Weird game, baseball.
In what other sport would doing something legal–something that players do multiple times every day–provoke so much condemnation?
Yeah, I’m talking about last night’s Mariners’ game. Through the first five innings, the Ms looked a lot like my nephew’s Little League team at the plate. All credit to Justin Verlander of the Tigers; he had everything clicking, and he had a perfect game going.
Granted, there was a lot of game left. The chances that he would have stayed perfect the rest of the way were slim. Remember, there have only been 23 perfect games in MLB’s century-plus history.
Not to unduly prolong the suspense, with one out in the sixth inning and four runs behind, the Mariners’ Jarrod Dyson bunted himself aboard. No more perfect game. Five batters after that, the Mariners were only one run down, and Verlander was out of the game. The Ms picked up four more runs the next inning, and won the game.
Pretty smart move by Dyson, huh?
Well…see, baseball has this thing called the “unwritten rules”. That’s no different than any group, really. There’s no law forbidding you to pick your nose in public, but you probably don’t, fearing the scorn of society. Same thing here. The unwritten rules say you don’t bunt to break up a perfect game.
So, Dyson was violating the rules?
Maybe not. The problem with unwritten rules is that they’re unwritten. There’s no Moses carrying a carved tablet down from Cooperstown, New York after his interview with Abner Doubleday.
Some people say the rule only applies in the eighth and ninth innings. Others say it applies all the time–unless you’re down by less than three runs. Still others say “What the hell are you talking about? The only rule is ‘do what you have to to win’!”
Take your pick.
As far as the Mariners and their fans are concerned, though, the most important result of Dyson’s bunt and the team’s subsequent rally is that the Mariners are at .500.
Yeah, 37-37. The last time they were respectable was May 10, when they were 17-17. Before that? 0-0.
The All-Star Break is approaching. The actual midpoint of the season is even closer. And the Mariners have a chance to go over .500 for the first time all season.
That’s big, folks. Really big. Right now, they’re only a game and a half out of the Wild Card. Seriously. The American League sucks this year. It’s quite possible that the final playoff spot could go to a team with a losing record. Not likely, but possible. But in any case, the next few games will be a big factor in whether the Ms decide to sell off players to be better next year, or buy to improve now.
And there are the Mariners, winners of four in a row, looking to extend the streak. They’re going to do everything they can to get past that psychological barrier at .500 and turn themselves into winners, right? Go with their best pitcher and everything.
Actually, tonight’s starting pitcher is a rookie making his major league debut.
The Mariners’ pitchers have been injury-prone this year*, and part of their less-than-stellar record has been the inconsistent performance of the guys who’ve filled in. Making it back to .500 is a minor miracle, all things considered.
* To be fair, it’s not just the pitchers. At times it’s seemed like the entire team’s been on the disabled list–all at once.
But rather than working with the known quantity that’s gotten them this far, they’re going to take a step into the unknown. In a game that, in a very real sense, will determine the direction of the entire rest of the season for the Mariners.
No pressure, Kid.
Weird game, baseball.
If you can help your team win, you help your team win. That’s my unwritten rule. Except I just wrote it down, so now it’s my written rule, which excludes me from this unwritten rules conversation. Carry on …
Considering the number of electrons that have been sacrificed to the cause of explaining why Dyson shouldn’t (or should) have bunted last night, I think we’ve reached the point where the official unwritten rules no longer qualify as unwritten.
So don’t sweat having documented your rule.
And when Craig Gentry comes up in the sixth inning tonight, tell him to bunt. It just might get the Os back to .500.
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