “body slammed” when he/she isn’t involved in WCW or UFC, or comparing those pursuing various social goals to NFL fullbacks often borders on the ridiculous.
However, one Major League Baseball rule does offer a useful way of looking at the George Zimmerman case.
“Closers” are relief pitchers brought in to get the final out(s) of a game. Getting those final batters out without giving up his team’s lead is obviously important. Pitchers able to close games, thereby earning what is known as a “save,” are not only rewarded with elevated status; they’re also compensated well. Very well, in some cases. To the tune of many millions of dollars a year in salary. The more “saves” a pitcher has, the better his case when negotiating his next contract.
There are several ways in which a pitcher can earn a save. However, the one that applies in most cases is that a save is awarded to a pitcher who enters a game with a lead of 1-3 runs and gets the final out without blowing the lead.
Now, someone not familiar with the rules that determine whether or not a pitcher gets a “save” might think, “Gee. If saves help determine a relief pitcher’s compensation, and he comes into a game with a big lead, why not give up a few runs so that his team is only a couple of runs ahead. Then he can hold the lead and earn a precious “save?”
Except that he can’t.
MLB rules do not permit a pitcher to create a problem by pitching himself into a save situation. It either exists when he enters the game, or it does not.
This sensible rule should help us understand the true nature of the Zimmerman case.
George Zimmerman had it within his control to neutralize this situation. If (and that’s a big IF), he ever felt “threatened” by Trayvon Martin, he had the means (a car) to effect a peaceful retreat. Instead, Zimmerman “pitched himself into trouble” by pursuing Martin, getting out of the car, and precipitating an unnecessary confrontation. Zimmerman was in control, and he took a benign situation and made it worse through his performance. He exhibited a lack of control.
No doubt, the defense will attempt to confuse, obfuscate, and misdirect. It will try to focus on the confrontation itself. This is like focusing on the situation in which the relief pitcher finds himself after allowing several base runners and one or more runs to score after he takes the mound.
Baseball rules aren’t so charitable toward pitchers who create a problem that didn’t exist. They don’t provide special rewards for poor performance by relief pitchers wanting to accrue coveted “saves.” The jury needs to be as demanding when assessing Zimmerman’s handling of the Trayvon Martin situation.
The jury needs to keep this analogy in mind. If it does, it will focus on the entire arc of this tragic case--not just what happened after Zimmerman became aggressive, losing emotional and physical control.
And it needs to do that if it is to render a correct verdict in this case.