The unwritten rules have an equal impact on games.
Baseball has a rulebook that would make any law firm proud.
But don’t read that rulebook if you want to understand what is happening during games. The unwritten rules have an equal impact on games.
A pitch that is just outside is supposed to be a ball. But if the catcher set up there, umpires give the pitcher credit for hitting a target with a perfect pitch. A force out requires a player to have the ball in his glove when he touches the base. But on a double play, because the runner is allowed to “take out” the second baseman or shortstop in an attempt to save an out, the umpires allow the out if the defender is in the neighborhood.
When you team is ahead 11-0, if you steal a base or drop a bunt at the plate, you can be sure that the next hitter will be wearing a nice set of lace marks. That won’t be found on page 22, paragraph 6. But it is just as much a rule as anything that is.
But trust me when I tell you, if the score is 2-1 and there is a full count, I am not hitting you with a pitch on purpose. If you are one of the hitters most likely to be plunked because you love to lean into pitches and gain an advantage, you certainly have no right to be upset if I hit you.
That scenario played out Thursday night in San Diego. Former Kansas City Royals ace and current Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Zack Greinke popped Padre hitter Carlos Quentin with a glancing blow. Instead of walking to first as the rules allow, Quentin, who has been plunked by Greinke a few times before, decided to show the Dodger pitcher up.
Greinke was having none of that and apparently spoke a few words of advice to the Padre batter.
At that point, baseball’s most unwritten rule was enacted. Quentin charged the mound. Typically, these skirmishes result in some hugging and yelling and posturing but no one gets hurt.
Of course, occasionally, Pedro Martinez tosses an old man to the ground or Nolan Ryan pounds Robin Ventura about the head and shoulders for a few minutes.
But usually, charging the mound is more demonstrative than it is destructive.
Not Thursday night.
Greinke decided to duck his shoulder and take on the charging batter. He will regret that decision every time he tries to wash his hair for the next month.
The pitcher’s collarbone snapped and his manager was not happy about it.
"A 2-1 game and we're trying to hit him on a 3-2 count? That's just stupid, that's what it is," Don Mattingly said. "He (Quentin) should not play a game until Greinke can pitch again. If he plays before Greinke pitches, something's wrong."
I doubt that Major League Baseball agrees. They don’t take the severity of the injury into account when deciding punishments. They only look at the player’s actions. Greinke could have walked away.
Quentin was wrong. He shouldn’t have charged the mound in that instance.
But Greinke snapping a collarbone can’t affect his punishment. Quentin’s punishment will come away from the rulebook. If I am Quentin, I wear a flak jacket when we play the Dodgers, because the next ball that comes sailing in on him, won’t be an accident.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org