OH, THOSE UNWRITTEN RULES!
Baseball has been around for a long time. One theory suggests that Civil War general Abner Doubleday came up with the game. Baseball has had a remarkable history. Some of that history has involved some “unwritten” rules, again developed over a long period of time.
I played the game of baseball at some level for over 20 years. I was aware of those rules and tried to abide by them. This week in Atlanta, one rule came up and the debate has since raged on. Let’s see what happened.
The Braves Ronald Acuna, Jr. had led off with home runs in his past three games. He had 8 homers in 8 days with his power streak reaching five consecutive games. When he came to the plate in the first inning in a game against the Miami Marlins, pitcher Jose Urena decided he would not hit another home run in that at bat.
Instead Urena plunked him in the elbow (to be fair he seemed to be aiming for his ribs) with a 97 m.p.h. fastball on the first pitch. Intentional? Many people thought so including the umpires who threw him out of the game. The Braves were not happy. They could accept being thrown at if Acuna had done something to show up the Marlins, but not simply for being hot or, if you wish, successful. MLB must have agreed with them as they suspended Urena for six games for his actions.
The debate over his actions really gained steam when former big leaguer Keith Hernandez suggested that Acuna needed to be hit. Yes, you heard that correctly! Hernandez said that Acuna was wearing the Marlins out and needed to be plunked. I guess that is old school (a euphemism for unwritten) but even players from the Hernandez era did not agree. Lean him back, take him out of his toehold sure, but do not hit him intentionally.
Baseball’s unwritten rules have been changed in recent years. Taking out the shortstop or second baseman to break up a double play was common for years. No more. Barreling the catcher while trying to score (Pete Rose and Ray Fosse in the All Star game) was part of the game. Again, no more.
The view from my seat suggests that baseball is going to have to clamp down on throwing at batters for any reason. Pitchers today all throw in the mid 90’s and that horsehide can do some serious damage. Put an end to things BEFORE someone gets seriously hurt.