By Jason Klein
Originally Written For Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball – 8/11/11
They may be baseball’s unwritten rules, but over the last week, there’s been an awful lot written about them. These sometimes-controversial guidelines may not be in the actual Major League Baseball rulebook, but it can be argued they are just as important to the balance within the game.
Baseball has always been a sport rich in history and tradition, a game of etiquette and respect. The moral fabric of the sport is implicitly understood around the league and players police themselves accordingly. When inflated egos compel a player to derail and veer off on a dangerous track, it’s the unwritten rules, and the repercussions for breaking them, that keep them in check.
Such was the case on July 31st in Detroit, when the train of respectful player conduct crashed into an overpass and went up in flames.
A beautiful matchup turned ugly when American League Cy Young candidates squared off – Jered Weaver of the Angels took the hill against Detroit’s Justin Verlander. The Tigers won the game 3-2 and Verlander came within 4 outs of throwing his second no-hitter of the season – but that wasn’t the story. The only “no-no” that day belonged to Carlos Guillen of the Tigers, the first to cast his stone.
Though Weaver felt Magglio Ordonez taunted him earlier in the game, the first real domino fell in the seventh inning. That’s when Guillen taunted Weaver as his solo home run sailed into the seats, staring down the pitcher as he sidestepped up the line towards first base. Weaver didn’t appreciate the gratuitous celebration and subsequently threw a ball over Alex Avila’s head, in retaliation, on the next pitch. He was immediately tossed from the game.
Then, in the 8th inning, Erik Aybar attempted to break up Verlander’s no-hitter with a bunt – nails on a chalkboard around baseball circles. The move forced Verlander to commit a throwing error to first, and the frazzled pitcher lost the no-hit bid one batter later. Verlander later referred to the bunt as “Bush League.” Many contend that Aybar put the bunt down as a way to stick up for Weaver.
This system of underlying checks and balances is vital to the game. No one enjoys getting walked all over. Prideful players must have the opportunity to defend themselves, and their teammates. If left unpunished, players will act however they see fit – regardless of whom they offend.
Weaver drew a line in the sand when he threw at Avila. He wanted to make a point and stand up for himself (he probably could have aimed for a different part of his body though). Then, out of respect for his own pitcher, Aybar likely decided to disrespect the opponent’s with a bunt during his no-hit bid.
An eye for an eye.
If a player deliberately breaks a rule and tries to hurt or humiliate another player, retaliation should be expected – as was the case in Detroit. It’s the umpire’s responsibility to let these things play out among the players without putting anyone’s wellbeing in jeopardy, of course.
Some may argue that there is no place in the game for such childish antics. Nonsense. Remember, these grown men are playing a child’s game – to a certain extent, playground rules are in effect.
Sometimes, two wrongs do make a right.
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