Photo via YouTube/Major League Baseball
On Monday night against the Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres’ infielder Fernando Tatis Jr. made headlines, but not for the reason some would expect.
With San Diego leading 10-3, Tatis smacked his first career grand slam. The blast came on a 3-0 count off Texas’ Juan Nicasio.
After the game, Rangers’ manager Chris Woodward was upset with the young superstar. That is no shocker. What is shocking is that Tatis’ own manager was less than pleased.
“But in this game in particular, we had a little bit of a comfortable lead,” San Diego’s Jayce Tingler said. “We’re not trying to run up the score or anything like that.”
Not trying to run the score up? Are we now concerned with opponents’ feelings in professional baseball? Should pitchers not throw strike three to batters when they’re winning by a large margin?
A “comfortable lead” should never be an excuse to take your foot off the gas, especially in a sport where there’s no time limit. You can’t just run out the clock; in baseball, you are forced to give your opponents a minimum of 27 chances to beat you.
An organization that’s consistently in the bottom half of Major League Baseball in attendance is worried about possibly the best player in the game for years to come, making waves by being better at baseball than his opponents? Imagine holding back your franchise player from reaching his full potential.
The very next pitch after Tatis’ grand slam was Ian Gibaut’s first pitch. He sent it behind the back of Padres’ slugger Manny Machado.
“I didn’t like it, personally. But, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis,” Woodward said of the grand slam. “So just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not right. I don’t think we liked it as a group.”
At least he acknowledged that it wasn’t necessarily wrong. It was just a dent in his ego as well as his ball club’s.
As a former baseball player at a level higher than most achieve, I’ve never heard of not swinging at a 3-0 pitch being in the “unwritten rules”. If anything, it’s just a simple numbers game that’s considered best practice from your own manager’s perspective. But never have I heard of it being disrespectful to an opponent.
If you want to see a clear violation of the unwritten rules, check out Washington’s Juan Soto staring down Atlanta reliever Will Smith after hitting a home run. Smith would get the last laugh. Soto took a dejected face back to the clubhouse after watching Dansby Swanson hit a walk-off 2-run home run to cap a 4-run ninth as the Braves rallied for a 7-6 victory.
As for Tatis, he gave something of an apology after the game.
“I’ve been in this game since I was a kid,” Tatis said. “I know a lot of unwritten rules. I was kind of lost on this. … Those experiences, you have to learn. Probably next time, I’ll take a pitch.”
If Tatis holding back on displaying his awesome ability is wrong, who could possibly want to be right?