I’ve been saying it for years. Someone needs to take baseball’s “Unwritten Rules” and write them down.
More than Ian Kennedy’s two pitches to the head Tuesday night or Zack Greinke’s three attempts to exact retribution against Miguel Montero, man’s individual interpretation of baseball’s old-school codes of conduct took what was nothing more than an inside pitch to Yusiel Puig that got away and turned it into a full-scale brawl that will certainly end in multiple suspensions of quality players and could have resulted in pennant race-affecting injuries (see Zack Greinke vs. Carlos Quentin).
Because I’ve long criticized the modern players continuous attempts at living up to old school tactics they clearly don’t understand, I had to laugh to watch an 1980s All-Star team of players-turned-coaches grappling on the field and yelling out their own personalized versions of the game’s unwritten rules. Mark McGwire, Kirk Gibson, Matt Williams, Don Mattingly, Allan Trammell, Don Baylor, more than 150 years of professional baseball experience, each coach having apparently attended a different old school for his education on baseball etiquette. Hilarious.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the Diamondbacks have been at the center of an “Unwritten Rules” controversy. Ben Davis’ bunt single to break up Curt Schilling’s perfect game in 2001 is still referred to as “The bunt heard round the world”. 12 seasons later the issue is still being debated, because strong opinions across the baseball world differ on what is proper conduct. On the “you shouldn’t bunt” side of the debate there are Bob Brenly, Nolan Ryan, and Justin Verlander to name three. On the other side of the debate, arguing just as vehemently, there are Tommy Lasorda, Evan Longoria, and Joe Garagiola Sr.
So… Which legends/stars have the right of it?
Pete Rose tells a story of how he singled into right-centerfield off Houston’s flamethrowing JR Richard in a 7-1 game. Because the outfielders loafed after the ball, Rose took second. J.R. Richard proceeded to hit the Reds’ next two batters with 100 MPH fastballs due to Rose breaking an unwritten rule of baseball. What rule? The “you can’t hustle when up six runs” rule? Or was it the “don’t show up an all-star pitcher after the fifth inning” rule?
It is said that Nolan Ryan would throw directly at anyone who tried to bunt off him. Forget perfect games, you square around and make Noley field his position and you’ll get one in the ear. Is that old school baseball? And is it a code worth preserving?
I think the scenario that takes the cake is the modern player who thinks he’s old school and takes it upon himself to set these punks today straight on how the game is played. Take John Lackey of Boston. The Red Sox pitcher decided this week that Tampa Bay’s Matt Joyce shouldn’t drop his bat out of frustration after hitting a long foul ball he wished he could have kept fair. So… Lackey hit him the next time up. Red Sox players, staff, and broadcasters claimed Joyce was showing up Lackey and got what he deserved. Rays players, staff, and broadcasters claimed Lackey has always been a bad guy and a bad teammate who doesn’t have a clue about how the game should be played.
I happen to side with the Rays.
I also happen to believe that the D-backs were clearly in the wrong last night. My personal interpretation of the Unwritten Rule is that if you hit our star player in the head with a pitch, retaliation is due. The umpiring crew must follow the same code I subscribe to. Because they didn’t warn either bench until Zack Greinke accomplished the task of striking Miguel Montero with a pitch, even after three attempts. Since Greinke hit Montero with a rather innocuous 75-mph toss straight to the middle of the back, the situation should have ended. It didn’t. Because Kirk Gibson, Ian Kennedy, Miguel Montero, and the Diamondbacks obviously operate by a different set of unwritten rules than the Dodgers, the umpires, and me.