Phillies-Mets disagreement over unwritten rules

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The recently-completed three-game series between the Phillies and Mets had some intrigue. There was a chance that Wednesday night’s contest could have featured a beanball war, stemming from Mets reliever Jacob Rhame throwing a fastball up and in to Rhys Hoskins at the end of a 9-0 game. Thankfully, the game went off without a hitch, save for Hoskins homering off of Rhame and taking his sweet time jogging around the bases.

It turns out that all of the animosity had to do with unwritten rules and unmet expectations. The Athletic’s Tim Britton and Matt Gelb report that the Mets felt the Phillies broke an unwritten rule in the top of the sixth inning of Tuesday’s game. They were trailing by eight runs, so the Mets decided not to have first baseman Pete Alonso hold catcher J.T. Realmuto at first base. Realmuto bolted for second base on the first pitch to Hoskins, who fouled the pitch off. Some believe an unwritten rule is that you don’t run when a team chooses not to hold a runner on first base in a blowout game.

The Phillies felt the Mets broke an unwritten rule in the bottom of the sixth inning of Tuesday’s game. With the same score, a runner on second base and two outs, the Phillies chose not to hold Juan Lagares at first base, instead playing Hoskins behind the runner. Lagares ran on the pitch and advanced to third base on a single by Robinson Canó.

A member of the Mets said, “They did it first. They broke the unwritten rule.” Another Met said, “If you’re still playing, we’re still playing.”

Like a souring romantic relationship between husband and wife, the Phillies’ and Mets’ problems lie in unmet expectations and an inability to communicate. Because these particular rules are unwritten, anyone can have their own version of the rules and get mad at any infraction. Then, because baseball encourages stoicism and other toxic male behavior in its players, no one can communicate effectively about these perceived infractions. Everyone responds passive-aggressively. Players believe they have to “send a message” in the form of weaponized baseballs. Hoskins chose baseball’s slowest celebratory home run trot, which was at least harmless though petty.

How arbitrary are the unwritten rules, anyway? The Phillies felt the Mets were still trying too hard in the sixth inning of an 8-0 game not even 10 days after the club hung a 10-spot on Mets pitching in the first inning. The Phillies’ offense, though currently hobbled, is plenty capable of an offensive outburst to get back in the game. The Mets saw the Phillies still putting in effort, so they figured they would continue to try as well. Seems quite reasonable.

Interestingly, baseball is anomalous in expecting early concessions. A football team leading in a blowout may put in second- and third-stringers, but they still play legitimate football. It makes sense, too — a good showing by one of the back-ups in this situation could help him later, either by being moved up the depth chart or going to another team that values him more. In competitive video games, not trying while leading (by a considerable amount) is known as “sandbagging.” It’s perceived as, “I’m so much better than you, I can win without even trying.” In a different culture, the behavior baseball players yearn for is vilified.

That’s why “unwritten rules” as a concept is so pointless. It may have worked somewhat when baseball players were largely a homogenous group (and the league worked to keep it that way). But baseball players now come from all kinds of backgrounds and value specific behaviors differently. For example, some players think bat flips are awesome. Others think they’re disrespectful. That’s why it’s helpful to codify behaviors we don’t like (such as “the Chase Utley rule”) and communicate like adults when feelings get hurt.

If nothing else, though, we may be seeing the revival of the Phillies-Mets rivalry, which will make for an interesting NL East race this year. So we have that going for us, which is nice.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.