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Writing about unwritten rules in 8-3 games, no-hitters

May 26, 2014, 2:50 AM EDT

Revere 1

Sunday gave us more fun with unwritten rules in one already much discussed incident. The Rays’ Yunel Escobar decided to take third base in the seventh inning of an 8-3 game against the Red Sox on Sunday, leading to a benches clearing incident and three ejections.

Now, I’m not sure it’s fair to say the Red Sox took exception to Escobar’s decision. Some idiot on the Red Sox did — David Ross, apparently — but I think what happened afterwards was more about an unpopular player’s reaction to being jawed at, a rather ridiculous hothead in Jonny Gomes wanting a piece of the action and some frustration boiling over from there. There was nothing wrong with Escobar taking that base in a five-run game with two innings left to go. Everyone in the Red Sox clubhouse probably realizes that now.

Less talked about (untalked about?) was what happened in a 6-0 game a thousand miles away. Well, no, plenty was written about that game, too. The Dodgers’ Josh Beckett pitched the first no-hitter of 2014 and the first of his career against the Phillies.

And I think it deserves a tiny asterisk.

The first two players to come to bat for the Phillies in the ninth were pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. and leadoff man Ben Revere, both of whom are accomplished bunters. According to Fangraphs data, Gwynn had already attempted eight bunt hits in 66 at-bats this season, succeeding on two of them. Over the course of his career, one out of every 12 of his hits has been a bunt single. Revere had four successful bunt singles in six tries this year and 25 in his career. One out of every 17 of his hits has been a bunt single.

The Dodgers infield, though, played back on both, further back than the group had played earlier in the game. The Dodgers correctly surmised that neither player would be “bush league” enough to try to break up Beckett’s no-hitter by bunting in a 6-0 game and took advantage of it.

That’s just not fair, in my opinion. I think there’s something to “respecting the accomplishment” and such things. I would have been disappointed had Gwynn or Revere tried a bunt with the outcome essentially in no doubt. But I’m more disappointed that the Dodgers capitalized on that to decrease the chances of Gwynn or Revere getting a clean single. If the fielders are playing closer on the corners, as they should have been, then there’s a better chance that a grounder sneaks through.

It this all nitpicking? Maybe. But this is yet another example of why I don’t like unwritten rules. If the Phillies had broken code today and Revere had bunted for a single, there might well have been foolish repercussions down the line. Certainly, there would be no shortage of articles today fuming about his lack of class. His name would have superseded that of Ben Davis, who famously bunted to break up a Curt Schilling perfect game in the eighth inning (in a 2-0 game) in 2001.

But I say it was the Dodgers who broke code. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If you’re going to give the hitter all that room to bunt, you have absolutely no right to complain if he takes it.

  1. dan1111 - May 26, 2014 at 3:04 AM

    The Phillies had basically no chance of winning the game, bunt or not. Trying to bunt in this situation would have infinitesimally increased their odds of winning, but greatly increased the odds of breaking up a no-hitter. In other words, it would have been a jerky thing to do–“unwritten rules” or not.

    While I agree with you about “unwritten rules” in general, this is the definition of nitpicking.

    • dan1111 - May 26, 2014 at 3:14 AM

      According to the Win Expectancy calculator, getting a runner on first in this situation increases your team’s odds of winning from .003% to .008%.

      I don’t see how the Dodgers can be faulted for correctly understanding that bunting made no sense and positioning themselves accordingly. They would have looked pretty silly if they had played close to the lines and a single had gotten through.

      • buddaley - May 26, 2014 at 7:26 AM

        I miss your point. Would hitting a single increase their odds more than getting on base with a bunt? How do the Dodgers improve their chances of winning by allowing a man to get on base more easily (i.e. essentially saying we will let you bunt your way on) unless it is because they know that the opponents will not bunt? After all, as is often pointed out, the object when a team is down by multiple runs is not to swing for the fences but to get men on base. And neither of the batters hits for power anyway. Their best chance of starting a rally is to bunt their way on.

        I would definitely want my team to bunt. Maybe it shakes the pitcher up. Maybe it brings in a reliever. The object is to try to score runs, and while 6 runs are very unlikely, that is no reason not to keep trying.

    • stercuilus65 - May 26, 2014 at 4:33 AM

      What a ridiculous article,picking the nittiest of nits, a desperate attempt to asterix the game.

      • Old Gator - May 26, 2014 at 11:37 AM

        The arrogance of bloggers is thinking baseball ethics are in their control and not the other way around.

        Let them fight.

      • groupofsevenrules - May 26, 2014 at 1:31 PM

        Hahahah….sorry OG, I don’t think these folks (with the exception of maybe two or three thumbs of whose origins we are already aware) know the reference. It will take a few more weeks to sink in and enter the culture at large, I suspect.

