When it comes to the unwritten rules, the primary takeaway from Sunday’s game between the Red Sox and Toronto was not Boston starter Daniel Bard hitting two members of the Blue Jays within the span of three batters, nor Toronto pitcher Drew Hutchison drilling two Boston hitters, ostensibly in response.
Those were noteworthy events, sure, but Toronto’s 5-1 victory anointed a new king of the Code—a guy who not only knows how things are supposed to work and is willing to abide by the rules even when it’s his own hide on the line, but has the presence of mind and the strength of character to give impromptu instruction, on the field, to his opponent.
Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Youkilis.
The third baseman was hit high on the shoulder during his sixth-inning at-bat, and if he didn’t know it was coming, he was at least ready for the possibility. Based on his reaction, he took no umbrage with getting drilled, but was irate over the pitch’s location, too near his head.
Youkilis spun toward the mound, pointed toward his hip, and yelled at Hutchison to “keep it down.” He then gathered his batting helmet and made his way to first base. The closest he came to rubbing the spot was when he pointed to it in response to the Boston trainer’s question about where he had been hit. (Watch it here.)
That Hutchison had a mandate to retaliate in the first place was questionable—though well within the boundaries of reason—given that Bard had never been more wild. The first batter he hit, Yunel Escobar, loaded the bases; the second, Edwin Encarnacion, drove in a run. Bard also issued five bases on balls over the course of one-and-two-thirds innings, along with five earned runs on just one hit. He managed to throw all of six fastballs for strikes. The guy was obviously not making any kind of statement short of the fact that he may well prefer working out of the bullpen, but Encarnacion was sufficiently hurt after being hit on the hand to be pulled from the game before his next turn at bat.
Hutchison saw fit to stand up for his mates—an impressive display for a guywho six weeks ago was working in Double-A. Things could have ended after he hit Kelly Shoppach—Boston’s first hitter after the dual drillings in the third. It’s likely that when Encarnacion left the game in the fifth that further action appeared merited to the pitcher.
“I was trying to go away,’’ Hutchison said after the game, denying intent. “I tried to put a little bit extra on it and I just missed. That’s it.’’
Where this all ends up is Daniel Bard. Because Youkilis expected his drilling, he no doubt pins its point of origin squarely on his teammate. Hutchison’s message was on point—Don’t hit our batters, and we won’t hit yours—and Boston heard it loud and clear. Ten more Blue Jays came to the plate after Youkilis was drilled, and they all emerged unscathed.
As if Bard wasn’t feeling enough pressure to perform, he now has this to chew on, as well.
5 thoughts on “The Professor is In: Youkilis Offers Impromptu Code Lecture at Home Plate for Toronto Rookie”
My thought when I heard Hutchinson’s “it got away from me” response was that at least he demonstrated that he knows *something* about the unwritten codes, head-hunting notwithstanding.
I’m willing to give Hutchison the benefit of the doubt that it did get away from him, at least inasmuch as he probably didn’t intend to come in near Youkilis’ head. Still, as Youkilis made clear, one must work with excess precision in that type of situation.
Is there an unwritten rule of when a pitcher can/should ‘retaliate’? I think everyone can agree that Bard had no control that game, so was retaliation even an issue? Also, I was always under the impression that if a pitcher were to intentionally throw at someone, he would do it at the beginning of an at-bat (or possibly on a 3-0, because, well, why not?) and just get it over with. But now I’m just wondering… Youkilis was hit on a 1-2 pitch, so it seemed likely that it was just a pitch that got away (and Shoppach totally leaned into one). And last night, a game after Colby Rasmus went 5-for-5, Ohman hit him on an 0-2 pitch. Rasmus, like Youkilis, seemed to think it was intentional, but Ohman responded by pointing to his head (I believe) to convey ‘think: why would I hit you on an 0-2 pitch, and load the bases for Jose Bautista’? Which, sounds pretty logical to me.
Everything you said is certainly possible. Even if Hutchison’s pitch to Youkilis was a mistake, my own key takeaway was Youkilis telling him how to do it right — just in case. Contrary to your assumption, however, intentionally drilling guys while ahead in the count is fairly standard procedure. The last thing a pitcher wants is to send up a flare to the umpire, illustrating his intention. If he does the deed well into the at-bat, he’s building plausible deniability. (On the other hand, there’s the story about pitcher Stan Williams — the same guy who when asked why he was throwing baseballs at a photo of Hank Aaron taped to the back of his locker answered, “I’m practicing” — who was so wild early in his career that the Dodgers put a clause in his contract awarding him a bonus if he stayed under a given number of walks on the season. All this ended up meaning, he told me, was that when he got to 3-0 on a hitter, he’d occasionally drill the guy and protect his bonus.)
Its sad that pitchers are drilling players, luckily baseball helmets have been made mandatory, otherwise this would be completely different. What if he had hit his head?? Shoddy baseball to say the least.