In the past week we’ve seen three incidents involving bad blood between teams across MLB, one of which of course included the Baltimore Orioles (in Toronto with Jose Bautista). However the Kansas City Royals and Oakland A’s mixed it up last weekend, and then last night Kansas City had a run-in with the Chicago White Sox. My point about these things has always been that baseball has unwritten codes. Some folks don’t like to hear about that type of thing, however we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t admit they exist.
We see some teams such as Toronto and Kansas City this past week who are often charged with breaking those codes. And whenever that happens we generally hear about how players should focus more on winning than unwritten rules, and so on. Let me unequivocally state (as I have many times) that I disagree with that assessment. We as writers, fans, players, and coaches are stewarding a rich tradition of baseball. And we thus owe it to the future generation(s) to hand it over to them in the same manner we found it. Baseball has old rules – both written and unwritten. And both sets of rules should be respected.
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That’s my opinion, and that appears to be the Orioles’ and Buck Showalter‘s opinions. But what if…we’re wrong? I’ve read a lot of things over the course of this week in terms of message boards, columns, etc. A lot of what I’ve seen (from people with the opposite opinion obviously) has basically said that teams such as the Orioles need to stop thinking that they’re the “enforcers of the unwritten rules.” Granted, showing up another player or another team isn’t against the rules of the game per se. That goes against the unwritten rules however, which are generally enforced by hit batsmen – which is against the rules.
Let’s apply this to a real-life scenario, although I’ll grant you that it’s far from an apples-to-apples comparison. If you buy a brand new Ferrari or Lamborghini (a far cry from my blue Fiat!), it’s kind of tasteless to drive it through the worst neighborhood in the city. If people are living on the streets, hungry, thirsty, etc, and they see an arrogant guy driving a car like that with the top down and so forth, it might not make those people too happy. Again mind you that driving the car there isn’t against the law – far from it in fact. But should that car owner be overly surprised if he finds his brand new vehicle vandalized at some point.
Again, that’s not an apples-t0-apples comparison. But you get the point – there are unwritten rules in all things. However back to the original point; if you stand there and preach about unwritten rules, are people apt to take that the wrong way? In effect, is preaching about unwritten codes to the point of exhaustion breaking an unwritten code in and of itself?
It all matters how you want to look at things. First off I don’t think that the Orioles stomp their feet and complain about
Courtesy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
unwritten codes all day long. Adam Jones‘ line was in that one moment Jose Bautista wasn’t respecting the game. He chose his words very carefully, which was smart. But this isn’t the first time the Orioles have had a problem with an opposing player grandstanding. Over the years there have been complaints about David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and even Washington’s Ronnie Belliard at one point. (Belliard hit a walk off homer off of the Orioles’ George Sherrill, and he appeared to spit towards Sherrill as he went into his home run trot.)
The list goes on. Heck, the Yankees have gotten into staring contests with Toronto in the past in terms of players showing a little too much exuberance. But the point is that some teams are labeled as those who totally throw caution to the wind and pay no attention to unwritten rules. In the present day, that would be teams like Toronto, Kansas City, and maybe a few others. You also have teams like the Orioles who seem to want to enforce those old codes. So where does the line of justice lie?
It’s really tough to say. People know where I stand simply from reading this article. Again, it’s not illegal to drive that Ferrari down the street of a slum and show it off to the people there. But it is illegal for those folks to vandalize the car “just because.” Again, where does the line of justice lie?
The only thing I would recommend the Orioles doing is perhaps stop talking about it in the media. Admittedly, they addressed it after the game on Tuesday and that was the end of it. However had I been Buck Showalter I would have told the entire team to decline comment on the incident at all. That keeps the analysis with what happens on the field. But that’s not to say that they shouldn’t enforce the rules on the field.