Baseball is a unique sport. It stands alone regarding how its infrastructure allows players to police the game.
But there is a balance to that responsibility.
As Monday night entered Tuesday morning, we saw shrewd and distasteful comments surrounding one of baseball’s most gifted pieces. At the top of the eighth inning, with the score 10-3 in favor of the San Diego Padres, pitcher Juan Nicasio of the Texas Rangers served up a 3-run homer to Fernando Tatis, Jr.
What’s the harm with an electrifying dinger late in a ball game?
He never taunted the opposition. Tatis modestly trotted his way home after putting his team up by 10.
If you ask Rangers manager Chris Woodward it because the count was 3-0. The skipper says that a particular situation is “typically not a good time to swing” for the batter. The coach goes on to cite the rearing of the sport and the fact that “norms are being challenged” in today’s game. The Padres went on to win 14-4.
Woodward’s response to the blast is an example of the intersecting cultures between current and former MLB players. The league has its own rules and regulations. Players legitimize their own policy as well. But where is the line drawn when it comes to when and how a player hits a home run?
Woodward’s sentiment is to be expected. He is the defeated coach who is disgruntled from his team getting bent.
What’s more surprising is the response from the winning team’s manager. Padres’ skipper Jayce Tingler states that this moment is a “learning opportunity” for Tatis and that his player has a chance to “grow from it.” The first pitch after the Tatis dinger was a fastball that went behind Manny Machado’s backside.
How about an unapologetic stance for your player, one of the game’s most vibrant talents. The darling shortstop is the son of former Ranger, Fernando Sr. The elder Tatis played 11 years with four different clubs. He finished with a career WAR of 6.3. The younger already has a WAR of 5.7 in just 108 career games played.
I think it’s safe to say the young Fernando has tools that translate well in today’s game. Whether it’s the biological inheritance of natural skill or the passion he learned from his father, the 21-one-year old is taking over a game that’s already entrenched with young stars. From Ronald Acuna to Juan Soto. Christian Yelich to Mookie Betts. The list goes on. There’s even an alien named Mike Trout who conquers the game’s best every day.
Even amidst the star-studded field, Tatis, Jr. is making his impressions. Last week he became the only shortstop to hit 30 home runs within his first 100 games. The sensation from the Dominican Republic leads all of MLB in a litany of categories, including HR, RBI, and total bases.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Tatis or someone who has never stepped to the plate in an MLB game, ala Tingler. In this particular scenario, if someone serves a cookie, you eat it.
Perhaps the lens would be a bit different if we were dredging through a typical season of 162 games. The tone-deaf reactions from some in the league would be more palatable if these were the usual dog days of summer. But the retort would still be debatable.
Why would you want to diminish the biggest part of what’s driving your brand right now?
I can tell you why don’t. It’s because Tatis and the other show runners are what’s saving baseball. They are the ones that will save it from life support when new bargaining takes place after next season. If you think this spring’s posturing was ugly, just wait until the winter of 2022.
It’s important to understand the unwritten rules of the game. It’s just as critical to respect the culture(s). Baseball is bigger and better than one common standard. The game harbors many different backgrounds. It percolates talent from all walks of life, all over the world. And its artisans try to accomplish one of the toughest feats in all of the sports: making contact at 90-mph plus.
So why should we suggest, in any form, that players should refrain from doing exactly what they approach the box to do?
The answer is we shouldn’t. Keep hitting dingers and enjoy the evolution of today’s game.