Everything you wanted to know about baseball’s unwritten rules. And lots of stuff you don’t.

32 Comments

ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian has an epic-length treatment of baseball’s unwritten rules. Unlike a lot of treatments of the topic, however, he doesn’t just list them and explain them as if they just are. He gets tons of players on record about them, and it makes for a wildly entertaining read.

The thing I find the most fascinating is that even though there is nearly unwavering acceptance of most rules — at least the ones of on-field decorum, as opposed to just dumb hazing of rookies and such — most of the players Kurkjian talks to sort of realize that they’re, well, silly and often contradictory. Or that they can be. It’s one of the more striking examples of simultaneously holding conflicting thoughts: “this is just, well, something we do for some reason” and “OF COURSE we adhere to it.”

As a person who doesn’t do particularly well in the conformity department — and as someone who has encountered some amount of trouble in his life because of it — I hold two simultaneously conflicting thoughts too: of totally not understanding how guys put up with all of this silliness while also rather admiring them for having a code, however convoluted, and sticking to it. I say in all honesty and zero snark that it’s admirable in a way, even if I couldn’t adhere to it myself.

Of course my admiration of it only goes so far. I don’t much care for belligerent enforcement of the unwritten rules a la Brian McCann and Gerrit Cole. And while even a Carlos Gomez/Yasiel Puig-lover like me will admit that hot dogging can go too far, I feel like most hot dogging is hilarious rather than offensive. Take this hypothetical example Kurkjian gives a few players about some bad on-field behavior and their uniform reaction to how it would be accepted:

Several years ago, Joe Horn, a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, scored a touchdown, pulled out a cell phone that he had taped inside the goal post, and made a call, or at least pretended to.

“And no one in football cared!” Baker says. “If that had happened in baseball … if someone had hit a home run, reached home plate, took a cell phone out of his stirrup and called someone, he wouldn’t finish the phone call. There would be balls flying into both dugouts. It would be like a Cuban winter-ball game, with guys running around with bats in their hands. Oh my God, the world would stop spinning on its axis. The ice caps would melt.”

McCarthy laughs and says, “Oh my God, he would never get to home plate. Bats would be tomahawking out of both dugouts. Where would a player hide a cell phone, under a base?”

McGehee says, “The game would never get to the next hitter. It would be so ugly.”

Says the Tigers’ Torii Hunter, “That would start the greatest brawl in major league history. I would drop my glove, chase the guy down, and beat the s— out of him. And I’d do the same thing if he was on my team. The camera shot would be of his entire team, piled on top of him, pummeling him. I hope that never happens in baseball.”

Personally, I’d laugh my friggin’ head off and have myself a new favorite player. But like I said: I have some trouble with this stuff.

 

Aaron Judge broke a dubious record last night

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Aaron Judge hit a monster home run in last night’s win over the Mets, but he also set a dubious record. Judge struck out for the 33rd consecutive game, setting a new mark for a position player in a single season.

Yes, that’s qualified. No pitchers, of course, as I assume many of them have struck out in more than 33 straight games. Also,  Adam Dunn once struck out in 36 straight games, but that straddled two seasons: he struck out in the final four games of 2011 and the first 32 games of 2012. Still, Judge’s feat is impressive, and given the nature of his game and the state of baseball these days, it’s not hard to imagine him striking out in three or four more straight games anyway.

None of which, by the way, should be all that much of a slight on Judge. The guy is still hitting .291/.420/.614, even with his second half slump. If I was a manager I’d happily accept his whiffs in exchange for everything else he brings to the table. It’s not 1959 anymore, and strikeouts are not the worst thing that can happen.

The Cubs gave Rick Renteria a World Series Ring

Getty Images
8 Comments

It was revealed, in the course of a Jerry Reinsdorf interview the other day, that the Chicago Cubs gave Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria a World Series ring.

Renteria, of course, managed the Cubs for one season — in 2014 — and was fired when Joe Maddon became available after exiting his contract with the Rays. Renteria did an OK job with the Cubs — they were 73-89, which was seven games better than they had been the year before, and in the normal course would never have been fired after that showing — but the thinking by the Cubs front office was that they wanted Maddon, and not Renteria, to be in charge of taking a young and talented team from the land of rebuilding to the land of contention. Which Maddon did, far more quickly than most expected.

It’s a nice gesture by the Cubs, and I have no issue with it at all. If you can do a nice thing that costs you little or nothing, it’s always good to do it. And, based on his comments before yesterday’s White Sox-Dodgers game, Renteria did appreciate it. He’s been nothing but gracious since his undeserved (even if understandable) firing by the Cubs. He’s a high-road guy.

Still, I’m wondering what the inspiration for it was, because as far as I know, it’s pretty unusual for a team to give a former manager a ring in this situation, especially if the former manager had no greater history with the club (Renteria never played or coached in the Cubs system before 2014). At the time the judgment — put bluntly — was that the Cubs had a better chance to win with Maddon than Renteria, so it feels sort of . . . revisionist for them to be doing this now. Or even disrespectful on some unintentional level. Isn’t it sort of like the ex who dumped you for someone else a couple of years ago giving you a gift on their wedding day? How would that make you feel? “Glad I helped make you a better person for your new partner,” no one would say, ever.

In reality, I imagine that the thinking is a benign and somewhat cosmic “it takes a village” kind of thing and that the Cubs brass believes that anyone who had even a small hand in what became the 2016 Cubs should be rewarded. And, like I said above: nice gestures are good things and this is a nice gesture.

Still, there’s an element to this that strikes me as weird. Almost as if it’s a guilt-assuaging move on some level. “Er, uh, sorry for that awkwardness when we dumped you for the prettier girl a couple of years back. No hard feelings?”