People put differing amounts of credence into baseball’s unwritten rules, with a vocal faction consistently decrying their very existence. It takes an act of unusual persuasion to convince people on both sides of that aisle that somebody has crossed the line. Ladies and gentlemen: Junior Lake.
Lake’s actions after homering Wednesday against Florida not only had the Marlins outraged, but his own team, too. If we don’t hear more about this, it’s only because Cubs manager Joe Maddon made it known that he would handle the situation personally.
The preamble: Starlin Castro homered against Florida on Monday, then watched it, then delivered the season’s third-slowest trot. (Watch it here.) Last night, Dan Haren hit him in what can only be assumed to be response.
The main event: Lake homered off of Haren in the sixth inning last night. There’s little doubt that he had Castro on his mind when he watched the ball for five full steps toward first, then nonchalantly flipped his bat behind him as he began to jog. There were several things wrong with this scenario, beyond even the pimping and the flip.
- It was Lake’s first homer of the season, and pimping in the big leagues is a meritocracy, something that must be earned. David Ortiz could maybe get away with it. Junior Lake can not.
- It wasn’t like the homer won the game. Or even brought the Cubs close. Chicago was losing 6-0 when he hit it.
- In response to the grief he was getting from the Marlins bench as he circled the bases, Lake put his finger to his lips in a Shhhhh motion after rounding third, while looking directly into Florida’s dugout.
- Yep, he actually did that. (Watch it all here.)
Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto delivered some words when Lake crossed the plate. Lake fired back, and within moments benches emptied. The primary reason things did not get out of hand was Maddon, who assured Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez that the matter would be taken care of internally.
“I just spoke to [Lake] and spoke to him during the game,” Maddon told reporters after the game, via an MLB.com report. “We don’t do that here and that will be the last time you see it. I did tell them at home plate during the scrum. I told Chuck Hernandez because that’s who I saw. I said, ‘It’s our fault and we’ll take care of it.’ ”
It was reminiscent of a scene from The Baseball Codes:
In a game in 1996, the Giants trailed Los Angeles 11–2 in the ninth inning, and decided to station ﬁrst baseman Mark Carreon at his normal depth, ignoring the runner at ﬁrst, Roger Cedeno. When Cedeno, just twenty-one years old and in his ﬁrst April as a big-leaguer, saw that nobody was bothering to hold him on, he headed for second—by any interpretation a horrible decision.
As the runner, safe, dusted himself off, Giants third baseman Matt Williams lit into him verbally, as did second baseman Steve Scarsone, left ﬁelder Mel Hall, and manager Dusty Baker. Williams grew so heated that several teammates raced over to restrain him from going after the young Dodgers outﬁelder.
The least happy person on the ﬁeld, however, wasn’t even a member of the Giants—it was Dodgers hitter Eric Karros, who stepped out of the batter’s box in disbelief when Cedeno took off. Karros would have disapproved even as an impartial observer, but as the guy who now had a pissed-off pitcher to deal with, he found his thoughts alternating between anger toward Cedeno and preparing to evade the fastball he felt certain was headed his way. (“I was trying to ﬁgure if I was going to [duck] forward or go back,” said Karros after the game. “It was a 50–50 shot.”) …
In the end, it was Karros who saved Cedeno. When he stepped out of the box, as members of the Giants harangued the bewildered baserunner, Karros didn’t simply watch idly—he turned toward the San Francisco bench and informed them that Cedeno had run without a shred of institutional authority, and that Karros himself would ensure that justice was administered once the game ended. Sure enough, as Cedeno sat at his locker after the game, it was obvious to observers that he had been crying. Though the young player refused to comment, it appeared that Karros had been true to his word. “Ignorance and youth really aren’t any excuse,” said Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza, “but we were able to cool things down.”
Maddon, who has proven that there are some unwritten rules about which he simply does not care, did not treat this one with such nonchalance. Nor did he limit his lesson to the confines of the clubhouse. “I don’t want us to take a page out of ‘Major League’ and flamboyantly flip a bat after a long home run,” he said after the game, ostensibly referring to Castro as well as to Lake. “I don’t want that at all. That has nothing to do with us ascending. I would even like to use this moment for our Minor League guys, that [flipping the bat] doesn’t play. For our kids watching, it doesn’t play. Don’t do that. That’s not cool. It’s very, very much not cool. If you’re watching the game back home in Chicago tonight, don’t do that.”
Then again, this wasn’t the first time he tried to impart this edict since taking over on the North Side. Perhaps it’s not taking.
The Marlins have little need for recourse. Maddon’s gauntlet toss against his own player handled it, as did Lake’s own comment afterward that “I recognize that it wasn’t right. It was part of the emotions and part of the game and I want to apologize to Haren for that, because I respect him and didn’t mean it.”
More interesting than Florida’s response will be the response of Chicago players to their manager’s new directive. Is a new quick-trot era in Chicago upon us?