You may have seen it on the news. That international incident between Canada and Mexico that played out on a baseball diamond.
Last Saturday in Phoenix, the two squads from these countries played each other in a first round pool game of the World Baseball Classic. The game was well in hand as it went to the ninth inning, the Canadians up 8-2.
Given the WBC’s system for determining tie-breakers relies on run differential – and not runs allowed – Canada decided to bunt and try to score more runs in the game. Naturally, this did not sit well with the Mexican team, and third baseman Luis Cruz urged pitcher Arnold Leon to hit the next batter, Canada’s Rene Tosoni, with the pitch. Upon doing so, Tosoni verbalized his disgust towards Leon, and a baseball brawl ensued.
Following the melee-scarred game, both managers laid the blame for the incident on the WBC’s tie-breaker system. Said Canadian skipper Ernie Whitt, “There’s got to be another method other than the scoring runs, running up the score on the opposing team. No one likes that. That’s not the way baseball’s supposed to be played.”
The blame does not lie with the WBC tie-breaker system. The blame lies with the culture of baseball and the so-called “unwritten rules” of the game. With as much grief as the NFL gets for being a violent sport, baseball almost never gets called out for being a devious sport. A sport of an unwritten code that says it’s okay to injure your opponent simply because he offended or embarrassed you.
The blame goes to the thought process in Luis Cruz’ mind that made it logical to suggest the next batter be plunked. The blame goes to the testosterone-drenched machismo that dictates showing off or showing up merits retaliation. How is it this legendary game made great by legendary men has produced a unwritten rule book that utilizes the problem solving efficacy of middle-schoolers?
And it’s not like the players don’t understand the parameters of the tournament. They know one of the tie-breakers for opening round play in the WBC is run differential. Since they know, and since most players participating are professionals, there should be no feeling of anger and disrespect when your opponent is trying to score more runs?
In games where 10 runs are scored in the first inning, do you see a team hit the batter after the 11th run in scored? Of course not. But move that same scenario to the ninth inning and it’s perfectly acceptable to hurl at your opponent a solid object weighing 5 ounces at an incredible speed with the deliberate intention of causing harm.
I don’t get it. I don’t understand how that makes sense at all. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s because I grew up on football and my love for baseball is secondary. Whatever the case, I think baseball has the ability to evolve as a sport by putting to rest the “unwritten rules” of the game. Somewhat ironically, in the trailer for the upcoming biopic about Jackie Robinson ‘42’, there’s a scene in which Robinson and Branch Rickey exchange dialogue.
Robinson: “You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?”
Rickey: “No. I want a player who’s got the guts *not* to fight back.”
What baseball needs right now is more players with the guts to ignore those unwritten rules, and write a new culture for the American pastime.