Baseballs unwritten rules are really dumb.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander lost his no-hit bid against the Los Angels of Anaheim in the eighth inning on Sunday. He was on the verge of his second no-hitter this season, which would’ve made him just the sixth pitcher in MLB history to do that.
But hey, all was not lost. Instead, the game can be remembered as a showcase for virtually every unwritten baseball code being violated within a few innings, followed by commentary defending said actions as “part of the game.”
Angels pitcher Jered Weaver got mad at Magglio Ordonez, whom he thought lingered a bit in the batter’s box after hitting a home run in the third inning. The ball Ordonez hit barely stayed fair, so he lingered to see if the ball would be foul or fair. He had an equally plausible explanation for rounding the bases slowly:
After that, he was yelling at me to run faster, and I told him that I’m old—that’s as fast as I run. I’m not going to show anyone up. That’s not me.
Carlos Guillen did not like it when Weaver was angered by Ordonez’s supposed showboating. So then Guillen really showboated when hit a home run in the seventh inning, slowly meandering out of the batter’s box while staring directly at an enraged Weaver all the way to first base.
Weaver, then, decided to get revenge on Guillen in the most sensible way possible: throwing at fastball Alex Avila’s head. Weaver was ejected, but his teammates would payback the opposing pitcher by similarly flustering him with meaningless rules that aren’t really rules.
Erick Aybar led off the eighth inning by attempting to bunt for a base hit, reaching on an error by Verlander. This perhaps caught Verlander off guard, because even if a game is close, even if you are a team that often does things like try to take advantage of your team speed by bunting for base hits, you just don’t do that to an opposing pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter. Sayeth Verlander:
There’s arguments both ways, but obviously from a pitching standpoint, we like to call it bush league.
Then, on the base paths, Aybar was caught in a rundown. There was contact between he and Verlander, as Aybar tried to escape the pickle. Verlander, obviously understanding that it was a close game and that he was in Aybar’s path, was completely understanding:
Aybar told the Orange County (Calif.) Register that Verlander told him he was going to hit him next year. The teams won’t meet again this regular season.
Well, at least Verlander didn’t threaten to hit one of Aybar’s uninvolved teammates, I guess.
The incredible part of all of these altercations caused by relatively harmless incidents wasn’t that they happened. Anger over silly non-rules has a long history in baseball. What was absurd were the lengths everyone went to after the game to explain, rationalize, or even defend things that were happening.
Ordonez, who has a reputation of being reluctant to talk to the press, addressed the media after the game to make it clear he, in no way, tried to antagonize Weaver. Guillen was simply “sticking up for his teammate”’ by purposely interjecting himself to make Weaver angry. And sticking up for your teammate by showboating is always totally defensible. Besides, if Weaver had a problem with what Guillen did, there was a much more adult way he could have handled it. He could’ve beat Guillen up, right there on the spot.
Wait, what? Well, that’s exactly what Oakland Press columnist Pat Caputo suggested:
First of all, if Weaver had a problem with Carlos Guillen for admiring his home run too long, fight him. He was right in front of Weaver. Go after him. …
This stuff where Weaver throws his mitt in the safety of the dugout and acts “like hold me back” when he is protected is totally chicken, well, you-know-what. Don’t scream and stomp. Duke it out with Guillen.
Oh, and just to match Verlander’s thinly veiled promise that there could be repercussions next time these teams meet, Weaver offered the same:
There’s a line that needs to be drawn. If they want to play the game that way, that’s the way it’s going to be.
At least no one stepped on the mound. I’ve written before about my love of athletes showing personality, even if it’s brash or arrogant, and the same holds true here. Guillen’s over-the-top showboating was funny, as was Weaver’s hotheaded reaction. But seriously, the intentionally throwing at guys who in no way were involved with anything? Getting pissed at one of the quietest, most humble players in the game for running slow? Threatening “retaliation” at guys who were trying to make baseball plays to help win a close game? It’s safe to say that baseball’s unwritten rules are unwritten for a reason: they’re really stupid.
—Photo AP/Duane Burleson