Breaking Down and Translating Every Baseball Cliche


One of the challenges for the increasing number of foreign-born players in Major League Baseball is trying to become functionally bilingual. The fact is that most of our sports journalists speak and write in English only, although there is a growing pool of bilingual English/Spanish speaking correspondents. Learning to function in more than one language is difficult, and anyone who manages it deserves our respect.

In baseball, that task is made more difficult by the fact that those involved in the sport often say one thing but mean another. This is true whenever baseball players, managers, front office executives, and announcers speak publicly. As a result, even if you’ve mastered English, in fact even if you’re a native speaker, your knowledge of the language may not be enough to understand what baseball people are really saying.

Help is on the way. I’ve put together a modest list of some of the most common expressions used over and over again in baseball, and I’ve translated and grouped them for ease of reference. I guarantee that once you learn them, baseball will make a lot more sense.


1.         CLICHÉ – He needs to expand his strike zone.

TRANSLATION – He strikes out looking.

2.         CLICHÉ – He need to be more aggressive at the plate.

TRANSLATION – He strikes out looking . . . a lot.

3.         CLICHÉ – He needs to be more selective at the plate.

TRANSLATION – He swings at junk in the dirt.

4.         CLICHÉ – He’s working on his two-strike approach.

TRANSLATION – He’s been in the league for 15 years and still can’t lay off the high cheese.


1.         CLICHÉ – He’s been working on his defense.

TRANSLATION – He has iron skillets for hands and he moves like his shoes are tied together.

2.         CLICHÉ – I’m not concerned about his assists; he covers a lot of ground out there.

TRANSLATION – He’s got a chicken wing instead of an arm, but what are you gonna do?


1.         CLICHÉ – He’s trying to be too fine, not attacking the zone enough.

TRANSLATION – He’s terrified of letting his 84 mph fastball anywhere near the strike zone.

2.         CLICHÉ – He’s hoping to build on his last outing.

TRANSLATION – He got creamed last time out, but not as badly as usual.


1.         CLICHÉ – He’s going to make some mistakes.

TRANSLATION – He’s an idiot.

2.         CLICHÉ – He’s adjusting to the speed of the game at this level.

TRANSLATION – He’s an idiot.

3.         CLICHÉ – I’d rather he make an out being too aggressive than being too timid.

TRANSLATION – He’s an idiot.


1.         CLICHÉ – He’s a great clubhouse guy.

TRANSLATION – He’s washed up and he’s got a lot of time on his hands.

2.         CLICHÉ – He knows how to win.

TRANSLATION – I’d trade him for a bag of balls if I could find any takers.

3.         CLICHÉ – We’re going to sit down with him and talk about his role with the club.

TRANSLATION – Designated for assignment.


1.         CLICHÉ – We have to play our game.

TRANSLATION – We can’t hit.

2.         CLICHÉ – This team’s built around speed, and speed never slumps.

TRANSLATION – We can’t hit.

3.         CLICHÉ – We’ve gone back to emphasizing the fundamentals.

TRANSLATION – We can’t do the complicated stuff.

4.         CLICHÉ – The players write the line-up.

TRANSLATION – We don’t have a lead-off hitter or a clean-up hitter.


1.         CLICHÉ – He’s been scratched from the line-up with flu-like symptoms.

TRANSLATION – He’s still barfing his way through a monster hangover.

2.         CLICHÉ – He’s taking some personal time off.

TRANSLATION – He’s a nut job.

3.         CLICHÉ – He’ll be out of the line-up while he attends to some legal issues.

TRANSLATION – Baby daddy.


1.         CLICHÉ – I like playing for him; he’s a player’s manager.

TRANSLATION – I can do whatever I want and this guy won’t say squat.

2.         CLICHÉ – He’s old school.

TRANSLATION – He’s senile.

3.         CLICHÉ – He’s our manager, he fills out the line-up card, and he has our complete support.

TRANSLATION – He’s fired.

Jonathan Dyer teaches History and Government at a small high school in Northern California. He practiced law for 10 years before switching to teaching, and spent 5 years in Army intelligence before going to law school. He worked for 3 of those 5 years as a Russian linguist at Field Station Berlin during the Cold War. Mr. Dyer and Kerry, his wife of 27 years, are certified baseball junkies. You may email Jonathan directly at


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