Ripping the unwritten rules a new one

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Dirk Hayhurst does just that today over at Deadspin. He takes Tim Kurkjian’s recent article on the unwritten rules and, combined with his own professional baseball experience, explains why they’re simply incoherent.

The strongest observation: that there is no one set of unwritten rules. It’s all about what young players learn from veteran players on their team. And that every team has a slightly different variation on those rules. Some veterans are OK if you have flair and personality as long as you do your job. Others are stricter about decorum and behavior. There is no uniform standard. If there were, then no one would fight about these things. Everyone would know. But they do fight:

Some of those players will get traded to other teams where other leaders with different views have imprinted other rookies. Lockers rooms will face a an unwritten code schism. Sects will form. Doctrines will mutate. In many ways, unwritten rules are like religious views, with different values assigned to different doctrines, all of which must be taken on faith. And just like with many religions, believers will embrace things for which they have no clue of the origins, just because they’ve been told to believe them, and that there will be hell to pay if they don’t.

It all boils down, basically, to arbitrary values with said arbitrary values being justified by a seniority system in which veterans try to dominate young players out of fear or inertia or habit or tradition. The key is that there is no way to ever truly get a good explanation for why things must be a certain way. Or why things could be a certain way on one club but a totally different way on another. At its core it’s an irrational system even if the desire for generalized traditions and decorum is understandable.

I’ve met Dirk and talked with him a lot. I’ve read all his books and most of his articles. I think I get him pretty well. At least I get this much: guys like Hayhurst tend not do well with irrational rules and can’t help but call such irrationalities into question. There’s a grand tradition of that sort of thing in baseball. Unfortunately, those who partake in that tradition tend to get attacked on an ad hominem basis or have their criticisms fended off by appeals to authority. I’m sure some folks who don’t like what Dirk has to say here will dismiss it by talking about his writing career or the relative brevity of his major league career and say that those things disqualify him as a critic, QED.

If and when that happens it will only prove Dirk’s point, of course. For such appeals are, themselves, irrational and are designed to obfuscate the matter at hand and change the terms of the debate to one more favorable to the person on the defensive.

UPDATE:

Well then.

Albert Pujols is eighth on the all-time home run list

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Albert Pujols kicked things off for the Angels in dramatic fashion on Friday night, cranking a two-RBI home run off of the Orioles’ Jeremy Hellickson to give the club an early lead in the first inning. The 350-footer was his 18th home run of the year and No. 609 in his 17-season career, tying Sammy Sosa on the all-time home run list for eighth overall and most home runs hit by a player born outside of the United States.

With the home run, Pujols sits just three homers shy of tying Jim Thome’s 612-home run record for seventh on the all-time list. That figures to be the last major milestone still ahead of the designated hitter this season, with Ken Griffey Jr.’s 630-home run mark still a distant 21 blasts away.

The Angels, meanwhile, ran with Pujols’ lead, collecting home runs from Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart and Mike Trout. It wasn’t quite enough to quash the Orioles, however, who surged to a 9-7 finale after Manny Machado went 3-for-5 with three home runs and struck a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Nationals place Max Scherzer on 10-day disabled list with neck inflammation

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The Nationals placed right-hander Max Scherzer on the 10-day disabled list with left neck inflammation, the team announced Friday. Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start against the Padres and replaced by left-hander Matt Grace, though an official roster move has yet to be made to fill his spot on the roster. The assignment is retroactive to August 15.

Scherzer experienced a similar pain on the right side of his neck at the start of the month, though this is the first official stint he’ll serve on the disabled list in 2017. While comments from club manager Dusty Baker suggest that the injury wasn’t caused by any particular trauma, it seems likely that the ace right-hander will be sidelined for at least one more start.

It’s a terrible time to lose a star pitcher, especially with the Nationals positioned to make a deep run in the postseason, but their 14-game cushion in the NL East should buy them some time while Scherzer’s on the mend. Prior to his bout of inflammation, the 33-year-old looked remarkably healthy this season. He pitched through his fifth consecutive All-Star campaign and currently boasts a 12-5 record in 24 starts, complete with a 2.25 ERA (good for second-best among qualified starters), 2.2 BB/9 and 12.3 SO/9 in 160 1/3 innings.