There seems to be an epidemic recently within the game of baseball. It is not the use of replay or a shortage of sunflower seeds, it is players getting unnecessarily offended because someone on the other team violated the ever-changing “unwritten rules of baseball” by watching their home run a split second too long. Then said offendee reminds the offender that he’s a piece of crap, offender shrugs his shoulders, offendee takes a step toward offender, then the benches clear and everyone puffs up like they’re trying to ward off a strange animal. This “hold me back or I’ll REALLY get mad” mating dance continues for 30-60 seconds, or just long enough for the guys in the bullpen to get their sprinting exercises in.
This has got to stop.
Baseball is a game that has ebbed and flowed with the changing of the times for the last 100 years. And I’m not here to get into this, “things used to better” diatribe. Juan Marichal took a freaking bat to an opposing pitcher’s head in 1965, so I don’t believe that to be true anyway. Dust-ups have and will continue to happen all the time, but at least back then players fought like men and then got back to baseball. Take my favorite brawl of all time:
The fight lasts like 90 seconds, and everyone gets back to playing baseball. The best part of this though is that no one got tossed. They had a disagreement, they got their licks in, then they went back to the game. But take this “fight” from last year:
If you made it through that whole video, I applaud you. It felt like I was watching paint dry. There were like five ejections too. What. the hell. And we’ve seen plenty more like it this year.
It’s amazing to me how whiny and child-like players are these days. Take Madison Bumgarner.
Baseball’s resident old man threatening the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn, Bumgarner has exacted himself as arbitrator of baseball’s unwritten rules. Just last week, he got mad at Delino DeShields for showing frustration:
He got mad at another player about the exact same thing earlier this year. Apparently tossing your bat in frustration towards your own dugout after popping out to end an inning is “showing him up.” I’ve heard some people say this is because that act translates to, “That was a meatball pitch and this pitcher sucks and I should’ve hit that a mile.” That is the absolute dumbest thing I’ve ever heard; and I have two younger brothers, so that’s saying a lot. I think anyone who pops out with runners on base is frustrated with themselves that they didn’t get the job done. When you’re facing a pitcher that was the World Series MVP, you know runs are going to be at a premium. So you are upset with yourself because you wasted a great run scoring opportunity. But no, the world obviously revolves around Bumgarner, and every action by an opponent is a slight against him in some way.
The whole bat-flipping thing has been a way for “old school” baseball people to cry woes about how the game is being ruined by showboating young kids. Ken Griffey, Jr. heard the same thing because he wore his hat backwards. But these crusty curmudgeons are wrong in so many ways. Let’s involve Madison Bumgarner in this one again. He got mad at Yasiel Puig last year because he flipped his bat after a home run:
Let’s examine the video itself here. Puig does his thing, then puts his head down and runs because it’s only one run of a necessary three and it’s still the sixth inning. Bumgarner acts like he stood and stared at it for a full minute before taking another minute to jog the bases. Now let’s get deeper into this.
Puig is from a country that makes Venice Beach look like the Plaza Hotel. Poverty is widespread, and disease is rampant from lack of healthcare. Baseball is essentially the only way he ever had fun. When he came up with the Dodgers he marveled at the fact Gatorade came in more than one color. So he’s not going to just put on a stone face and talk about taking it one day at a time. He’s going to enjoy the things he’s doing. There are many players just like him from Latin American countries, and they’re all a bit louder and outgoing than baseball is used to. They’re going to flip their bat, they’re going to talk and they’re going to laugh. The point of saying all this is that Puig, and pretty much everyone else who’s flipped their bat after a home run, is not showing up the pitcher. They are reveling in the fact that they get paid to play a children’s game. But as Bob Lemon so eloquently put it, adults just have to screw it up.
Bumgarner’s assholeishness aside, I am not going to Bob Ryan this post and talk about all the problems in baseball without presenting a solution. And my solution is simple; here are written rules for baseball’s unwritten rules:
- If you get hit by a pitch, whether or not you perceive it to be intentional, wear it like a man and go down to first. There are of course amendments to this rule.
- If this pitch is above your hands and a fastball, there is reason to be pissed off. But if this is the case, the game situation must be taken into account. Is it a one-run game? Is it the third inning, and the starting pitcher still has a long way to go before needing to be taken out, and thereby doesn’t want to get ejected and tax the bullpen? If this is the case, then just go to first.
- If however, it is a 10-run game and the pitcher just let up a grand slam, go ahead and get mad. But you must do one of two things: charge the mound, or tell the pitcher to F off and go to first. No reason risking injury or looking weak by puffing your chest out against a mediocre reliever who likely got tossed since he beaned you right after letting up a grand slam anyway.
- If, as a consequence of your pitcher beaning an opposing player, you get hit intentionally, wear it like a man and go down to first. The same amendments from rule 1 apply here.
- If, as a pitcher, you allow a home run and the hitter watches it for a second or flips his bat, take a new ball, do a lap around the mound and figure out how to get the next guy out. Amendment:
- Did the hitter watch it for at least four seconds? Is your team winning by 5+ runs? Did the hitter call you a wimp and say something about your mother? Then yea, go ahead and fight that guy and bean the next guy up too. Get your money’s worth before getting tossed.
- If, as a pitcher, your teammate who is currently hitting .350 with 30 home runs gets hit anywhere above his hands, retaliate. Amendment:
- Hit him between his thighs and ribs, anywhere there is more flesh than bone. It’s ok to stand up for your teammate and send a message, but do it the right way.
- If you throw one up and in or hit the other guy in the knee, prepare to face the full wrath of the other 24 guys in the dugout. Stand up for yourself, don’t dance around like a rooster waiting for the rest of your teammates, because not everyone is a dependable truck like Mo Vaughn.
- If, as an umpire, a guy gets beaned and you perceive it as intentional, let the other team retaliate if they so choose. Issuing a preemptive warning in an attempt to “control the game” usually ends up backfiring drastically and sets you up to an impossible standard. I offer poor Jim Wolf as the most recent example. Amendment:
- Was there a fracas earlier in the same series, and some hot shot 23 year old pitcher thinks he’s going look tough and bean someone in the 1st inning? Yea, warn the benches. Other than that, let the self-policing play out.
- If you’re watching on the bench, and your teammate decides to start something, stand up for him no matter how in the wrong he is. Everybody needs to be able to rely on you like Tino Martinez was able to rely on Darryl Strawberry. Just to clarify, Tino was definitely not in the wrong there.
- This above all else: I don’t care what happened, don’t ever, ever get on Twitter and bitch about the other team like a gossiping high school girl. Looking at you, Jose Bautista and Yordano Ventura. Call the other guy a “nobody” to his face and then buy him a drink afterwards, because that’s what men do.
More rules and amendments may be added as situations arise, but the point is simple: stop playing Clint Eastwood and enforcing your own version of how you think baseball should be played. Unless the guy blatantly insults you or obviously shows you up (and it will be more obvious than Marvel’s lack of attempts at a decent plot) just play the game you get paid to play.
One more unwritten rule. No post on baseball and etiquette would be complete without mentioning these two. If you are a young rookie and are facing someone you perceive to be “old” yet has thrown a handful of no hitters, and you get hit by him, take it. Say thank you sir may I have another, and go down to first. Don’t do what Robin Ventura did, and don’t EVER underestimate old man strength: