No-Hitter Etiquette

April Is The Season To Pull Pitchers In The Middle Of No-Hitters

Bauer bumps

In the let-the-kids-play world of new school baseball, the acceptance of bat flips and related celebrations isn’t the only thing turning the unwritten rules on their ear. Once, not so long ago, it was shocking to see a pitcher pulled in the middle of a no-hitter. Now we’ve now seen it happen twice in the span of a week.

Yesterday it was Trevor Bauer, who through seven innings and 117 pitches had allowed no hits to Toronto. The right-hander had racked up eight strikeouts and six walks (plus a 31-pitch third inning), and though he’d thrown as many as 147 pitches in a game back in college, Cleveland manager Terry Francona was not going to let him get anywhere near that number again.

On Monday it was Baltimore’s David Hess, who was yanked by manager Brandon Hyde in the middle of the seventh after only 82 pitches. His recent workload, however, included 42 pitches on opening day, four days earlier.

Hyde is a rookie skipper, only 45 years old. Francona is managing in his 19th big league season. What they have in common is the perspective that at such an early junction of the season, it simply doesn’t make sense to put unnecessary stress on a pitcher’s arm.

One need look no further than Johan Santana for a cautionary tale. The left-hander, on a Hall-of-Fame track to that point in his career, tossed a 134-pitch no-hitter for the Mets in 2012. He was left in by manager Terry Collins solely to pursue the first no-hitter in Mets history despite having missed the previous season following shoulder surgery, and despite Collins having proclaimed a 115-pitch limit for him before the game. Santana’s ERA, 2.38 through 11 starts to that point, was 8.27 in his 10 starts thereafter. After that, he never pitched in the big leagues again.

Nobody wants to revisit that kind of decision. Pitchers were pulled in the middle of no-hitters twice last year in Oakland alone—once for the A’s (Sean Manaea) and once for an opponent (Nathan Eovaldi, then with the Rays). Overuse is a risk that managers are no longer willing to stomach.

“I didn’t want to take him out …” Francona told reporters after the game about his decision to remove Bauer. “I told him I hate it. He goes, ‘I hate it too, but I know it’s the right thing.’ I care too much about him and this organization to hurt somebody. I would have loved to have seen it because I don’t doubt that he would have kept pitching and probably not given up a hit the way he was throwing. I just have an obligation to do the right thing even when it’s not the funnest thing to do.”

Leave fun to the bat-flippers, I guess. New-school baseball can be so confusing.

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Basepath Etiquette, Play Clean

‘Manny Being Manny’ Happened Again, And Like Usual, It Doesn’t End Well For Anybody

Machado's bat III

Was Leo Durocher right? Do nice guys really finish last? As it happens, reputation matters in baseball. Coming readily to mind is Bill Lee’s story about pitching to Al Kaline, late in the Hall of Famer’s career, when the left-hander felt that umpires would give the slugger the benefit of the doubt on anything close. When Lee complained about it, he received an all-time response from the plate ump: “Son, Mr. Kaline will let you know it’s a strike by doubling off the wall.”

Reputations, of course, can work in the opposite direction, as well. Last week The Athletic ran a poll of big leaguers, asking them about which fellow players were overrated, underrated, intimidating and the like. They also asked who was the dirtiest. The results for the latter question weren’t too surprising.


Machado dirty

So when Machado—a guy known for kicking opponents during the playoffs, spiking middle infielders, hitting catchers with backswings, getting annoyed at routine plays and fighting with pitchers for little reason—does something with even a hint of controversy, we can only expect umpires to respond accordingly.

On Tuesday, Machado’s reputation bit him during a routine popup against Arizona. Head down, he nearly collided with Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy, who was tracking the ball just up the first base line a few steps from the plate. Then Machado tossed his bat gently toward Ryan’s feet. Then Ryan dropped the ball in foul territory. Umpire Bill Welke called Manny out anyway, for interference, a decision that led to Padres manager Andy Green getting tossed when he came out to argue.

