Can we stop with the unwritten rules already? -Column
Monday, July 21, 2014 12:00 AM
All across Major League Baseball, more and more often, teams are shifting their infield defense. It used to happen only on dead-pull hitters. Now it happens on nearly every hitter.
When a left-handed hitter comes to the plate, the third baseman moves way off the line to the normal shortstop position and the shortstop plays on the first-base side of second base. Doing this completely opens up the left side.
How often have you been watching a game and wondered why Adam Dunn or Victor Martinez or David Ortiz doesn’t just drop down a bunt and take their easy single?
Apparently, that would be against the unwritten rules of baseball, at least according to one journeyman pitcher.
On Saturday night, the Texas Rangers were trailing Toronto 2-0 in the fifth. There was nobody on with two outs in the inning and Colby Rasmus came to bat against Rangers right hander Colby Lewis. As is so often the case anymore, the Rangers employed an extreme shift on the left-handed hitting Rasmus, vacating the left side of the infield.
Rasmus did what the Rangers essentially dared him to do and dropped a bunt down the third-base line, easily beating the play for a single. Seems innocent enough, right?
Not so fast, said the Rangers’ pitcher, who began yelling at Rasmus on the field. Lewis apparently felt that taking what the defense was giving him with a 2-run lead in the fifth was bad form.
Lewis didn’t let it go on the field, however, taking his argument to the media after the game. Lewis attacked the light-hitting Rasmus, saying the play was purely to boost his batting average. Rasmus is hitting .225 on the year, so he could use a bump.
Lewis saw his career resurrected in Texas several years ago, but after coming back from a serious hip injury, he’s been downright terrible this year and his Rangers teammates haven’t been much better. It certainly could be that Lewis has allowed some of the frustration of a lost season, one where he’s pitched to a 6.37 ERA through 89 innings this year. Frankly speaking, Lewis can only thank the laundry list of Rangers injuries that he still has a spot in the rotation, let alone a place on the big league roster.
Of course, all of that misses the point, which was that what Rasmus did has never been frowned upon.
The game was in the fifth and was still very much in doubt. Texas averages just over four runs per game and nearly five runs per contest when Lewis is on the mound, so it’s not as if Rasmus was running up the score on the Rangers in that situation.
You can’t bunt to break up a no-hitter, you can’t cross the field too close to the mound after making an out, you can’t steal or take extra bases when up by five or more runs after the seventh inning, you can’t bunt when up five or more runs after the seventh inning, you can’t look too long after hitting a home run, you can’t take too long to leave the batter’s box or take too long rounding the bases after said home run, and, apparently, now you can’t bunt for a base hit when the defense has shifted to allow the free base hit.
If Lewis didn’t like giving up the hit in that situation, it’s probably his manager he should be blaming. If the shift isn’t on, Rasmus doesn’t bunt there.
Maybe it’s me, but it seems like these pitchers are a touch too sensitive.