    • SocraticGadfly - May 26, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      And, there’s little comparison to Schilling’s then-perfecto. The bunt was in the eighth inning, not the ninth, and the score was 2-0, not 6-0.

      I’m actually hoping Carlos Gomez bunts to break up a perfect game and does a bat-flip while bunting, so conflicting unwritten rules cause Craig to blow a gasket.

      • billyboots - May 27, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        Did you even bother to read the by-line?

  2. sfm073 - May 26, 2014 at 3:20 AM

    I wouldn’t call this a unwritten rule, but rather a player not being a coward and actually breaking up a no hitter swinging the bat. Any player who breaks up a no hitter in the 8th inning and beyond in a virtually un winnable and meaningless game should be ostracized from the game.

    • kardshark1 - May 26, 2014 at 3:42 AM

      You’re right, teams have never come back from a 6 run deficit – not even sure why they continue to play.

      And you’re missing the whole point of the article anyway. Basically, what’s worse, to never be generous or to constantly take advantage of those who are? That’s the gist of it, except in a baseball context. Reread it a few times, get some of your buddies to help you out, you’ll see it, you’ll get there.

  3. sabatimus - May 26, 2014 at 3:23 AM

    I’d bunt.

  4. kardshark1 - May 26, 2014 at 3:30 AM

    Ben Revere career’s OB% is .324, career slg% is .330.

    It should be an unwritten rule that if you choose Ben Revere to have the most plate appearances on your team, you deserve to get no hit.

    • narfmoo12 - May 26, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      Add in his stolen bases to the slugging percentage. Suddenly there are a lot more “doubles” from the lead off spot, and a lot more fastballs seen by Rollins, Utley, and Howard.

      • Kevin S. - May 26, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        That’s not how it works, but what the heck, I added his stolen bases to his total bases, giving him a slugging percentage of .402. I then subtracted his caught stealings from his on-base percentage, leaving that down at .302. Still want to argue baserunning justifies batting him leadoff?

  5. proudlycanadian - May 26, 2014 at 6:15 AM

    In retrospect, Gwynn should have faked a bunt on the first pitch in order to make the infielders play at normal depth.

    • koufaxmitzvah - May 26, 2014 at 8:58 AM

      I agree. And then the writers can decide if the Dodgers would have chimed in about how “unfair” a 9th inning bunt would have been. From listening to Beckett after the game, I don’t think he really would have cared. He had already broken some superstitions by jabbermouthing in the dugout from the 5th inning on about how he had never gone so long without giving up a hit.

  6. chad10 - May 26, 2014 at 7:05 AM

    Re the Red Sox-Rays brawl, I was amused by the comment made by the announcer who, noting that the Official Scorer gave Escobar the base on “fielder indifference”, suggested that the Red Sox didn’t seem too indifferent to his taking that base.

    • thetoolsofignorance - May 26, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      Based on the brawl alone it should be scored a steal. The Red Sox deserve their losing streak.

      • unclemosesgreen - May 26, 2014 at 11:55 AM

        You’re typically a good commenter. This is well below your standard. “Brawl?” Seriously?

        Anyone on a winning streak or a losing streak “deserves” it because the outcomes aren’t predetermined. You’ve been smarter.

      • thetoolsofignorance - May 26, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      • unclemosesgreen - May 26, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        OK fine, you’re just an idiot.

      • thetoolsofignorance - May 26, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    • unclemosesgreen - May 26, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      As someone who has actually been in brawls, I’d just like to take extreme exception to anyone who wishes to label that totally minor incident a “brawl”. Not one punch was thrown. Give me a break.

      • playball - May 26, 2014 at 2:07 PM

        It seems like most remarks are based upon the one line comment and ‘web gem’ that was put up.
        This page once again reflects the author’s bias that the RS are at fault.

        I’ll take a wild, wacky guess that the game wasn’t watched by those that wrote the article and most people commenting here.

        I’d suggest the author do a little more research. It really wouldn’t have been too challenging to include the entirety of what transpired, rather than something to anger folks.

        Uncle, sounds like you get what a brawl is all about. I’m not assuming you agree with me. But, I’m in complete agreement with you.

      • unclemosesgreen - May 26, 2014 at 5:43 PM

        Brawls are horrible and uncontrollable. Flying chairs and tables don’t care if you started it or not.

  7. trublazer - May 26, 2014 at 7:08 AM

    unwritten rules…it’s one of the many reasons why I am no longer a baseball fan. baseball has fallen asleep behind the wheel.

    • kaleidoscopictreats - May 26, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      Please.

      Sure, unwritten rules are generally as silly as this website makes them out to be (e.g. mostly rules prohibiting celebrating). But some of them are perfectly fine.

