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Writing about unwritten rules in 8-3 games, no-hitters


Sunday gave us more fun with unwritten rules in one already much discussed incident. The Rays’ Yunel Escobar decided to take third base in the seventh inning of an 8-3 game against the Red Sox on Sunday, leading to a benches clearing incident and three ejections.

Now, I’m not sure it’s fair to say the Red Sox took exception to Escobar’s decision. Some idiot on the Red Sox did — David Ross, apparently — but I think what happened afterwards was more about an unpopular player’s reaction to being jawed at, a rather ridiculous hothead in Jonny Gomes wanting a piece of the action and some frustration boiling over from there. There was nothing wrong with Escobar taking that base in a five-run game with two innings left to go. Everyone in the Red Sox clubhouse probably realizes that now.

Less talked about (untalked about?) was what happened in a 6-0 game a thousand miles away. Well, no, plenty was written about that game, too. The Dodgers’ Josh Beckett pitched the first no-hitter of 2014 and the first of his career against the Phillies.

And I think it deserves a tiny asterisk.

The first two players to come to bat for the Phillies in the ninth were pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. and leadoff man Ben Revere, both of whom are accomplished bunters. According to Fangraphs data, Gwynn had already attempted eight bunt hits in 66 at-bats this season, succeeding on two of them. Over the course of his career, one out of every 12 of his hits has been a bunt single. Revere had four successful bunt singles in six tries this year and 25 in his career. One out of every 17 of his hits has been a bunt single.

The Dodgers infield, though, played back on both, further back than the group had played earlier in the game. The Dodgers correctly surmised that neither player would be “bush league” enough to try to break up Beckett’s no-hitter by bunting in a 6-0 game and took advantage of it.

That’s just not fair, in my opinion. I think there’s something to “respecting the accomplishment” and such things. I would have been disappointed had Gwynn or Revere tried a bunt with the outcome essentially in no doubt. But I’m more disappointed that the Dodgers capitalized on that to decrease the chances of Gwynn or Revere getting a clean single. If the fielders are playing closer on the corners, as they should have been, then there’s a better chance that a grounder sneaks through.

It this all nitpicking? Maybe. But this is yet another example of why I don’t like unwritten rules. If the Phillies had broken code today and Revere had bunted for a single, there might well have been foolish repercussions down the line. Certainly, there would be no shortage of articles today fuming about his lack of class. His name would have superseded that of Ben Davis, who famously bunted to break up a Curt Schilling perfect game in the eighth inning (in a 2-0 game) in 2001.

But I say it was the Dodgers who broke code. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If you’re going to give the hitter all that room to bunt, you have absolutely no right to complain if he takes it.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.