Don't Showboat, Foreign players, Yoenes Cespedes, Yoenes Cespedes

Watch and Learn: Cespedes’ First Code Lesson

Last weekend brought us this season’s first incident of a foreign player being brought quickly up to speed with this country’s baseball mores. It also brought us the lesson that reticence doesn’t always count for a whole lot.

The student: Oakland outfielder Yoenes Cespedes, who on Friday pummeled a Jason Vargas fastball 462 feet, the ball landing above the luxury suites in left-center field at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum—a blast impressive enough to inspire the hitter to stand and watch it fly. (Watch it here.)

The teacher: Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, who drilled Cespedes the following day. First base was open, and the Mariners led 7-0 at the time.

Deserving or not, this was a lesson that Cespedes—a recent immigrant from Cuba—did not require. The guy had played in all of three major league games when he went deep, and seemed to quickly recognize his error.

“I followed the ball, but I don’t like that to do that again,” he said in the San Francisco Chronicle, following Friday’s game. “I come from Cuba, where it’s a little less quality games, so we do that. But here I don’t want to do that.”

That didn’t seem to matter to Hernandez. Although the right-hander denied it, Cespedes said he was “100 percent for sure” that the drilling was intentional, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

In the end, it doesn’t much matter. The lesson was sent, intentional or not, and the American League’s early home run leader came away just a bit wiser.

– Jason

Don't Play Aggressively with a Big Lead, Swinging 3-0

Mike Cameron: Code Over Glory

Mike Cameron gets congratulated after his fourth homer on the day.

We got word Sunday that Mike Cameron was retiring after 17 seasons of largely productive baseball. He hit 278 home runs during that span, four of them in a single game (watch the glory here). A four-homer day is noteworthy for many reasons, of course, but it turns out the Code was involved in this one.

It was recounted in the original draft of The Baseball Codes, but the passage was cut for space considerations. In honor of Cameron, here it is:

On May 4, 2002, Seattle’s Mike Cameron stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning with two on, nobody out and his team leading the Chicago White Sox, 15-4. When reliever Mike Porzio started him off with three straight balls, Cameron knew just what to do—his manager, Lou Piniella, was a stickler for the unwritten rules and had taught his players well.

Cameron watched the fourth pitch split the plate for a called strike. It didn’t even occur to him that he’d already hit four home runs on the day, and couldn’t have asked for a pitch served up more nicely to give him a record fifth. As Cameron proved, however, should players let it, the Code even trumps history.

– Jason

Don't Bunt to Break Up a No-Hitter, Felix Hernandez, Julio Borbon

Bunt on King Felix? Preposterous!

It’s perpetually incredible that major league players can be unclear on the sport’s primary unwritten rules. Some claim complete ignorance, some apathy. Some are simply too green to have heard of them.

Occasionally, however, a player will think he knows the rules when in fact he’s a bit hazier on the topic than he’d care to admit.

Take Felix Hernandez, who, in the middle of a would be no-hitter against Texas on Friday, got up on his high horse about a Code violation that wasn’t really a violation at all.

Julio Borbon bunted.

We hear it frequently: Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter. Give a pitcher your best effort, because enduring mound performances deserve no less. The concept rose to prominence in 2001, when Padres catcher Ben Davis broke up Curt Schilling’s perfect game with a bunt, and all hell broke loose from the Arizona clubhouse.

“You shouldn’t do that,” Hernandez said in the Everett Herald, about Borbon’s effort. “Sixth inning and a guy is throwing a no-hitter, it’s disrespect.”

It’s a decent rule, especially if it’s late in the game (as was the case with Davis) and the guy bunting doesn’t make ordinary practice of the tactic (as was also the case with Davis).

Borbon, however, has some speed. And the game was still in the middle innings.

More importantly, the Rangers trailed only 2-0 at the time. Borbon’s effort, had it been successful, would have brought the tying run to the plate, something the rest of his teammates had been unable to do to that point in the game.

In this case (and in that of Davis, who also bunted facing a 2-0 deficit), winning trumps all. Do what you must to win the game.

We’ve seen the tactic unsuccessfully attempted at least twice this year, by Gordon Beckham (against Chicago’s Ted Lilly, whose no-no was broken up later in the game) and Evan Longoria (in the middle of Dallas Braden’s perfect game).

The guy who had it absolutely correct: Borbon.

“What was I supposed to do, let him have it his way?” he said in an MLB.com report. “I realize he was throwing a no-hitter, but I wasn’t getting out of my game. If the game was one-sided it might be different, but in a close game like that, it could be a difference-maker.

“I was trying to get it down and get something going. I wasn’t worried about the no-hitter. If we were down six, seven eight runs, I’m going to swing the bat. But down 2-0 in the sixth inning, I don’t think I was being disrespectful to him or the game or to anybody. I was trying to do something for the team.”

Just like he was supposed to.

– Jason