Machado’s defenders say that his head was down and he was running toward first in the only lane available to him. They say that he more or less dropped the bat where he would have had Green been nowhere near him. They say that Green had no business dropping a ball that was still very catchable. And they’re right. But it doesn’t mean that the play wasn’t dirty.

The part about nearly bumping the catcher is easily excused. Machado did have his head down before heading up the line, wide of Ryan. If contact was made, it’s just as likely that Ryan ran into Machado as the other way around.

Where Manny put the bat, however, is up for interpretation. For somebody inclined to believe that the guy does not always have the best interests of his opponents at heart, it’s easy to see how he might have meant to place it in an area where the chances of the catcher tripping over it were greatest. After all, he took care to drop it on the opposite side of Ryan, almost reaching around his opponent to do so. He looked up and assessed the situation before acting. Malice aforethought is entirely plausible, and, given Machado’s history, is even likely. When it came to Welke, that’s what mattered.

The interference call was hardly pro-forma. Rule 6.01(a)(10) states in part that “when a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation.” Perhaps Welke would have called it differently had a different player done it.

But this was Manny Machado, and Manny Machado has a reputation, and Bill Welke knows all about it.

So when an umpire asks himself “What would Manny do?” and the answer is “something he shouldn’t be proud of,” it can’t come as much of a surprise when the subsequent ruling reflects as much.

At this point in his career, Manny has nobody to blame but himself.

Showing Players Up

How To Piss Off A Yankee In Two Easy Steps

Jimenez stomps

Given that the unwritten rules are all about respect, and given that bat flips have now passed from the realm of disrespectful and into “just something ballplayers do” …

… we must look elsewhere to find signs of insouciance on a ballfield vibrant enough to piss fellow players off.

Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you Joe Jimenez, Detroit’s resident fat fucking fuck.

In the eighth inning of last night’s game against the Yankees, Jimenez hit Luke Voit on the hand—a clearly unintentional act during a 1-1 game that nonetheless served to fire up New York’s first baseman. Voit was mad in part because he’s already been drilled in the elbow once this young season. He was mad because, with 10 players on the injured list (including Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andujar, Dellin Betances and CC Sebathia), the Yankees’ roster already resembles a ward at Bellevue Hospital. He was mad because getting hit hurts and hands are easy to break and he didn’t want to become No. 11.

So, okay, Voit took his base and seemed content to serve as his team’s lead run.

Until the next batter, Gleyber Torres, lined one to the mound. Voit was so far off the bag when Jimenez caught it on the fly that the pitcher was able to run it to first base himself to complete the inning-ending double-play … which he emphasized with a two-footed stomp on the bag, the likes of which we ordinarily see at the plate as a winning run scores.

Voit was displeased. Lip-readers on Twitter assure me that in the aftermath he called the pitcher a “fat fucking fuck.”

The point here being that if bat flips and fist pumps are no longer sufficient to annoy anybody this side of Madison Bumgarner (who himself paused in the box after homering against the Dodgers yesterday), players are gonna have to get creative.

Joe Jimenez might not have meant to rile his opponent—it was a big play in a tight game, offering plenty of reason for excitement—but that’s precisely what he did. It’s not the kind of thing that should get anybody drilled, even by the most red-assed Yankee, but it’ll certainly be remembered the next time these teams face each other … which, wouldn’t you know it, is this very afternoon.

 

Retaliation

Timing Matters When It Comes To HBPs, As The Guy Hitting After Bryce Harper Can Attest

Hoskins drilled

Baseballs slip from pitchers’ hands all the time, inadvertently contacting batters as a matter of accident. When it’s cold and windy and grip is poor, this is especially true. It was certainly true Sunday night in Philadelphia, as the Phillies and Braves combined for 15 walks and three hit batters.

When the timing of one of those hit batters is questionable, however, every mitigating factor flies out the window. Which is why the Phillies were so angry at Braves reliever Shane Carle.

When Carle drilled Rhys Hoskins in the seventh inning, it followed a Bryce Harper and subsequent celebration with his teammates just outside the dugout. It might have been that Harper’s homer put the Braves into a 4-1 hole after they’d already lost the first two games of the series while giving up 18 runs. Nobody could blame them for frustration.

