The unwritten rules in baseball might be due for some rewrites. This past weekend Matt Barnes of the Red Sox threw at the head of Orioles superstar Manny Machado in retaliation for a hard slide Machado inflicted on Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia.
After the game, Pedroia texted Machado an
expletive laced tirade telling him how angry he still was at him and he better not show his face around Boston again! apology.
Where is the macho manhood in that?
Where are the days when (pitcher) would carry around names in his hate of players he “owed”, as Tim Kirkjian writes in I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies Stan Williams did. “Those are the guys I have to get”. (Kurkjian, pg 98)
What about the times that Don Drysdale would hit you if you looked at him wrong, when Pete Rose would barrel into Ray Fosse at an All Star Game. THAT was baseball at it’s finest, right? When men were men, not missing games with blisters and put on the disabled list at the strike of a hand into a wall or a drone repair gone wrong.
What happened to all that – and if that is different – can we adjust these unwritten vestiges of a bygone manhood era of respect?
Pitcher Brandon McCarthy did have a good point when he noted that “…aren’t there unwritten rules in every industry? In journalism, you can’t steal sources, right? In hockey, guys don’t take their skates off and slash an opponent’s throat with the blade….we’ve been playing baseball since the 1800s. We just have more unwritten rules.”(Kurkjian, pg 99).
Safety of course is at the root of the issue. When Manny Machado and Dustin Pedroia’s health is threatened – it is serious (and expensive) business. Machado is making $11.5M this season but looking to get an extension to make a lot MORE.
Remember when Robin Ventura charged the mound – a moment he attributes to a temporary blackout. “I got about halfway to the mound, came to my senses, and said, ‘What am I doing charging Nolan Ryan?’ But I couldn’t turn back then,”(Kurkjian, 49).
Now more than ever teams would be more worried about the pitcher – say Zack Greinke who is the middle of a 6 year, $200M+ contract – as much about the hitter. Last year Rogned Odor slugged Jose Bautista – but that was $522,000 slugging $14M.
Besides the money of course – we now know much more about concussions in sports and certainly a fastball to the head doesn’t reduce that danger.
Baseball will always be a matter of pride and respect. Brian McCann took it upon himself to regulate how that respect happened, whether it was Carlos Gomez or Jose Fernandez.
I don’t think we will ever get to a point where we don’t see any bean balls, but players need to find other ways to “get even”. Veterans know when a player has done things wrong as far as the “respect” code – but the other side would be the World Baseball Classic and how much more fun it was to see players getting excited about playing this game of baseball.
Sliding hard into second is part of baseball – and players need to learn how to do it the right way. MLB has come in of course with The Chase Utley Rule Legislation – and it is not working very well so far. The Buster Posey Home Plate Rule Collission seems to be working, though when I saw this amazing slide the other night I was thinking “Shouldn’t he already be safe because Molina can’t block the plate without the ball?”
I think that players created the unwritten rules and players can change them. Maybe beaning one star player DOESN’T result in beaning another star player. Maybe sliding hard into second – within the rules created now- doesn’t mean retaliation has to be enacted.
Baseball is NOT hockey, or football, and while some see that as a detriment I believe it can be a strength. I’m not advocating for two hand touch in all situations, but players can’t be afraid that for any physical activity it will result in getting drilled and a potentially career threatening situation. Let’s get this right.