Depending on your point of view, the “unwritten rules” of baseball are either what elevate it to a more civilized level or what make it a stodgy, outdated sport that sucks all the fun out of the game in a way that football’s No Fun League can only imagine.
Down at the Class A-Advanced level of minor league baseball, we got a fine spark for that debate to burn for another news cycle, as Minnesota Twins prospect Royce Lewis of the Florida State League Fort Myers Miracle had a pitch thrown at him for breaking those unwritten rules.
On Thursday, Lewis hit a long double off the base of the wall that was just short of being a home run.
Whether in penance for not being strong enough to muscle the ball over the wall or in celebration of getting himself on second with a solid extra-base hit, Lewis banged out a few push-ups.
#MNTwins top prospect & 2017 No. 1 overall #MLBDraft pick Royce Lewis raised the ire of his @The_Marauders opponents by pumping out a few pushups at second base after hitting a double for @MiracleBaseball last night: https://t.co/TGdEIfCPnU pic.twitter.com/1qFEFk4uxq
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 17, 2019
Either way, the Pirates’ minor-leaguers took umbrage at what they saw as open disrespect.
The next time Lewis stepped up to the plate, pitcher Gavin Wallace of the Bradenton Marauders, a Pirates affiliate, threw a ball behind him in a clear message of retaliation.
Considering the catcher effortlessly got over to catch the ball as if he knew exactly what was coming, the umpire put two and two together and ejected Wallace from the game.
Baseball, unlike most other sports, does not have any particularly firm penalty for an act of unsportsmanlike conduct, with the exception of an umpire ejecting a player from the game.
In basketball, the equivalent of doing push-ups on second base — something along the lines of pointing at someone you just dunked on, for example — will draw a technical foul, the other team will get a free throw and the ball, and for the most part everyone will move on.
Sure, there are occasional bench-clearing brawls, but they are rare because nobody wants to risk getting suspended over one flex.
Likewise, in football, doing push-ups in the end zone after a touchdown risks a 15-yard penalty, and in a sport where every yard of field position over the course of a game can ultimately mean victory or defeat, nobody wants to escalate things further.
If someone shows you up in baseball, there is only one recourse, (or two if you count hitters charging the mound in the American League, where you can’t throw at the enemy pitcher because he doesn’t bat).
That one recourse is to throw a ball at the hitter who committed the infraction, and the severity of the perceived offense (or the hostility of the pitcher tasked with the revenge pitch) means the difference between throwing a fastball behind his back and trying to drill him right in the skull.
The only other sport that comes close to this level of letting the players settle things on their own is hockey, where fighting usually means a five-minute penalty for a “goon” who’s probably being sent out there to throw hands, not score goals.
USA Today even went so far as to take baseball to task for failing to connect with younger fans by perpetuating the sport’s stodgy, for-your-grandparents reputation.
At the same time, you have to remember that baseball is a sport designed and stewed in over a century of tradition, where players take it upon themselves to respond to unsportsmanlike behavior. To call that stodgy risks missing the point of unwritten rules entirely.
All the same, Wallace should probably be grateful he didn’t give up a home run.
If a guy is doing push-ups on second base after smacking a ball against the wall, it’s probably best for the pitcher to just move with his life.
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