The other source of Philadelphia’s ire was that the pitch came in nearly head-high, eventually striking Hoskins on the shoulder.

The rest is details.

Never mind that Harper and Phillies starter Jake Arietta said that they didn’t think it was intentional, sentiments echoed by Braves manager Brian Snitcher and catcher Brian McCann. Carle had drilled Philadelphia’s cleanup guy right after being taken deep.

Hoskins got up yelling, clearly furious. It was the third time in two games against Atlanta that pitches had come close or actually hit him. Plate ump Rob Drake agreed, ejecting Carle.

After the game, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler unloaded.

“It really pisses me off when balls go underneath Rhys Hoskins’ chin,” he told the media, referencing the fact that Hoskins wears a C-flap on his helmet after having his jaw broken by a fouled bunt attempt last season. “It really bugs me. … He’s one of our leaders. He is, in many ways, the heartbeat of our club. It really bothers me when it happens.”

This matters less in a one-game sample than it does when considering that these teams—each of them hoping for full resurgence after long fallow periods—play each other 16 more times this season. Should Braves pitchers take liberties with the inside corner against Philadelphia, even without trying to hit anyone, they have to know that they’re playing with fire. The same can likely be said for members of the Phillies staff.

Here’s hoping that nothing comes of it, but boy it’s gonna be fun to watch.

They Bled Blue

They Bled Blue Gaining Momentum

LA TimesSo the Los Angeles Times brought up They Bled Blue in a compendium of new and upcoming baseball books. None of the nine books mentioned got more than a couple paragraphs, but the crux of the TBB section was this:

“Turbow admits ‘it might not benefit my credibility as the author of this book to admit that I am a lifelong Giants partisan, but it’s true.’ Which explains why the first line from the first chapter reads: ‘Tommy Lasorda was always a shill.’ ”

Please. The former sentiment (from the acknowledgements section, after the story had wrapped up) has nothing to do with the latter. This isn’t some fan blog. Authentic reporting is essential to doing my job well. Jerry Reuss’ comment on the book—”Hands down the most accurate portrayal of events and personalities of the 1981 Dodgers that I’ve seen”—supports the point.

Never mind that the quote about Lasorda makes it sound like I’m slagging the guy. In fact, the opposite is true. Here’s the entire paragraph from which the sentence was culled:

“Tommy Lasorda was always a shill. Long before he became a fount of managerial enthusiasm and brand fealty, he was a shill. Back when he was a career minor league pitcher, and then a scout, and then off to manage in remote minor league outposts like Pocatello and Ogden, in the employ of the Dodgers nearly every step of the way, even then he was a shill. The guy loved his team and wasn’t shy about letting the world know it.”

The point was that Lasorda never stopped promoting the Dodgers, for virtuous reasons. That was the first paragraph of the book’s first chapter, the rest of which builds on supporting that thesis.

Book reviews aren’t easy, and it’s not fair to expect a reporter to give cover-to-cover treatment to all nine books in a column. I just want to make sure that Dodgers fans out there know they’re getting an even shake from me. This was a team worth reading about.

They Bled Blue

Publisher’s Weekly Likes They Bled Blue. Like, A Lot

TBB cover small

The latest review for They Bled Blue is in, from Publishers Weekly, and it’s a barn-burner. In part:

“With a heady mix of reportage, biography, and classic play-by-play coverage, Turbow meticulously traces the arc of the team’s rise from the late 1970s postseason failures to the fateful, strike-filled season where the team defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series. Turbow’s reports of behind-the-scenes shenanigans show the cracks in Garvey’s squeaky-clean image and reveal Lasorda’s obsession with celebrities and Steve Howe’s cocaine addiction. But, as Turbow writes, “Whatever those Dodgers did before taking the field was strictly ancillary. It was what they did with cleats that mattered.” Fluidly written and expertly paced, this exciting look at a turbulent team will thrill baseball enthusiasts of all stripes.”

Heading to LA to record the audiobook in April, and looking forward to the official release of everything in June. There’ll be lots on the docket then, from readings to appearances. Can’t wait to share it all.