Sunday, July 24, 2011

TMAILBAG: The Code of Baseball

Jag writes:

I had a question for your blog regarding the code of baseball. With David Ortiz and Kevin Gregg's recent scuffle, what are your thoughts on the code? In Toronto, Jose Bautista sometimes gets in trouble with opposing pitchers because he plays the game hard no matter what the score (or the game, evidenced by his catch at the All-Star Game that nearly gave all Jays' fans a heart attack when he slid feet first into the wall...and then he rolled his ankle for real in a game three days later!). Case in point: with the Jays leading by eight runs, Jose popped up with two men on and was upset at himself for it, thus drawing the ire of the opposing pitcher. They jawed for a bit and the pitcher was angry that Jose was trying to up the score when the game was already out of reach.


I've long thought the unwritten "code of baseball" was one of the sillier accepted aspects of the game.

Last year, my A's were involved in a particularly ridiculous dust-up when Dallas Braden screamed at the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez for crossing over the pitcher's mound on his way back to first base after a foul ball. I wrote the following a few weeks after the incident:

Amongst A's fans, I'm part of an infinitesimal minority who believes Dallas Braden's "I must protect my mound" bombast was a transparent attempt to fire up a scuffling team by going after Alex Rodriguez – baseball's universally loathed, low-hanging fruit. If it had been anyone else in baseball (save for fan and media-approved punching bags like Milton Bradley, Vincente Padilla or AJ Pierzynski) Braden would've been rightfully branded as batsh*t insane for his demonstrative in-game diatribe and embarrassing postgame professional wrestling-esque promo directed at A-Rod.

Over the weekend, I was driving around, running errands and listening to ballgames on my car's satellite radio. During one game, I heard the broadcasters discuss the unwritten "no stealing bases when your team has a big lead" statute. The rule of thumb, according to one of the broadcasters, used to be "five in the fifth" -- or when a team is leading by at least five runs in the fifth inning or later, it's understood that team won't attempt any stolen bases. Now, in today's offensive environment, that's evolved into "seven in the seventh".

These are rules designed to salvage the collective psyches of overmatched adolescents. It's amazing to me that grown men need similar ego shields.

Many years ago, Arizona's Curt Schilling was throwing a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. In the eighth inning, with the Diamondbacks leading 2-0, Padres catcher Ben Davis dropped a perfect bunt and beat it out for the Padres' first hit of the game. Arizona manager Bob Brenly
melodramatically wrapped himself within the invisible flag of the unwritten code -- and 10 years later, he still hasn't gotten over it. Davis and the Padres insisted "the code" didn't apply since the Diamondbacks' late lead was big enough.


Then again, maybe I'm the wrong person to ask. I
thoroughly enjoyed Prince Fielder's obviously choreographed walk-off celebration against the Giants two years ago. I loved it when Mets rookie Lastings Milledge launched a game-tying 10th inning home run and high-fived the home fans on his way back to the outfield in the top of the following inning.

What do I think of "the code"?

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