As much as I love the game of baseball, and think I know a lot surrounding it, there are still times I find myself scratching my head for the answers of questions that don’t seem to exist.
The past week, a handful of MLB managers and players have used the phrases “playing the game the right way” and “respecting the game,” but what do those sayings truly mean? We’ve all heard of the so-called “unwritten rules” of baseball, but which are to be followed to the letter? Which ones can be broken every now and then without too much backlash?
The bench-clearing brawls following pitches that plunked batters in both the Red Sox/Yankees and Padres/Rockies games this past week came about after players were deemed to have broken those regulations handed down from generations of the baseball past. Then, after the Cubs’ 13-5 win over the Pirates on Wednesday, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle questioned Javy Baez flipping his bat after popping out while talking to the media on Thursday by saying:
“You watched (Baez) flip that bat in the air last night — where’s the respect for the game?The guy hits four homers in two days, so that means you can take your bat and throw it 15-20 feet in the air when you pop up like you should have hit your fifth home run?”
Finally, some clarification and in writing, on how high a batter can flip his bat without being subject to scrutiny. Yep, anything lower than 15 feet and no word will be spoken about it. OK, now that’s taken care of, we need to get in print how long a batter can look at his home run? How fast does he need to round the bases after said home run? How many times (if any) can a pitcher pump his fist after a strikeout? While playing the game hard, what is too hard? Is it OK to bunt when the opposing pitcher has a no-hitter late in the game when the score is only 1-0? Why is hitting a batter who has homered a couple of times the right thing to do? The list goes on and on, but at least according to Hurdle, one of those unwritten rules has finally been solved.
I’m guessing it must be tough for today’s baseball players to know how to react or what is crossing the line with every emotion they show following a play on the field.
In football, a player makes a great play or scores a touchdown and there is a huge celebration, players jumping up and down. A basketball player swishes a long 3-pointer or throws down a slam dunk and follows it with chest thumps or three fingers in the air while running back down the floor. In hockey, a player scores a goal and is immediately surrounded by teammates in celebration, sometimes directly in front of the goalie who was just scored upon. All of these happen without anyone batting an eye — it’s totally OK.
When it comes to baseball, well, celebrations aren’t viewed the same way across the board, but rather on a situational basis. It is true that baseball is one of the four major sports that physical contact isn’t the norm in the way the game is played, so maybe that is why things eventually end up in two teams on the field pushing and shoving after someone goes beyond guidelines others feel were not followed.
Evidently Hurdle didn’t realize that Baez essentially owned up to his actions following the incident — admitting it was a bad look because kids were watching — that the Pirates felt offended by, but only to his fans and team.
“If I have to apologize, I have to apologize to my teammates and my manager, not to the other team,” Baez said.
So in the baseball realm of things, did Baez break one of those unwritten rules when he tossed his bat skyward? I guess so, but it was really hard to judge just how high the bat went and there is no instant replay rule for that.
It is often heard that baseball players “police themselves” on and off the playing field. But when it comes to some situations they encounter, it has to be somewhat of an unknown over how to react.
I mean, even the police have written laws to go by.