Unwritten rules lead to hard feelings in Astros-A’s game

65 Comments

As you’ve probably heard, the A’s racked up seven runs in the first inning of their 11-3 win over the Astros on Friday night, knocking starter Jarred Cosart out of the game. That frame only ended when Jed Lowrie, batting for the second time in the inning with a man on, aimed for a bunt single against the shift and was thrown out at first.

Even though the bunt didn’t work and actually helped Houston’s cause, the Astros didn’t take too kindly to it. Paul Clemens’ very first pitch the next time Lowrie was up in the third was aimed at his knee and ended up right between his legs. The second was thrown inside, too. Eventually, Lowrie flew out to left-center and exchanged some words with Jose Altuve as he was taking off his batting gloves by the first base bag, at which point Astros manager Bo Porter exited the dugout and shouted at Lowrie and pointed as if to tell him to take his position.

So, yeah, we have an unwritten rule thing going on here.

The rule is that Lowrie shouldn’t have bunted. Even though it’s the first inning, and the Astros, while lousy, are still a major league team capable of scoring seven runs over the course of eight innings. Not that they’ve done so this year or anything, but capable, probably.

No, what Lowrie was supposed to do was to go up looking for a single.  Because swinging from the heels in that situation is also in violation of the unwritten rules. Also, it can’t be a cheap single, like a bunt. It has to be a legitimate single. Of course, the shift-happy Astros have their fielders in the absolute best position they can to deny Lowrie singles. But that’s just his tough luck.

This is why I can’t stand unwritten rules.

In my head, the best way to respect the opposing team is to go out there and play the absolute best game you can. If it were the eighth inning, then, yeah, bunting for a hit in a 7-0 game would be bush league. But in the first inning? Heck no. And I think the Astros waive all rights to be upset about this kind of thing when they’re still putting on the shift, something they continued to do long after Lowrie’s bunt. If you’re trying to take away the half of the field a player usually hits to, you can’t get all huffy when he tries to use the open area you’re giving him.

Max Scherzer will not be ready for Opening Day

Getty Images
1 Comment

Ten days ago Nationals ace Max Scherzer said he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. “I’m gonna do it,” Scherzer said.

[Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice] — No, he’s not:

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team’s opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation.

He’s still projected to make it to the opening rotation, taking the hill, most likely, on Thursday April 6 against the Marlins. At least if the schedule doesn’t slip any more.

Scherzer, as you probably know, has a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, which has messed with his preparation and has caused him to alter his grip a bit. As of now Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day nod.

Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

Getty Images
12 Comments

Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.