Andrew Stetka: A few thoughts on baseball’s unwritten rules

Baseball is stupid. It’s a game that I love dearly and that I follow obsessively, but it’s quite stupid sometimes. Maybe that’s more of a referendum on me than anything else. Why would I pay so much attention and spend so much of my life on something that’s stupid? I honestly don’t have a good answer for that. Perhaps it’s because baseball’s stupidity only rears its ugly head occasionally, like this weekend in Baltimore.

Grown men playing a game can seem silly to many people. Grown men being paid absurd amounts of American dollars to play said game could seem even more preposterous. But when these same grown men decide to act like children, all bets are off.

Back up to Friday, where the Red Sox took offense with Manny Machado’s aggressive slide into second base. The slide was not malicious in nature, nor was it late, but it was indeed aggressive. There’s no question that the slide was slightly dangerous as Machado clipped Dustin Pedroia in the leg, knocking him out of the game. There’s also no question that Machado has a reputation that would lead many to question the intent of the slide. He’s had plenty of dustups in the past. There was a bat toss following a scuffle with then-A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson in 2014. Then he charged the mound after being hit by a pitch from late Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura just last June. But there was no intent on Friday night, something that Pedroia even spoke about and agreed with. Machado not only attempted to brace Pedroia and break his fall in the immediate aftermath of the slide, but also reached out to him postgame to make sure he was OK.

What happened yesterday to Machado was where the stupidity of the game comes into play. Baseball’s unwritten rules, which state a player must get hit by a pitch as some form of payback for such a play, are asinine. Machado could have been seriously injured, or worse, based on what Matt Barnes did. It’s time for these players to start taking responsibility for themselves and acting like adults, rather than throwing baseballs at the heads of opponents. But it’s important to stress that while Barnes is likely the only person to see a suspension after all of this, he’s not the only guilty party. Machado, Pedroia, John Farrell, and ironically even Zach Britton are also responsible for stoking the flames of this fire.

Pedroia received a lot of praise on social media yesterday for standing up and saying that it wasn’t right for his own team to be throwing at Machado’s head and that the order didn’t come from him. But Pedroia is completely foolish for believing that if Machado was going to be hit with a pitch, that it should have come Saturday. That’s no better. I don’t understand the mindset of a team that would intentionally hit a baseball player, unwritten rule or not. It’s clear that pitchers should be trying to avoid baserunners, not putting them on for free. Pedroia’s (and many others in the game) claim that it’s OK to hit a player in retaliation so long as it’s done below the waist and the day after an incident is still wrong.

Farrell had the audacity to lie to reporters by saying Barnes didn’t intentionally throw the pitch at Machado’s head. He was upset about the failed application of the new slide rule on Friday, but to claim Barnes wasn’t headhunting just makes everyone roll their eyes.

Britton even decided to insert himself into this mess, claiming Pedroia doesn’t have control over his teammates as a leader of the Red Sox. The injured Orioles closer told BaltimoreBaseball.com that “there’s a bigger issue” if Pedroia can’t speak up and tell teammates not to throw at opponents. This is just an unnecessary provocation from Britton, and one that doesn’t help the situation.

Also failing to help the situation this weekend was the media, mainly those that are based in New England. Countless reporters and writers took the opportunity Friday to not only predict, but to suggest, that Machado would be forced to wear one at some point following his slide. Why aren’t there more media members suggesting that this be handled differently, rather than just accepting or predicting it? I’m not saying baseball teams are going to be all handshakes and hugs in the heat of competition. But there must be a better way to solve these things other than hurling baseballs at heads. It’s important, I guess, for the media to write to a narrative and get clicks.

I’ve got a real issue with the suggestion that we should all just accept baseball’s unwritten rules. Otherwise baseball will just remain stupid sometimes. For a game that I love dearly, I hope players, managers and the media stand up and start to change that.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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