If you're like me, you've grown tired of the entire unwritten rules aspect of Major League Baseball. Whether the argument is tradition, wanting to protect your guys, or one's off-base morality, it's getting out of control. My word for it is simple: petty.
Dating back to last postseason, we've seen complaints aimed at the Los Angeles Dodgers for apparently celebrating too much (it's a game, remember?) and Carlos Gomez ruffled feathers by flipping his bat after hitting what he thought was a home run, but it gets better. Baseball's unwritten rules dictate it's really mean to bunt for a single when your team is winning by a lot of runs, just as it's in poor taste to steal a base when your team is winning by a large margin.
Gee, I had no idea this was tee ball.
But what Texas Rangers starting pitcher Colby Lewis said on Saturday night after his team unsuccessfully took on the Toronto Blue Jays takes the cake for the pettiest reaction of the season so far. I don't think anybody will top it for a while, and if someone does, they might need to step away from the game for some time.
Here's the scene: Fifth inning with two outs and nobody on base, Blue Jays leading 2–0, and Colby Rasmus up to bat. The Rangers, knowing that Rasmus tends to pull the ball, shifted their defense accordingly. So to beat the shift, what did Rasmus do? He placed a bunt down the third base line and reached on an infield single. Harmless, right? Yes, absolutely—not to mention smart, as the hitter's job is to get on base however he can.
Oh, but wait, Lewis raised issue, saying:
“I told [Rasmus] I didn't appreciate it. You're up by two runs with two outs and you lay down a bunt. I don't think that's the way the game should be played.”
Yes, because we all know a two-run deficit, in the fifth inning no less, is most certainly insurmountable. Lewis thought so. But it's obviously not all his fault, guys. After all, the Texas Rangers have the worst record in the American League (40–59) and the worst run differential in all of baseball (-108). He hasn't been accustomed to his team scoring too many runs this season, so two runs might as well have been an incredible deficit.
But seriously, grow up. It gets better, though, as Lewis assumed Rasmus was only bunting for selfish reasons:
“I felt like you have a situation where there is two outs, you're up two runs, you have gotten a hit earlier in the game off me, we are playing the shift, and he laid down a bunt basically simply for average.”
Well Mr. Lewis, your logic appears to be slightly flawed. Let me explain: Rasmus's Blue Jays were only up two runs and your team was playing a shift. The defensive shift tells me your team is still very much trying to win (or at the very least keep the game close) by playing the percentages. So what Rasmus did was simple: He outsmarted the defense. As a professional baseball player, that's part of his job when he comes to the plate.
And yet somehow, Lewis compounds his flawed logic with even sillier comments:
“[Rasmus] didn't steal within the first two pitches to put himself in scoring position," Lewis said. "That tells me he is solely looking out for himself, and looking out for batting average. And I didn't appreciate it.”
What Rasmus did was simple: He outsmarted the defense. As a professional baseball player, that's part of his job when he comes to the plate.
How does this make sense in any possible way? Maybe Rasmus didn't attempt to steal because getting thrown out would have effectively ended the inning. Or maybe he didn't attempt to steal because over the course of his brief six-year career, he's stolen only 26 bases while being caught 15 times. That's a success rate of 63 percent, which is less than ideal for anyone who prides themselves on stealing bases.
It's easy to see that Rasmus has never been the type to steal, as he's only hit double digits once (12 swipes in 2010) and has stolen a total of six bases in his last 332 games, meaning he's swiped bases at a frequency of less than two percent in the previous two and half seasons. But sure, he should have tried to steal second base. If you don't think about it too hard, Lewis's logic is undeniable.
To the claim that Rasmus only cares about his batting average, let's keep in mind that he's batting .221 on the season and maintains a career mark of .246. So, yeah, his batting average is obviously of the utmost importance to him.
Thankfully, he had a very sensible response to Lewis's anger:
“I'm just trying to help my team and he didn't like it — so sorry about it. I'm not here to try to please the other side, I'm here to help my team, and I had an opportunity where I could, and I took advantage of it.”
Another thing to note is that the Blue Jays are still only four games back of first place in the AL East; they need to keep winning. They're also 2.5 games out of the Wild Card race. Just because the Rangers have had a rough time with injuries this season, are arguably the worst team in baseball, and are losers of eight of their last 10 games, doesn't mean you get to act like a child because the other team is better than yours.
That is unless you're in Major League Baseball, where petulance has unfortunately become an overwhelming part of the game.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference