Curt Schilling claims that some Tampa Bay players are questioning the rationality of their manager's beanball policies. In reply, Lou Piniella channels Brian "I am not an idiot" Sabean.
We won't admit hearsay as evidence into this trial, so we don't know whether Schilling's claims are accurate or not. But we can present some evidence on Piniella's behalf.
A new scientfic study (via Dianekes) has provided a mathematical model for the behavior known as "altruistic punishment".
Altruistic punishers are willing to pay a personal cost to ensure that people cooperate. Darwinists have puzzled over how this behavior could have evolved, since you would think that the people willing to perform such punishment would have a reduced chance of surviving and reproducing than those who do not.
To examine how altruistic punishment could take root in a society, James Fowler developed a mathematical model that simulates interacting behaviors in a society over time. He found altruistic punishers can enter a population of cooperators and noncooperators and change the dynamics of the group. Under certain conditions, altruistic punishment is so beneficial to the population that it will come to dominate the behavior of the group and keep noncooperators at bay.
These results may help to explain the origins of cooperation and punishment. Previous studies have shown that altruistic punishment stimulates the reward center in the brain, suggesting that humans may have physically or developmentally evolved this behavior.
So the self-policing behavior of beanball wars has several benefits:
It improves the overall cooperative behavior in the group as a whole. It prevents non-cooperating people from taking advantage of those who cooperate. If the whole group is cooperating, you're less likely to be a victim of a non-cooperator, as well.
Altruistic punishers come to dominate the behavior of the group, essentially becoming the alpha males. (Chicks dig the team leader.)
The brain is wired to make such altruistic punishment actually feel good. Them's the rules and we like it that way.
Beanball wars are not necessarily an "idiotic" part of baseball culture; there's a winning evolutionary strategy behind it. Pitchers who are willing to take the risks (ejection, fines, mound-charging) and throw at batters to "send a message", as well as the managers who order such behavior, are playing a complex game, where only the fittest survive.