by Sean Begin
It’s time to throw out the book.
Or, at least, make some highly necessary changes.
What book? That would be the Unwritten Rules of Baseball, which made yet another appearance April 20, when the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez ignited a benches clearing brawl after he flipped his bat on what he thought was a home run.
Turned out it was really just a deep outfield hit, one that saw Gomez wind up (barely) at third base with a triple, and could, as Fox’s Jon Paul Morosi speculated, been an inside-the-park home run, had Gomez hustled out of the box.
Pirates closer Gerrit Cole, apparently succeeding Brian McCann as baseball’s Arbiter of All Things Unwritten, took offense to this action. Cole shouted something to Gomez, who promptly removed his helmet and started towards the mound, having to be restrained by the third base umpire.
Naturally, the benches cleared, and after Gomez slipped the umps grasp, a full-on basebrawl erupted on the field at PNC Park. Gomez was eventually ejected, along with the Pirates’ Travis Snider.
But the real issue here starts back at the plate, with Gomez’s bat flip. This story is not a new one.
Gomez, himself, drew the wrath last season when he bat-flipped after hitting a home run against the Braves, whose then-catcher, Brian McCann, took exception. McCann blocked Gomez from touching home, causing benches to clear then.
The same story can be applied to Marlin’s pitcher Jose Fernandez, who also caused the benches to clear last season when he stood at home plate and stared down his first major league home run against those same Braves.
McCann again, this time joined by third baseman Chris Johnson, took offense to Fernandez’s actions.
Lather, rinse and repeat the story with the Dodgers Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig, who seems to anger the Unwritten Rules arbiters wherever he goes.
Really, it’s time for all this game managing by the players to stop. Baseball, while making massive amounts of money from TV contracts, is facing a sharp decrease in young fans. The exuberance guys like Gomez and Puig show when they play the game needs to be allowed to flourish.
If Gomez wants to flip his bat over a triple, let him. In the end, because he didn’t score, his actions only hurt the Brewers. Cole didn’t suffer from being stranded 90 feet from home, so why does he feel the need to say something?
If anyone should have policed Gomez, it should have been the Brewers.
Most of these players, too, are young Hispanics from the Dominican Republic or, in Puig’s case, Cuba. Long have they played simply for the love of the game. Puig made $17 a month playing ball for Cuba’s national team. When he celebrates with a bat flip, it’s not to show up the other team, it’s to show his excitement over the game.
Besides, watch a basketball game, a soccer match or a hockey game, and tell me if you don’t see players celebrating the in-game accomplishments.
You don’t see some seventh-man bench players in the NBA getting mad at Blake Griffin for staring down some guy he just posterized with a massive slam-dunk. When Messi scores for Barcelona, the backup goalkeeper isn’t running onto the pitch to get in his face for taking his shirt off and sliding on his knees in front of the fans.
Baseball is 160-plus-years-old. It’s time leave the old, unwritten code of behavior where it belongs, in the past, and stop acting like a bunch of old men angry that some kid is having fun on his lawn.