Twins

Baseball's Unwritten Rules Are Bringing the Twins Unwanted Attention

Photo Credit: David Berding (USA TODAY Sports)

In the ninth inning of the game between the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, it seemed like an at-bat between Yermin Mercedes and Willians Astudillo wouldn’t amount to much. The White Sox were clobbering the Twins by a score of 15-4. With both teams playing out the string, it was a matter of time before everyone went home.

But when Mercedes clobbered a 3-0 pitch into the Twins bullpen, it sparked a conversation in the Twins’ broadcast booth. While Mercedes was rounding the bases, Dick Bremer asked a simple question that centered around baseball’s unwritten rules:

“Does it matter?”

The answer is no. Baseball’s unwritten rules are something that is holding the sport back from reaching greater popularity. While marketing campaigns are designed around players celebrating in the dugout and performing majestic bat flips, the reality is that many younger players surrounded by crusty coaching staffs are a poor mix and result in what we saw this week.

In no place has this been more evident than in the Chicago dugout. The White Sox have been branded as a defiant, new-school team that will pick up wins and celebrate in your face afterward. With Tim Anderson leading the way, the Sox have the classic “Us vs. Everyone” mentality, which is why sending Astudillo’s pitch to the moon isn’t a big deal to the players.

But it’s the hiring of Tony La Russa that has brought this debate together. In his first season after a 10-year retirement, the 76-year-old condemned Mercedes’ decision to swing at a 3-0 pitch and said that his decision would be dealt with “within the family.”

The only issue is that La Russa has as much control over this family as a parent who picked up their kids from a sugar-fueled birthday party. Afterward, Mercedes said his decision to swing was a form of “playing his game.” The response enraged La Russa, who noted his players had no respect for the game of baseball.

If La Russa was upset over what his team did, he should be enraged at how the Twins have responded over the past couple of days.

Down 11 runs heading into the ninth inning, it didn’t matter who the Twins were going to send to the mound. With other issues, including a Thursday doubleheader influencing his decision, Rocco Baldelli turned to his utility infielder to save his bullpen.

The only problem is that he had five legitimate pitchers he could have put into the game to finish things off and send everyone home. With Astudillo on the mound, the game became a sideshow, which irked White Sox pitcher Lance Lynn.

“If a position player is on the mound, there are no rules,” Lynn told NBC Chicago’s Ryan McGuffey. “Let’s get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happened, then put a pitcher out there.”

With a utility man on the mound, Mercedes saw his pitch and drove it 426 feet, sending the Twins into their own fit of rage.

It was just two years ago that the Twins bombed teams into submission with an MLB-record 307 home runs. While they didn’t swing at 3-0 pitches, it wasn’t like they were taking it easy on opposing pitchers as the Bomba Squad rolled to a division title.

But now that they are victims to the long ball due to bullpen ineptitude, Baldelli and Tyler Duffey were ejected on Tuesday night after throwing behind Mercedes in the seventh inning. The incident slowed the game down and sent shortstop Tim Anderson into a frenzy.

 

What’s being overlooked here is that the Twins put themselves in this situation. By building a team that owns the worst record in baseball, they are on the other end of what the Bomba Squad enjoyed in 2019. If that trend continues, the Twins would be best served by drawing as little attention as possible. Nobody wants highlights from your 16-4 loss played on SportsCenter for days on end.

By putting in a position player and then acting surprised when he got shelled, the Twins garnered unwanted attention. With the Twins hurtling toward a summer in the bottom of the AL Central, breaking out baseball’s archaic unwritten rule book isn’t a great way to ease the sting of a lost season.

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