Baltimore Orioles

Jake Fox Breaks Unwritten Rule of Spring Baseball: Don't Practice

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 11:  Jake Fox #47 of the Baltimore Orioles on July 11, 2010 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Todd PatakyCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2011

Here's the situation: Jake Fox of the Baltimore Orioles came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning with his team up by 10 in a spring training game on Monday.

The Orioles' catcher, who had not made the team at the time, had the audacity to swing at a 3-0 pitch with runners on second and third and no outs.

The Orioles skipper, Buck Showalter, was visibly angry with Fox, stomping around the dugout during the remainder of the plate appearance, which ended in a walk. He then quickly replaced Fox with a pinch runner and berated Fox upon his return to the dugout.

Jim Leyland, manager of the Detroit Tigers, the Orioles' opponent that day, was shouting at Fox from his dugout.

This is just a new level of ridiculousness where the unwritten rules of baseball are concerned.

Fox had not made the team at the time and was playing not only for a roster spot with the O's, but also a spot on another team should the Orioles have decided not to place him on the roster; he has since been added to the Orioles opening day roster.

How is he going to demonstrate his abilities at the plate by taking pitches, even if it is a "take" situation?

Secondly, spring training is meant to be practice. As such, shouldn't a player swing at any pitch that he would swing at in a regular game? Isn't that what practice is?

When I am practicing with my son, I don't have him practice taking good pitches. I don't tell him, "Okay, son, the count is 3-0 and we are up by 10, so I want you to lay off this pitch no matter how good it looks."

I want him to swing the bat.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it was a meaningless spring training game. The Orioles won the game and do you know how many wins they have in the 2011 season now?

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

The problem with unwritten rules is that no one knows them all. Heck, most people don't know all of the written rules, so how can players be expected to remember the ones no one has bothered to write down?

I can understand, to a certain extend, not wanting to show up your opponent, but isn't it your responsibility to stop me from scoring? It is not my responsibility to stop playing just because you find yourself in the unenviable position of being down by ten runs late in the game.

If you don't want me to score more, try pitching better and playing a little defense. Don't rely on my sense of charity to bail you out.

People are also arguing that the pitcher was a minor league pitcher, so Fox shouldn't have been swinging because of that.

I'm not even going to pretend I understand that. If he is good enough to be on the mound, he is good enough to have batters swinging at any pitch he throws.

If he is not good enough for that, what is he doing out there? Oh, that's right, it was a spring training game; a game specifically for players to practice and, if luck is on their sides, earn a spot on a major league roster.

If baseball doesn't want players swinging at 3-0 pitches with no outs when their team is up by 10 runs in the eighth inning, write a rule prohibiting it. Otherwise, instruct your pitcher to pitch better and not dig themselves into that kind of hole to begin with.

The unwritten rules of baseball need to go away from regular season play, in my opinion. Pitchers are encouraged to drill batters if they have the nerve to hit a home run.

How dare a player do that which he is being paid to do?

Someone is going to get hurt because of these dumb rules someday. We can only hope it will not be in a game played in March.

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