In the aftermath of the incident between the Red Sox and the Orioles last weekend, some writers, like theScore.com’s Jason Wilson, have called to an end of the unwritten rules of baseball. I disagree with his position, especially when it comes to intentional hit by pitches.
If you didn't hear about what happened during the Red Sox-Orioles series this past weekend, allow me to fill you in. On Friday, Manny Machado slid into second base to break up a double play. He ended up spiking Dustin Pedroia at the bag and Pedroia is now day-to-day with a knee issue. I don’t think he intentionally spiked him, but he could've made the slide cleaner. Yesterday, Boston reliever Matt Barnes threw high heat to Machado, just missing his head and actually hitting his bat for a foul ball. Barnes was promptly ejected. The two teams meet again next week.
While I agree that throwing at a guys head is uncalled for, I like to aim for the shins cause that hurts, intentionally hitting a guy is something I am fine with. Wilson says in his article literally titled “It’s Time to Erase the Unwritten Rules of Baseball” that players should let their play get the revenge instead of hitting a guy. It’s easier to plunk a guy than strike him out. Machado doubled at the end of the at-bat. The point of hitting a guy is to say “Don’t fuck with our guy.” In hockey, when a guy gets destroyed by a hit, his teammates pick a fight with the deliverer of the hit, defending their man. That’s what hitting a guy in baseball is, it’s defending your man.
It’s also personal economics. Why doesn't every guy who hits a home run chuck his bat into the stratosphere? Why don't more people bunt for hits up 10 runs? Because of the consequences that follow. We saw last year, Jose Bautista got plunked for his epic bat flip in the 2015 ALDS (which I was fine with). But he had to know there would be consequences. It’s not cowardice, as Wilson suggests, it’s standing up for your teammates. Let’s say Barnes pitches to Machado and gives up the double, or even a home run. What’s Barnes supposed to say to Pedroia? “Sorry, bro. I tried to strike him out to show him not to mess with you.” The pitch missed high and came close to his head, but it was a message from Barnes to Pedroia saying “I got your back.” That’s why this unwritten rule exists. It’s not because guys like to hurt each other. It’s because it shows your team and the opposition that you got your teammate’s back. Intentionally hitting a guy, when warranted, is the ultimate sign of camaraderie with your team.
He mentions that hitting someone in the head can hurt someone. We know, that’s why only dirty guys aim for the head. He says that its bad startegy because it gives the guy a free base. We know. Don’t think for a second that there is never a time where a guy doesn't hit a batter because of strategy. Now I don’t know much about Mr. Wilson, but it seems to be he has this 21st century view of how the game should be played, where the unwritten rules from yesteryear are just plain stupid. Well guess what, they're part of the game and they have been for the 150 years baseball has been played. To say that their outdated is saying the game itself is outdated. Baseball is timeless, as is the way it has been more or less played for a century and a half.
Wilson’s other point was about celebrations, which I sided with him some. He agreed that if a player laughed in the face of the opponent it is wrong. He brought up Marcus Stroman’s emphatic reaction to the game ending double play of his complete game win against the Angels on Sunday. I haven't seen the reaction, but from what I hear, it was big, but within reason. There are some celebrations that fall short of taunting but are uncalled for. Maybe this is my subdued personality coming through, but don't really let loose until there is no more work to do. Don’t pump your fist three times when you get the second out of an inning with the bases loaded. It’s OK, kind of, when you get out of the inning, but don't do it when the next guy up can hit a grand slam. Here’s my mentality, use it as you wish: Feel good now, but know that more work needs to be done. But I do appreciate the loosening of baseball culture when it comes to celebrations, but I don’t want to see it completely engulf the game. I appreciate the intimidation of a stoic, cold-blooded, no-words-necesarry home run trot.
To summarize this article, I have no problem with throwing at hitters intentionally and believe it plays an integral part in the game. It’s easier to enact revenge by hitting a guy than hitting a home run or getting a strike out is. Celebrations are okay, in moderation. Don’t be salty if you're plunked for having a massive celebration at the expense of the other team (I’m looking at you Bautista). Wilson closes his article with the sentence “Enjoy the game, celebrate success, and strive to do better.” All those are true, but they're independent of the unwritten rules he tried to decry.