[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's only one space left. Leave a comment with a prompt if you want in. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]
, whose prompts have been numerous and wonderful.
The Rules do say that everyone on each team, players, coaches, and managers alike, must wear a uniform. They say that the uniforms must be similar in color, cut, and trim, and that they must have numbers on them that are at least six inches high. They do leave it up to the leagues to decide for themselves whether each team has one uniform or two, one for games played at home, one for away, and what color choices are permitted or restricted for those uniforms. Both leagues have adopted rules that give a high color contrast between the visiting team (often in grey) and the home team (usually in colors or in white).
There are obvious benefits to this requirement - it makes it easy to tell what team any given player is playing for, which means fans and fielders alike can tell at a glance where the action is. The number means each player is uniquely identified (the rules leave it up to the leagues to determine what their requirements are regarding names, with the exception that if there are to be names on the uniform, they are to be the surname of the player, unless the League has approved something else for them), such that when recounting the action of the game, or in those occasions where the umpire needs to talk to someone specifically, they have a method to do so. As baseball becomes a more international sport through things like the World Baseball Classic, it starts to need the same chain of translators that Association Football does to ensure that instructions are given in a language that the player understands. The gestures are, thankfully, universal, but they're a limited way of talking about things and you want to be sure the right player gets the right instructions.
Patches and other deviations from the approved uniform have to be cleared by the League, so it is possible to have memorial or celebratory markers on the uniform. Those teams or players playing in the World Series or the All-Star Game will often have an emblem attached to their uniform for those games to signify the honor accumulated by achieving those milestones. And, occasionally, the League honors players that have contributed significantly to the game - for example, a game honoring Jackie Robinson had all players on both teams wearing Robinson's number, 42, which in some ways has become the shorthand for referring to that player. Famous names are sometimes associated with their numbers that tightly.
There are other benefits to the uniform as well that are less tangible or visual. They are the kind of benefits that appear with any form of uniform or similar dress requirement, with the intention being that a unit of disparate people will unite under one purpose if they are wearing similar costuming. By requiring a uniform, many entities believe they can also manufacture a team. They are, of course, entirely and completely wrong
. The uniform does not constitute the team. If you want proof of this, take a look at your local low-wage service industry job. Do the people that work there wear their uniform outside of going to, at, and coming back from work, with occasional stops for chores or errands to be run? Do the executives of the company also wear the uniform? Are the people there enthusiastic about working there, about the people they are working with, when they are away from the prying eyes of their paymasters? No? Then the uniform means nothing about whether or not there is a team present.
One part of team-building involves managing personalities. There are some people who can work well with anyone, anywhere, and will produce an excellent game every time they step on the field, whether they're making the league minimum or have been signed to an exorbitant amount of money over time. (Treasure them and pay them what they're worth. Forserious.) There are others who insist on being the star player and getting the star treatment - perks, high salary, promotions and billing, and some measure of control over themselves and who they work with. For some teams, if a personality like that can produce on the field, they're willing to work with their shortcomings off the field and try to mold them into a less abrasive version of themselves. It doesn't always work, and sometimes off-field antics can be more expensive to the team and players than anything produced on-field. Other teams have no want to deal with drama or personalities, and will get rid of even their star players when they start to develop an attitude. Disgracing the uniform is one of the fastest ways to get traded, benched, or suspended, whether by the League or by the team. Outside baseball, those kinds of antics generally get you fired, although many entities these days will fire a worker for much less than causing drama, because they do desperately believe that all their workers are part of a team that they can't stand to see those same workers talking about the team's shortcomings in any sort of public forum, including social media. I get told that wherever I go, on-line or off-line, I represent The Organization and should conduct myself accordingly. Which is a highly restrictive burden - if everything I do reflects on The Organization, then where's my room to have my own life, desires, and wants, apart from them? A lot of celebrity and sport gossip revolves around this issue - a player makes a choice or does something questionable and everyone wants to know how that will affect the team, as if all private life decisions have something to do with team cohesiveness. (Some do, like getting arrested, or showing up to work in an altered state. Most, like having a drink with friends, or, for that matter, coming out as (X), don't, or at least, shouldn't.) That said, it seems pretty reasonable to say, when you put on the uniform and go to work, you agree to conduct yourself as a professional member of the team, because you want to be part of that team and stay there.
Baseball requires a high degree of coordination of individual efforts for success. There's enough room for individuals to shine, as when performing difficult catches or relays, or when hitting in tight situations, and players will often be recruited or traded to fill holes in these skill categories. But there's a definite need to work together for the game. I can't imagine a game where one player has to handle all the pitching, catching, and fielding duties - it's kind of ridiculous to imagine a single player having to cover all of that ground by themselves and still get outs. So the players have to work together, and, with their coaches, learn how everyone else plays the game and eventually come to an agreement about how it's done. At the learning levels, this often means the coach is putting people in the places they want, based on the tendencies of the hitter before them. Eventually, that duty passes on to the catcher, with help from the dugout. Even so, everyone has to actually do it. A shift only works if all the players know where they are going to be and what they will be covering. Some of that chatter on the field is players reminding each other of scenarios, but it's also letting those who need to know around them what parts of the play they have covered. And some things, like who covers second base on a steal and how one performs the exchange from one middle infielder to the other to start the double play sequence, are a matter of having practiced it many thousands of times, to the point where it is automatic. To the point where a fielder might cheat one way or another unconsciously, knowing from experience that this player tends to hit the ball back up the middle a lot and their fielding partner isn't as good at range and movement. When an outfielder knows from the angle of the pitcher's arm that he needs to start running for the warning track once the bat leaves the batter's shoulders, because it's the only way he's going to run down the fly ball that is about to happen. When the entire infield shouts "Bunt!" and a flurry of activity results where the base fielders charge and the middle fielders dash to cover the appropriate base. That's where teamwork comes from - mass repetition of basic things to the point where they are executed well every time. If the team isn't working together on the basic things, preventable errors happen and opportunities and games are lost.
The card associated most with the uniform is The Team, which translates in the Rider-Waite system to The Lovers. As one might guess, this card is most associated with things you do with others, with fitting in to a larger group and contributing in such a way that the many can do a lot more than just one individual. When you're on a team, you should have a role that you fulfill well, even if that role is being the person that can step into any other position and help where needed. (There is a term for that - utility player. They may not have the specialized knowledge and practice that the normal people in that position have, but they can perform any role at an acceptably professional level. Most teams have at least one of these players on their roster in case of injury, suspension, or another situation where a hole needs filling. They also tend to be great pinch-hitters.) Think about whether or not you are part of a larger picture and what part in that you might need to play, or be asked to play. This includes managers and coaches! Effectively putting your team's skills to work and avoiding personality clashes makes for a good workplace. It also means listening to your team and trying to make sure their needs and passions get fulfilled - a team that doesn't enjoy the work, or at least find some important meaning in it, isn't always going to turn in the highest-quality material. When the team is working well, everyone is in harmony, the manager is able to concentrate on the game, and the execution is excellent.
A downside of the Team is dysfunction. At the learning levels, and sometimes even in Major League Baseball, there are times where things break down. An obvious-to-the-viewer example is what happens when two or more players are all calling to catch a fly ball, and it drops in between all of them, or there is a collision. In the drop scenario, nobody remembered who has the priority in terms of coming in to catch the ball, and so to avoid hurting each other, everyone stays too far away. With nobody willing to step up, or without a reminder of what job it is to do things when nobody else is doing them, things get dropped. In the collision scenario, nobody is willing to compromise. They've still forgotten whose job it is and who has priority, but most likely, the colliding players are completely convinced that the other person coming to the ball isn't going to get there in time. So they will continue on and finish the work, right up until they hit the person that is actually getting there. Some collisions still result in an out, as the fielder catching is able to hold on. Others don't, and in either situation, both players suffer injury. The lack of trust between teammates produces this scenario, and it can be just as damaging to good operation and execution as the drop. If you're part of a dysfunctional team, is there something you're doing that's contributing? Do you not trust others to do their job? Does the manager need to know, or are they the problem? The Peter Principle affects us all, but there should be ways and systems that can be put in place to ensure quality work happens even when there are errors. And sometimes being part of the team means that you have to let other people share in the credit for the work you were the primary person on. Almost all outs require at least two people to achieve, and most runs are scored by someone other than the batter that hit them in.
The very worst negative part of the Team is cliquishness. A team that closes ranks around those who are already in and refuses to let others in unless they meet very specific and arbitrary requirements is not going to be a great team to work with or be a part of. This isn't about qualifications - if you want to make it to The Show, you've got to have the stuff that can compete on that level. This is more about the Royal and Ancient Order of No Silver Adepts Allowed. The history of systematic racism in the United States, and in professional baseball, is a black and indelible mark on both. The fact that Major League Baseball honors and promotes the story of Jackie Robinson bravely breaking the color barrier tacitly admits the color barrier was there in the first place, and reminds us of the history of enslavement and legal discrimination that preceded and succeeded the accomplishment of Jackie Robinson. Major League Baseball employs no women in their ranks, even as Little League Baseball is a mixed-gender organization and celebrated the accomplishments of a black female pitcher in getting her team to the Little League World Series. As was pointed out in a previous entry, there were good female pitchers and players, but then the men got too scared of what would happen to their egos to whiff against someone they considered inferior, and women haven't been back. Likely not because they lack the qualifications, although you will probably hear that said if you asked, but because there is still a system in place that says women are lesser, and their sport is lesser, and obviously they could not compete with the men, so they should be given no opportunities to try. If that sounds familiar outside of baseball, then the system is there, too. Boys are good at maths and sciences and want to play with action toys and video games. Girls are good at reading and want to play with nurturing toys and social games. Pink and blue. It starts early, and it can seem intractable and invisible, an impersonal force that is a constant of the universe, but it is not.
The Team represents us at our best and our worst, because we are all part of many teams with what we do and what characteristics we are born with. And if that cleaves our heart in twain, then we must throw away the worser part, and live the purer with the other half.