Frustration was inevitable, but was it sufficient to explain why Jarrod Saltalamacchia would bunt in the middle of a perfect game? The Red Sox catcher did, and reached base safely, which seems like a no-brainer: The guy was in clear violation of the Code. Heck, he even had a parallel with the most famous perfect game breaker-upper in history, Ben Davis—another catcher, who pulled the trick against Curt Schilling in 2001.
There was, however, a notable difference: For some unexplainable reason, A’s manager Bob Melvin had put on a defensive shift. With third baseman Adam Rosales positioned where the shortstop usually stands, Saltalamacchia was given the same kind of wide-open invitation all left-handed batters receive in that situation: an easy base hit with a well-placed bunt. Saltalamacchia, who has all of three sacrifice bunts in his career—all in 2007—took him up on the offer. (Watch it here, starting at the 1:03 mark.)
If the theory behind the governing rule is that a team’s first hit should be above board, with no gimmickry involved, then it should only follow that the defensive positioning of the pitcher’s team should follow suit. When Melvin opted not to play things straight up—despite holding a 5-0 lead—his opposition can hardly be faulted for acting similarly.
Melvin acknowledged as much after the game. “I probably should have had the third baseman in,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.
To Griffin’s credit, the pitcher appeared to not hold any grudges. “It’s a good way to try to get momentum for your team,” he said. “There’s not anything I can do about it except try to get the next guy. Whatever.” (Bobby Valentine, who has far bigger controversies to consider than this one, added the sentiment, ”Who cares?”)
There’s lots of blame to go around for Boston’s misery this season, but not on this play. If Griffin has a beef with anybody, it should be Bob Melvin.