[also posted on http://www.sportuoso.wordpress.com]
All industries and cultures have jargon. Sometimes it involves the creation of entirely new words as the IT business does frequently (e.g. malware and defragging), while other commonly used words are simply redefined over time such as “backlog” or “cell.”1
Baseball is no different. It has terms first used in other sports: screw ball, grand slam and innings.2,3,4 It has also come up with a few of its own: sacrifice fly5 and squeeze play.6
Conversational lexicon changes daily especially when modern media like Twitter truncates words and invents abbreviations like “LOL.” Baseball has its own innovation with the word “piece” being most popular during June and July as the no-waiver trading deadline approaches. It is used to represent the player(s) who are available to attract big name stars in return. When used excessively, it seems to reduce the status of a human player to mere pawns in a game. True, players may feel that way if their contracts give them limited say in what happens to them. However, we should try to maintain respect so as not to diminish the dignity of the person. Otherwise, we end up with these:
“And it doesn’t hurt that he’s on a cheap contract that runs out after the season, making him a fairly easy and obvious trade piece if the A’s remain buried in the AL West… Either way, barring a turnaround from the Bucs, he seems quite likely to be a top trade piece this summer… With free agency beckoning, the veteran reliever is probably the Phils’ clearest trade piece… Neither veteran is hitting much early on, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still likely trade pieces… It’s not quite clear whether Atlanta will end up looking to move these moderately priced veterans, but both are swinging the bat well and could be useful pieces in the right situation.”7
It becomes more impersonal with those participating in fantasy leagues:
“In life, it’s always nice to get a deal and in fantasy, that can come in the form of trading pieces that have been performing beyond and below expectations… I’d even trade for Wil Myers because you can probably get an extra piece back with him with how hot Zimmerman’s been… Some pieces I would trade him for include Ryan Braun, Xander Bogaerts, and Jonathan Villar.”8
Those who are employees or stakeholders in a firm should consider how they’d feel if they were referred to as “pieces of the company.”
1 – “Backlog” meant the biggest log in the fire during colonial times. Today, it means a reserve or a pile of work you still need to plow through.”
“ Cell used to mean jail! Or a tiny part of your body…” said Amy Richards.
Today, of course, it’s also what you call your phone,”
from “These Everyday Words Used To Have Completely Different Meanings,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/26/words-that-have-changed-meaning_n_4847343.html, 2/26/2014.
2 – “The first published reference in the OED [Oxford English Dictionary] is from an 1866 book on cricket: “A ‘screw’ ball, which in slow bowling would describe the arc of a circle from the pitch to the wicket, becomes in fast bowling a sharp angle.” – from “Screwball etymologies,” by Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman, https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2009/01/screwball-etymologies.html, 1/29/2009.
3 –“This term originated in the early 1800s in the card game of whist (forerunner of contract bridge), where itrefers to the taking of all thirteen tricks. It later was extended to bridge and various sports, where it has different meanings: in baseball, a homerun hit with runners on all the bases, resulting in four runs for the team; in tennis, winning all four national championships in a single calendar year; in golf, winning all four major championships. In the 1990s the term was used for four related proposals presented on a ballot at once.”
4 – “Cricket originated in England in the 1300s and became a mainstream sport four hundred years later… A match is divided into innings. During an innings, one team bats while the other team bowls and fields.” From http://www.learn-cricket.com/eng/basics1.php
5 – “The sacrifice fly was adopted as an official rule in 1954, at which point it was distinguished from the sacrifice bunt. Before 1954, Major League Baseball went back and forth as to whether a sacrifice fly should be counted statistically. In the years that it was counted (1908-31 and ’39), it was grouped together with the sacrifice bunt as simply a “sacrifice.” From http://m.mlb.com/glossary/standard-stats/sacrifice-fly
6 – “An April 20, 1905 Chicago Tribune article stated: ‘[Ducky] Holmes tried to “squeeze” in the run which would have won the game with a bunt, but it went foul.’”
“The first use of the term “squeeze play” can be found in the Chicago Tribune five days later when an article stated: ‘[New York Highlanders] manager [Clark] Griffith says he has a new one called the “squeeze play,” which is working wonders.’” From https://sports.stackexchange.com/questions/4593/why-is-a-squeeze-bunt-referred-to-as-such
7 – “Top 30 Trade Deadline Candidates For 2017,” by Jeff Todd, https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2017/05/top-30-trade-deadline-candidates-for-2017.html, 5/19/2017.
8 – “7 Players to Trade Now (Fantasy Baseball),” by Clinton Ho, https://www.fantasypros.com/2017/05/7-players-to-trade-now-may-2017/, 5/12/2017.