By Bruce Penton
Baseball’s official rule book is 173 pages thick. And if ‘unwritten’ rules were documented within the book, it might add another 50 pages or so.
Rookie sensation Fernando Tatis, Jr., of the San Diego Padres apparently violated one of those unwritten rules in a mid-August game against the Texas Rangers and Twitterverse went bonkers in post-game discussions.
His sin? He swung at a bases-loaded 3-0 pitch that cleared the wall for a grand slam home run, increasing his team’s lead from 10-3 to 14-3.
Here’s a rambling explanation of what the unwritten rule about that situation states — sort of, because it’s not written down anywhere: A pitcher is allowed to groove a pitch right down the middle when he’s fallen behind three balls and no strikes, and the hitter shall stare into the stands, looking for familiar (cutout) faces while the ‘strike one’ pitch sails across the plate. The pitcher-batter duel then gets serious with a 3-and-1 count. It’s a matter of respect, say baseball oldtimers.
But Tatis, Jr., who at the time was tied for the major league home run lead, said he missed the ‘take’ sign from the third-base coach and swung away when the Rangers’ pitcher, Juan Nicasio, threw a juicy fastball down the middle that a 12-year-old Little Leaguer might have ripped.
Not surprisingly, the next batter, Manny Machado, had the first pitch delivered to him sail behind his back. Neither the Texas manager, Chris Woodward, nor the pitcher who tossed the ‘purpose’ pitch at Machado were thrown out, or even given a warning. It was almost as if the umpires agreed that, yeah, the pitcher had the right to retaliate.
The two managers — Woodward and Padres’ Jayce Tingler — were united in their condemnation of Tatis, Jr.’s actions. Both are old-school dudes who have the unwritten rules memorized. Ones such as: Never lay down a bunt to break up a no-hitter; never stand at the plate and admire a 500-foot home run; never perform a Jose Bautista-style bat flip; never mention a no-hitter in progress.
The Twitter question ‘where do you stand on this’ drew a massive response. “You throw a 3-0 soft pitch like that, it deserves to be hit 400 feet,” said Paige Miller. “Maybe pitch better next time,” said a guy named Travis. “I’m guessing it’s unwritten because whoever came up with it was too embarrassed to put it in writing,” said Blake Ruane.
To that, we say ‘touche’. And not in the unwritten section, either.
• You can’t make this up: From Peter King’s FMIA column at NBCsports.com: “The New York Mets starting lineup on SNY Friday evening, prior to the game against Miami, was sponsored by Send In the Clowns, a New York-area party-planning company.”
• Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun: “Unwritten rules in baseball aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on.”
• NHL analyst Brian Burke, on New York Islanders’ style of play: “It’s like watching two men paint a barn. It’s not wildly entertaining but it’s effective.”
• Tim Hunter of Everett’s KRKO Radio, on why fewer Astros test positive for COVID-19: “They saw the signs coming.”
Care to comment?