Like most baseball fans (and former catchers), I used to love the unwritten rules of the game: Don’t show up a pitcher, don’t pimp a home run, always have your pitchers’ backs and never bunt for a hit in the seventh inning or later of a no-hit bid. That’s just a few, but they all seem simple enough. They’re all rooted in respect, if not for yourself, then for the game, your team and your opponent.
There comes a point, though, when the enforcement of those rules is just plain stupid. First off, if you’re bunting in the seventh inning or later of a no-hitter, and the game’s 1-0, that’s forgivable. Second, in the American League, you can’t hit a pitcher who hit your guy, so the cycle just becomes self-perpetuating. That brings me to your San Francisco Giants.
As closer Hunter Strickland made his way off the mound on Monday, after giving up three runs on three hits and two walks to blow his fourth save of the year, he detoured past third base, just to squawk at Marlins rookie Lewis Brinson.
Brinson had been slightly pumped that he tied the game with a 1-2 single, and he showed it, as one does. Youthful exuberance, and all that. Strickland took exception. After flapping his gums, Strickland then went into the clubhouse and broke his pitching hand punching a door, putting himself on the disabled list for at least six weeks. (Aside: Has he just never seen “Bull Durham”? Don’t ever punch with your pitching hand).
The next day, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez plunked Brinson, Marlins manager Don Mattingly may have threatened Buster Posey and then Dan Straily proceeded to dot the San Francisco catcher. Words were exchanged, Straily and Mattingly were tossed and Straily was suspended five games. The Giants came out miraculously unscathed. “Boys will be boys,” manager Bruce Bochy said. Baseball has become far too smart for that kind of logic.
For a team that has had three players break hands, and is already short-handed (no pun intended), to even risk ejections and suspensions — or that an inside pitch intended to intimidate could crack another bone — is foolhardy. To do so to defend the honor of someone who hurt his own team is asinine, not to mention karmically unwise.
Bochy softly implied that there was still some bad blood from Miami throwing inside and breaking third baseman Evan Longoria’s hand the week before. Longoria dove in to try and pull a pitch. He got hit. By Straily, as a matter of fact.
Is the great crime now that pitchers go inside? Or that batters hang over the plate? The problem with unwritten rules is that they’re unwritten, and they can change and morph to fit any perceived slight. Put down your balls and start using your brains. I enjoy a good basebrawl as much as the next guy, but not when it’s precipitated by something so thunderously stupid.
When baseball evolves into a monologue from “The Untouchables” — he pulls a knife, you pull a gun, hospital … morgue … etc. — things have gone too far. Especially when in service of preserving the honor of someone who hurt his own team. If unwritten rules are all about respect, where’s the respect in that?