      For example, it is an unwritten rule that pitchers are shouldn’t intentionally beam an opposing team’s best hitters, in an effort to cause injury. Hell, it’s probably an actual rule, too. And you know what? It’s a good one to have, both on and off the books.

      So how about we be a little nuanced, and evaluate each rule on its own merits, instead of blindly railing against all of them, even the good ones.

      • jrbdmb - May 27, 2014 at 1:35 PM

        Hmm … that one about not trying to hurt the other team’s best player seems to get broken all the time, mainly every time a pitcher thinks he has been shown up. Unless you’re suggesting that Piazza, Jason Heyward, etc. are scrubs.

  8. cohnjusack - May 26, 2014 at 7:39 AM

    I remember an old Whitey Herzog quote when he was criticized for having his team steal a base in a 10-0 game.

    “I’ll stop stealing bases when you guys stop hitting home runs”.

    That’s how it works guys. The game isn’t over because it’s 8-3, and frankly, teams have certainly come back from 8-3 many, many times. If you didn’t want someone to take third base, how about blaming yourselves for not holding the guy one instead of attacking the player for exploiting your bad play.

  9. steveohho - May 26, 2014 at 7:47 AM

    Why would a lifetime competitor on a baseball team concede to being “no hit” even if his team is down 10 runs in the 9th?

    You would think they would use hook or crook to get a hit, even avoiding possibly walking to do so and not be apologetic at all. If someone on the “Fightens” has bunting skills, then take advantage of the opponent’s presumptuous defense and bunt.

  10. rdillon99 - May 26, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    I would much prefer it if the unwritten rule was that all players should try their hardest to score a run (and prevent the other team from scoring) no matter what the situation. If that means taking an extra base in a blowout or laying down a bunt in the late innings of a potetial no-hitter, so be it. I really don’t understand the criticism that players take for trying their best in every situation.

  11. jonirocit - May 26, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    Perfect

  12. paperlions - May 26, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    That alignment is actually a bad one against hitters like Gwynn and Revere even if they don’t bunt. I am willing to bet that playing back like that increased the odds of each man beating out a grounder or a chopper more than it helps fielders to get to hard hit balls. Essentially any slow-hit grounder would have been a hit.

  13. jerlee7 - May 26, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    In Philly for the weekend was watching the game with the locals and even they were against trying to bunt to break it up.

  14. miguelcairo - May 26, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    This whole article is nitpicking fluff. Wow.

  15. Jeff J. Snider - May 26, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Rewrite of this article: “I am angry because I think the Dodgers probably would have been jerks if the Phillies had bunted!”

    Two points:

    1) If the Dodgers know Revere and Gwynn aren’t going to bunt, their fielders should no play for the bunt. It doesn’t matter if they know it because of unwritten rules or because Revere sent them an email telling them so. If he’s not going to bunt, don’t play for the bunt. Nothing classless about that.

    2) You made a huge assumption that the Dodgers would have been upset if Revere or Gwynn had bunted, and then you criticized them for that hypothetical anger. There are some major Minority Report issues going on here. IF they had bunted and IF the Dodgers had been upset about it, then your criticism would work. Being upset over what you think someone might have done in an alternate universe is pretty much the definition of trying to be offended.

    • notsofast10 - May 26, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      In the 9th inning of a 6-0 game you don’t have your infielders looking for a bunt regardless of the no hitter or not!

      I thought this guy was knowledgeable about baseball since he writes on this blog?

  16. Black Dog - May 26, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    Let me see if I understand your reasoning. The Dodgers, by virtue of a tremendous pitching performance by Josh Beckett, gain an advantage in the ninth inning — two Phillies who might normally bunt are disinclined to do so. The Dodgers should surrender this advantage by playing in, decreasing Beckett’s chances of getting his no-hitter, and the Dodgers’ chances of winning the game.

    I’ m not sure that you are managerial material.

    • urallstupid - May 26, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      u dont understand. go read again.

  17. chiadam - May 26, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    Why was it OK for that little weasel Pedroia to take second base in the 8th inning of a bigger blowout during the ALCS last year? Seriously, Red Sox, just shut up. Crybaby bitches. Here’s a thought: if you don’t want someone stealing a bag when you’re getting housed, stop getting housed. And replace that noodle-arm catcher.

  18. sethjl - May 27, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    Unwritten rules are fine, but all the unwritten rules discouraging an offense which is about to be no-hit or perfect gamed are absurd. If you lay down at the end of the game, then the pitcher’s accomplishment is really only impressive for the first eight innings, as the opposing team essentially gives the no hitter or perfect game to the pitcher at that point. The only reason the accomplishment is respectable is that it’s achieved against another major league team full of players who are making an effort to get hits.

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