Ebs’ One Big Thing: Baseball’s Unwritten Rule


WILKES-BARRE, PA – Miss me!?

So I was going to write about how the New York Yankees are one of the best teams in baseball, and even that they’ve surprised me. How the Boston Celtics are, and have always been, over rated. And, how Lavar Ball might be the worst thing that’s ever happened to basketball.

Who sells shoes for $495? And flipflops for over $200? It’s just insane.

Anyway, I wanted to go another way.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

As some of you might know, I cover the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (the Yankees Triple-A affiliate) for the Times Leader newspaper in Wilkes-Barre. Every Sunday I have a “RailRiders Page” in the paper, which includes a feature story, notebook and a couple of other small things.

My point to this is that this past Sunday, my feature was on baseball’s unwritten rule about intentionally hitting a batter.

It sparked from the whole Manny Machado-Boston Red Sox saga that started when the Baltimore Orioles phenom accidentally slid into Dustin Pedroia with his spikes up. The slide cost Pedroia to miss a few games and resulted in Machado getting thrown at in three different at-bats spanning over two series between the teams.

So naturally I asked some RailRiders for their thoughts on the topic. And I had some good talent to choose from. Former Los Angeles Angeles closer Ernesto Frieri, fringe New York Yankees utility man Rob Refsnyder and veteran catcher Eddy Rodriguez are all on the team.

While Frieri and Refsnyder understood that this play is part of the game, and Frieri, from a pitcher’s standpoint, said he would be doing it as a team player, Rodriguez had a whole different take. He discussed the play from an entirely wider scope.

“What normally happens in my experience as a catcher is, ‘Hey, we’re going to plunk this guy,’” Eddy Rodriguez said. “You go plunk this guy and you know what? There’s so many variables. A ball could hit this guy in the head. Guys have kids, kids have families and it’d be an extremely sad story for somebody to lose a life over a rule in this game, or an unwritten rule.”

He immediately brought up an incident from 2015, as did Refsnyder. In a game against the Rochester Red Wings, catcher Austin Romine was due up fifth in the first inning, but the RailRiders tattooed the opposing pitcher for three runs already. Out of frustration, the pitcher threw a fastball that hit Romine in the crown of the head and the catcher dropped to the ground in pain.

“Romine has two kiddos. All I can think about when he was laying on the ground — his toes kicking on the ground — all I thought about was, what (Lester Oliveros) gained versus what (Romine) could have lost,” Eddy Rodriguez said. “That to me is ridiculous because human beings are way bigger than this game no matter how much money we make, no matter how macho you are.

“It does not matter because at the end of the day, you know what? If that guy is on the streets somewhere, is he going to go after Romine without a baseball in his hand? My guess is no because Romine’s as hard-nosed of guy a I’ve ever been around.”

While I think we can all admit that the MLB is never going to outlaw this play, Rodriguez brings up a good point. The hitter in these situations can lose so much compared to what the pitcher can gain.

There’s a way to go about these plays, and if you even look at last week’s incident between Machado and Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale. Sale threw behind Machado’s head. Why? What if his finger slipped or the ball came out wrong and moved in a couple of inches.

There’s a better way to go about these plays. Throw under the belt. You’re professional pitchers. If you’re going to throw at a guy, do it where it’s not going to cause a career-threatening or life-threatening injury. The same message will still get across.

It’s not worth it.

Come back tomorrow for Ben Whitney and please follow us on Twitter at @ByDJEberle, @MeetTheMatts & @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.

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About the Author ()

DJ Eberle: The youngest of our team, DJ is also the largest. Offensive Tackle Large. In fact, this Albany native used OT for Western New England University – until he graduated in May of 2014. Like Junoir Blaber, he’s a regular on Rugby Wrap Up – his dad played rugby with The Matts. His cross to bear, however, is his love for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. As for baseball and basketball, it’s the Yanks and Atlanta Hawks. Follow him on Twitter: @ByDJEberle.

  • Buddy Diaz

    The crazy thing about all of this is that they threw at him 3 different times. They got their point across the first time but to continue to go after him was unprofessional by the Soxs. It showed no class on their part!

    • Ron Darling had some interesting thoughts on all of this but what it ultimately comes down to, believe it or not, is fundamentals. Pitchers can’t bunt, throw to first or hit a guy because A) They haven’t had proper training or B) They are scared to actually do it. The all-time greats, including Ryan, Gibson, Seaver, Pedro… They didn’t mess around. All could hit a better right in the ribs whenever they wanted… event the wild Nolan Ryan. Getting hit by a pitch is also something players need to learn. Turn your hind-quarters and numbers to the would-be beaner and get your hands in front of your tummy. Again, lost fundies. Finally, you better know how to handle yourself if the batter gets to the mound.


    • DJ Eberle

      Oh I agree 100%. Not to mention the first at-bat Eduardo Rodriguez tried with three pitches and missed every time. Enough is enough. You get one shot if you ask me.

  • Junoir Blaber

    This is what happens in a sport where you can’t hit somebody. There are none of these problems in contact sports. Baseball players and their unwritten rules sound like some babies. Just hit someone already.

    • But you CAN hit somebody. Hard slides, drill a batter. You just need to accept the repercussions.

  • DJ Eberle will be filing a grievance against us after he was out late last night and forgot about posting a column this morning. He claims it was a communications issue.

  • AngryWard

    DJ, I sometimes look at organized sports the way I look at organized religion. They could both use some updates from time to time. While Roger Clemens deserved to be beaned repeatedly, Machado is just a preening kid who didn’t even mean to spike Pedroia and takes wayyyy too long rounding the bases after a dinger. An eye for an eye is an antiquated notion. You get hit and don’t like it? Charge the mound. Settle it right then and there. Just don’t go after Nolan Ryan. He’ll pepper you with atomic noogies until the cows come home.

  • benwhit

    Remember how Don Baylor used to just take it and run to first without even rubbing it or anything? They don’t make em like that anymore.

    But yeah, agreed. HIt guys in the back, not the head.

  • benwhit

    Also, tomorrow, there will be dildo jokes!

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