Brett Lawrie, Rookie Etiquette

Lawrie Draws Buzz: One Kind from Teammates, Another from Opponents

Brett Lawrie celebrated, and Yunel Escobar was drilled as a result. (At least that’s the way it seems.)

In Wednesday’s game against Oakland, Lawrie hit the first grand slam of his nascent big league career, and was met with enthusiasm from teammates both as he crossed the plate and once he returned to the dugout, where he emphatically gave high fives and flung his helmet. (Watch it here.)

A touch too exuberant? Perhaps, but the kid is entitled to his moment. Even the A’s recognized that much, and let it go uncontested.

Two innings later, however, when Lawrie scored from second on a single to make it 8-4, then exulted as he crossed the plate, it appeared to cross the A’s line. Oakland reliever Jordan Norberto drilled Escobar with his next pitch, and dugouts emptied, though no punches were thrown.

The likely root of the problem is not so much the celebrations themselves as the tenure of the guy at their center. Lawrie has been in the big leagues less than a week, and the Code stipulates that players earn whatever leeway they’re given—a process that takes time. (Cincinnati’s Jordan Smith learned this lesson last year, as it pertains to umpires.) The fact that Lawrie is one of the game’s more heralded prospects probably works against him in this regard.

“I probably wouldn’t have chosen to celebrate it that way,” said reliever Craig Breslow, whose pitch Lawrie hit for the grand slam, in the San Francisco Chronicle.

It’s one of those things that doesn’t make much sense from the outside, and occasionally doesn’t make sense from the inside, either.

Steve Lyons recalls playing center field early during his rookie season, and calling off the right- and left-fielders on various fly balls, only to have them step in front of him to make the catch. Lyons was abiding by the rule of thumb that corner outfielders defer to the center fielder, but teammate Reid Nichols set him straight, telling Lyons that he had to “gain their respect.” Said Lyons: “I’m like, ‘While I’m gaining their respect, are we going to fuck up a few balls in left and right field?”

During Sparky Lyle’s rookie year with the Red Sox, he twice shook off catcher Elston Howard en route to walking a batter, and was promptly removed by manager Dick Williams. Recounted Lyle in “The Bronx Zoo”:  “After the game (Carl Yazstrzemski) cornered me in the locker room and said, ‘I want to know one thing. How can a guy who’s been in the big leagues two weeks shake off a guy who’s been catching fourteen years?’ ”

These are examples featuring teammates. When it’s an opponent who sees a rookie overstepping his bounds . . . well, suffice it to say that Yuni Escobar doesn’t end up all that pleased. Lawrie takes pride in his enthusiasm, and it’s certainly worked in his favor in his ascension through the minors.

Part of his initiation into the big leagues is learning that not everybody he encounters shares that view.

– Jason

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