Questioning the interpretation of one of baseball’s unwritten rules

Is this what the game has come to?

Are we really at the point in today’s game that when a player looks at a home run for a second or two before running around the bases, he gets drilled the next time he comes to the plate? Or the following week? Or two months down the road?

Don’t confuse my intentions by writing this. I’m not whining about Bryce Harper getting drilled in the thigh by a first-pitch Julio Teheran fastball last night. I’m not specifically standing up for Harper and I’m not saying that Teheran is a bad guy for plunking Harper under these specific circumstances.

If the situation had been reversed and a Nationals pitcher had hit a Braves batter under similar circumstances, I’d still be questioning things.

On a broader scale, I just don’t get why this has become commonplace in baseball today.

Was Harper a little slow in getting into his home run trot in the third inning last night? Yeah, I guess he was. Did he toss his bat towards the Nationals dugout? Yeah, he did.

Was it the slowest home run trot of Harper’s career? According to Tater Tot Tracker, yes it was, although that’s not saying much for someone who usually sprints around the bases after his home runs.

Harper rounded the bases in 23.66 seconds last night, which is fairly quick by most players’ standards and is nothing compared to the times David Ortiz puts up, which are consistently in the 28-29 second range. Heck, Justin Upton rounded the bases in 27.36 seconds on Monday night.

But while the Nationals might have felt that Upton took a bit too much time admiring his homer while getting around the bases, would it really have been necessary to drill him his next time up?

The way I see it, serving up home runs is an occupational hazard for major league pitchers. It’s going to happen. There’s no questioning that.

So why do we seem to get to this point so frequently, where benches clear or punches are thrown because of a retaliatory move by a pitcher who can’t handle giving up a longball?

If a guy truly goes overboard and pimps a home run by flipping the bat dramatically or high-stepping it out of the box, then yeah, sending a message might be necessary. If a hitter is clearly trying to show-up the pitcher, throwing one high and tight the next time he comes to the plate seems acceptable, and under drastic circumstances, I understand planting one in a hitter’s lower back.

But it just seems to me like some pitchers are wound a bit too tight these days, are a bit too eager to take advantage of baseball’s unwritten rule that it’s OK to drill someone and put them at risk of injury just because the pitcher’s pride was hurt a little bit.

Don’t want guys to hit home runs off you? Make better pitches.

I’m obviously generalizing here. There are many pitchers out there who take their medicine after serving up homers and just focus on getting the next hitter, even if they felt they got showboated on a little bit. And there are some hitters who realize that when they style a home run trot too much, they’re putting themselves out there for potential payback.

But it seems like we’re seeing cases like last night’s with increasing frequency.

This might all make me sound like a crotchety old man yelling at kids to get off my lawn. I’m aware of that fact.

As a fan of the game, I enjoy dramatic, intense games and I like to see teams that have players who care so much that they’re willing to fight to defend a teammate when he’s been wronged. I just think we get to that point far too easily these days, especially due to plunkings that follow home runs.

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