By CARA COOPER
I love baseball. I think it’s the greatest sport on earth.
However, sometimes it can be really stupid.
Not even fun stupid either, just stupid-stupid. And there is nothing more stupid than baseball’s “unwritten rules.”
Rules like “never lay down a bunt to break up an opposing pitcher’s no-hitter.”
That happened Wednesday night when the Tigers’ Justin Verlander carried a perfect game into the sixth inning against the Mariners and Jarrod Dyson successfully ended that by bunting for a base hit. I will say I am very strongly anti-bunt and think they are terrible in just about any scenario, unless you think you can surprise the other team and get a hit, which Dyson did. If you don’t like what Dyson did, learn to play the bunt better.
Another unwritten rule is “don’t show up the game” or “act like you’ve been there before,” and all of that nonsense. People like to throw out this rule when players flip their bats or celebrate a homerun.
Also stupid. Bat flips are awesome. There is no better form of celebration in all of sports. I’ll probably pick up a pen and flip it like a bat as soon as I’m finished writing this column. Because bat flips are awesome.
But the worst of all of baseball’s unwritten rules is when opposing teams get upset about players breaking one of the previously mentioned rules, and take their anger out by throwing a pitch at that player.
Earlier this week in a game between the Cubs and Padres, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo attempted to tag-up from third on a flyout to centerfield. He didn’t make it, eventually getting tagged out at home by Padres catcher Austin Hedges. Rizzo, though, first ran into Hedges inside the baseline, essentially trucking him, and causing Hedges to sustain some minor injuries that kept him out of the lineup the next day.
This isn’t about the dangers of running into catchers. That’s another column for another day. This is about what happened afterwards, and what is likely still to come.
The Padres were understandably upset with Rizzo, which after looking at it a couple of times the slide definitely seemed illegal, though I don’t think he ran Hedges over on purpose. Fans were still pretty brutal about it, calling on Twitter and Facebook for Rizzo to “take one in the earhole” in his next at bat and begging the Padres to exact some form of retaliation.
Because in baseball, anytime a perceived slight occurs, it’s always the first thought that revenge needs to come in the form of hitting someone with a pitch.
And that is stupid.
Thankfully, the Padres finished the series without causing any more fireworks, but that’s kind of a little scarier because nowadays in baseball you never know when the revenge will come. Look at the recent dustup between National’s outfielder Bryce Harper and Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland. Strickland hit Harper with a pitch in the hip earlier this month which sparked a pretty brutal brawl between the two teams. And it was all because Strickland was upset Harper had hit a homerun off of him and watched it for too long.
That homerun came in the playoffs… three years ago! He waited three years to get his revenge.
Look, I love pettiness. Petty people are my favorite people and I am the queen of holding grudges. When I was in college I had roommates who angered me because two minutes after I moved in they informed me ours was a “no shoes house” and I needed to always either be barefoot or wear slippers. This annoyed me so much that I didn’t speak a word to either of them the entire time I lived there. Sometimes when I was feeling particularly miffed I would wait until they both left for class, put on my dirtiest, grimiest snow boots and stomp around the house like a five-year-old at the rodeo trying on his first pair of cowboy boots.
One time that roommate made me so mad I put on my boots and literally walked across the table where they ate dinner every night.
Did it feel good? Very.
Was it mature? Not even a little bit.
Am I proud of it? Sort of. Depends who I’m telling the story to honestly.
What I’m trying to say is, I can definitely understand why Strickland and other baseball players can want to become petty about silly things like watching homeruns or even bigger things like injured catchers. But, come on Strickland. You had three years, and the best you could come up with was hitting Harper with a pitch? Really? Show a little creativity. You had three years!
Also pettiness is fun but not when it comes to projectiles being thrown at people’s heads at more than 90 miles per hour. That could kill someone. And if you think I’m being dramatic, look at former Cubs outfielder Adam Greenberg. Greenberg was called up to the majors in 2005 and in his first at-bat he was hit in the head, suffered a compounded skull fracture. He never played in the pros again. (The Marlins signed Greenberg to a one-day contract in 2012 so he could have one more official major league at-bat. He struck out on three pitches.)
The pitch that hit Greenberg wasn’t even intentional, and it still killed his career. And yet pitchers still think it’s okay to “put one in the earhole” at any time. And the worst part is, that mentality spreads to the younger players. I spoke with a friend who used to coach varsity at a high school in eastern Virginia who told me he had a player who admitted to purposefully hitting an opponent on a rival team after that opponent celebrated scoring a run over top of their catcher. That celebration made the pitcher think he could hit him in the rib cage in his next at bat.
When asked why the kid did it, he simply said he wanted to get him back and it was okay as an “unwritten rule of baseball.”
It’s not okay. It’s dangerous and stupid. In no other sport can players get shown up and think that potentially ruining that person’s life is a better alternative than just getting them back by playing better than them. You don’t like that a player hit a homerun off of you? Don’t let them hit a homerun next time. Instead, strike them out, go over, pick up their bat and flip it yourself.
Because bat flips are awesome. Baseball’s stupid unwritten rules are not.
This story first appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.