After yesterday afternoon’s game between the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels, there’s been significant discussion about what is appropriate in a baseball game and what isn’t.
Everyone seems to have their own opinion about whether Jered Weaver’s toss at Alex Avila’s head, Carlos Guillen’s slow stare/trot or Erick Aybar’s bunt attempt was an acceptable baseball play.
Lucky for all of us, there’s a book that defines what is and isn’t permissible within the rules of baseball. It’s called Official Baseball Rules, and you can download it for free right here.
So that should settle any differences, right?
Unfortunately, no. There’s still those pesky “unwritten” rules to deal with.
There’s a reason that these unwritten rules are just that—unwritten. If they were really rules, somebody would have taken the time, ink and paper to write them down.
If it was really that important not to admire the picturesque flight of a home run or flip a bat before trotting to first, those things would be expressly outlawed somewhere in the 123 pages of Major League Baseball’s rulebook.
Anything that isn’t in that rulebook isn’t a rule. It’s that simple.
If you don’t want the hitter to admire a home run, don’t let him hit a home run. Or lobby Major League baseball to take a page out of the NFL’s playbook and outlaw celebrations.
I understand that Weaver doesn’t want to get shown up. Nobody does. But it’s not as though Guillen cheated when he deposited Weaver's fastball into the rightfield seats.
Weaver tried to get him out; and he failed.
Guillen tried to hit a home run—he succeeded. Then he decided to rub it in a little bit. It certainly wasn’t a glowing display of sportsmanship, but it was well within the rules.
I’m sorry that Weaver was angry about Guillen’s reaction, but really he should have focused on getting the next guy out, something he’s done better than almost any other pitcher in baseball this season.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Angels, Jered Weaver, Major League Baseball and most notably Alex Avila, Weaver didn’t do that. He didn’t try to get the next guy out. He tried to hit him in head.
I freely admit, there’s no unwritten rule that forbids a pitcher from throwing at a hitter.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. If anything (I can’t be sure, because none of this is written down), the unwritten rulebook states that throwing at the next guy in line is proper retribution for a little stylin’ and profilin’ after a dinger.
I get it, Weaver wanted to make somebody pay for Guillen’s showboating, and he figured that a 92-mile-per-hour heater aimed about three inches above Avila’s head would get the job done.
By the unwritten rulebook, Weaver probably should have stayed in the game.
Unfortunately for Weaver and the Angels, there are real rules that govern this situation, specifically, Rule 8.02 (d) of Official Baseball Rules, which states that a pitcher may not intentionally throw a pitch at a batter.
Hunter Wendelstedt did the right thing by ejecting Weaver on the spot. Weaver violated the rules of the game and unnecessarily endangered another player because he couldn’t control his own anger.
As Weaver’s teammates herded him back toward the Angels dugout, he hurled expletives in the direction of Wendelstedt, Guillen and the rest of the Tigers. Clearly, Weaver either felt that Guillen should have been punished, or that he was somehow justified in his own behavior.
According to the unwritten rules of baseball—near as I can tell—Weaver is right on both counts.
This is where unwritten rules become dangerous.
When a talented pitcher like Weaver pulls a punk move like that and feels justified afterward, baseball has a problem.
Weaver won’t be suspended, because it’s not in the best interests of MLB to suspend the one of the top contenders for the American League Cy Young Award leading into the home stretch of the season.
Or maybe it is.
Baseball is a grand and majestic game, and realistically, there will always be standards that are enforced outside of the written rulebook. Those standards have been around for decades, if not centuries, and are inseparably woven into the fabric of the game. But when those standards enable a dangerous and disgusting act like that, maybe MLB needs to re-evaluate what’s really in its best interests.