As much as I love baseball, I don’t think there’s a sport that actively hinders it’s own progress as much as baseball does. Most sports have no problem allowing the game to move forward, relying less on old traditions and giving the new generation of stars their chance to make their own mark on the game. The new generation, in other sports, don’t have to worry about some triggered boomer on the other team crying about some “unwritten rule” that was decided upon all the way back when fucking dinosaurs were still roaming the Earth as a reason they’re being talked down to.
But, alas, baseball is still stuck in the 1920s, where Connie Mack’s Code of Conduct was a way of life for Philadelphia Athletics players. The man who managed the A’s for 50 years while literally wearing a suit and top hat to every game instituted rules so as to ensure his guys would be better people as well as players, and made sure they wouldn’t embarrass their opponents. And I can commend Mack for doing that. It was needed during the wild earlier years of baseball. However, we are 100 years past those days. And here we are, still arguing about some unwritten doctrines because a young baseball player did his job.
San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr drove in seven runs in a 14-4 rout of the Texas Rangers on Monday, and it didn’t come without “controversy.” During the 8th inning, while up 10-3, Tatis Jr hit a grand slam on a 3-0 pitch. Immediately, Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward was not happy, and reliever Ian Gibaut threw behind another Padres star, Manny Machado, with the very next pitch. Later, Woodward would say that he didn’t like it because of the way “we were raised on the game.” Padres manager Jayce Tingler decided to not take his player’s side, condemning Tatis for the home run.
Fucking hell, Tatis Jr even apologized himself for the home run, saying he may “take a pitch” next time. If it sounds like I’m frustrated, it’s because I am. I hate seeing a sport I love so much come together to push back against a ballplayer who was doing his job. They shamed this man because, apparently, it’s an unwritten rule in baseball that you’re not supposed to swing at a 3-0 pitch while up by six or more runs after the sixth or seventh inning.
Let’s put aside the fact that a seven run lead is not a 100% safe lead. Seven run leads have evaporated in one inning, let alone the two innings that were left in that game. You mean to tell me that, due to “unwritten rules,” if opposing pitchers are absolute dog shit on any given day, opposing batters are supposed to protect their feelings by just not adding to their score. And furthermore, if any given at bat goes to a 3-0 count, you’re supposed to just give the opposing pitcher a strike. Really? Give me a fucking break.
Hey, Chris Woodward, it is not San Diego’s fault your pitching staff gave up 10 runs. It is not Fernando Tatis Jr’s fault you gave up 10 runs. It is no one’s fault but yours, and the fact that you want to hide behind some unwritten holy grail to protect your hurt feelings is cowardly. Condemn your team for shitting the bed my dude. Your team has to do better. I don’t care if the kid added insult to injury. Your organization knows more about that than anyone, seeing as how you dog-piled on the Baltimore Orioles for 30 runs in 2007.
Jeff Passan said it best, “Unwritten rules are unwritten because when you write them down it exposes how truly stupid they are.” And there isn’t a sports that wants to be a bigger moron than baseball. Even fucking hockey, the sport where we champion two dudes dropping their gloves for a mini bare knuckle brawl, doesn’t use “unwritten rules” to tear down their stars.
Fernando Tatis Jr is an exciting player who Major League Baseball should build up. When he’s having fun, smiling and hype, that’s what fans want to see. You know what your unwritten rules do? They make players like him feel like shit for just being better than the pitcher. What do you think the younger generation of sports fan thinks when they see a player like Tatis Jr wear regret on his face for a grand slam? It genuinely confuses me when these types of “unwritten rules” things pop up in this sport.
I am not a massive basketball fan. I couldn’t tell you even basic shit about the game. Yet, I’ll give them credit where it’s due. The NBA, more than any North American sports league, captured the attention of the younger generation of sports fan. Why? Because they don’t let the traditions of old get in the way of memorable moments. When Dame Lillard hit The Shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of last year’s Western Conference Quarterfinals, you didn’t see large portions of the league come out and condemn Dame for the little wave he gave as OKC walked off the court. No one complained it was disrespectful when he deadpanned into the camera as his teammates mobbed him.
Those moments are what captivate the younger generation. Yeah, they’re disrespectful. There’s a lot of showmanship that goes into that. But you know what else it is? Exciting. Rewarding even. Dame Lillard hit the game winner that sent the Thunder home, and he earned that celebration. He earned that showmanship. Russell Westbrook understood that. The Thunder as a whole understood that. They didn’t like it, but it doesn’t matter.
Jose Bautista and Tim Anderson showing up the pitcher after a bomb, and Fernando Tatis Jr’s grand slam on Monday, is the same thing. They earned those moments because they were just better. And when old heads clutch their pearls to defend some semblance of the “Gentleman’s Way”, it’s outdated. It’s boring. No one wants to see a baseball landscape in which your young stars have to apologize for hitting a grand slam. It just turns of the younger generation of fan that the sport desperately needs right now.
Connie Mack’s Code of Conduct aimed to make his player’s better people on and off the field. It was about representing the game in the best way possible. It was about respecting the game and your opponent. That’s understandable. However, these unwritten doctrines aren’t about any of that. They aren’t about respecting your opponent, or making you a better person. They’re about protecting the feelings of players who perform like dogshit and get burned repeatedly. It’s about pitchers justifying them throwing a baseball at hitter because of something that pitcher did. It’s all about protecting fragile egos.
So, baseball. Listen up and listen good: fuck your unwritten rules. Let the kids play.
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