Rangers Manager Chris Woodward and Reliever Ian Gibaut suspended
San Diego’s 21-year-old short stop Fernando Tatis Jr. (supposedly) broke one of baseball’s unwritten rules last night, and now the Rangers are the ones in trouble. Not following? Read on.
By now, you’ve probably heard that Fernando Tatis, Jr. had himself a night last night, smashing a 3-run homer and a grand slam in the 14-4 clobbering over the Texas Rangers. If you didn’t (or if you just want to relive it), have a look:
Tatis, who now leads the league in home runs with 11 on the season, took reliever Juan Niacasio deep on a 3-0 pitch in the eighth inning. Niascio was then replaced by reliever Ian Gibaut, who promptly tossed his first pitch behind Manny Machado’s head. Gibaut has been suspended for three games for intentionally throwing at Machado, and his manager, Chris Woodward has been benched for one.
Why would Gibaut do such a thing? Surely, it wasn’t Tatis’s fault for getting a cookie of a pitch with bases loaded. But there’s an unwritten rule in baseball that during a blowout of a game like the one last night between the Rangers and Padres: If your team is up 10-4 toward the end of the game, you let that 3-0 pitch go. Tatis apparently “missed the take sign” to let the pitch sail past him, and he saw his pitch and took it. Did he break the rules if the rule doesn’t technically exist?
If you ask a lot of the veterans around MLB, they’ll tell you that yes, this type of “showboating” is a pretty douchey thing to do. Swinging for the fences on a 3-0 pitch with bases loaded when you’re already up by seven is the kind of thing that makes mercy rules a thing in youth sports. After the game last night, Woodward was quoted as saying “I didn’t like it, personally. You’re up by seven in the eighth inning; it’s typically not a good time to swing 3-0. It’s kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis, so — just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not right.”
Admiring your moonshot is also considered a bit rude. Nationals youngin’ Juan Soto hit himself a beautiful shot last night and took a couple of seconds to admire it before taking his trip around the bases and the Braves’ Will Smith was none too happy with Soto’s brand of showboating, and made his feelings known to Soto as he rounded the bases.
This isn’t necessarily a new thing – sometimes those home runs are just the thing your team and your fans needed when it comes time to do or die, and you just want to admire your accomplishment or do the baseball equivalent of a mic drop. Take, for example the conversations around serial bat-flipper Jose Bautista and his memorable home run and bat flip in the 2015 ALDS, or the benches clearing flip against the Braves in 2017:
Many fans were pumped to see the Tatis hit that grand slam – it was his pitch and he took it. Why shouldn’t he? Is baseball about sparing the feelings of the other team? Or is it about winning the game?Is it just good sportsmanship not to rub the other team’s noses in their failure? I know if I were the parent on the bleachers watching my kid’s team take a beating like that and the other team was continuing to lay the hammer down like that, or if they were taunting or admiring their home runs like that, I’d think it was rude and unnecessary. But If I were the parent of the kid that hit the grand slam, I’d be beaming with pride. So what is the right way to feel here?
The truth is, there is no clear answer to this question. The one thing that we can all agree on is Gibault shouldn’t aim a 90 mph pitch at another player because his team is getting their asses handed to them. Or, at least not aim for his head. Aim it for a less dangerous place to hit and move on. The suspension is absolutely the right call, even if it was (maybe) deserved.