Hello, and welcome back to this year's first installment of Grading the Unwritten Rules. It's been too long since we've scrutinized the actions of man-children in pajamas, but at least we have a whopper of a doozy of a dust-up to discuss. After three games, the Royals want to surround Brett Lawrie and skeletonize him, like a shoal of piranha. After one pitch, the A's want to drop Kelvin Herrera down a deep, deep well. All because of unwritten rules. And attempted murder. But let he who has not attempted one tiny murder cast the first 100-mph stone.
By now, you probably know the story. Lawrie hurt Alcides Escobar while breaking up a double play. Yordano Ventura plunked Lawrie in the midsection in response. Everything unwritten was finished, but then Herrera threw a fastball near Lawrie's face, and things escalated again. Let's grade all three participants on just how screwy they got with the unwritten rules.
Lawrie ... isn't someone with whom I would want to share a studio apartment. We seem like very ... different people. Are those words minced enough? Good. Because I came into this story with some biases.
Here's the slide in question. If you have young children, please, make them leave the room.
Oh, that's not as bad as expected. It's not good, mind you. But it probably wasn't worth all this.
Start with the assumption that baseball folks still believe in the "good, hard slide." Announcers are fond of that exact phrase -- "It was a good, hard slide" -- whenever a double play is broken up and no one gets hurt. The trick is to find where the play moved from good, hard slide to "maybe I should risk murdering him for justice." It's the spikes, the angry people say. The spikes were up. The spikes can never be up.
Except we know that baseball players slide more like this:
And less like this.
Spikes will often be pointed in the direction of the fielder, they just can't be up. Lawrie's were kind of up.
But we're talking a matter of inches. They weren't Ty Cobb-up. They were just a touch higher than Mike Moustakas-up.
More care could have been taken on Lawrie's part, certainly. But if you try to angle the cleats away from the fielder, you run the risk of rolling over and crumpling a knee, like Matt Holliday did to Marco Scutaro in the 2012 NLCS. I really, really think everyone is underestimating just how hard it is to a) slide after a dead sprint, while b) interfering with the infielder enough to make sure he doesn't complete the play and c) keeping the spikes from going too high. Try it out in your living room or office right now. Figuring out what to do with that leg is a split-second decision, and the leg is the runner's main weapon in his war against the infielder turning the double play. It's a delicate balance to strike in an indelicate situation.
Considering all that, Lawrie's slide wasn't that egregious. It wasn't harmless, but we're discussing it only because Escobar got hurt. It's not a great slide when you set it to the scale of the mollycoddlin' baseball players these days, but it doesn't even register if you set the scale to the days before the Hal McRae Rule. Right, Hal McRae?
Right. And, say, that Hal McRae Rule. Where did that come from?
That used to be an aggressive takeout slide before the rules changed. If you think Lawrie is some kind of maniac, he doesn't even come close to the maniacs of yore. Or even today. Was Lawrie's slide worse than this one from Sam Fuld, for example?
Probably not. Escobar came out of that game, but he started the next day. If he were hurt worse than that, maybe the hullabaloo would have been on the same level as Lawrie and the Royals. Or maybe it all goes back to that first sentence under the "Brett Lawrie" header up there -- maybe Lawrie's rep is partly responsible for the overreactions.
Keep the spikes a little lower, kid. On a scale from 1-to-10, with "1" being a dainty slide four feet from the bag and "10" being Hal McRae up there, Lawrie gets a 4 for his slide. You noticed only because someone got hurt.
Almost a clean one. Go for the ass, Yordano, the ass. Points are docked for Ventura walking toward Lawrie, who did a swell job keeping his cool, but this was a standard plunking. Ventura gets a 3 because he did what almost every single pitcher in baseball would have done. Even if it's silly for grown men to throw baseballs at each other, it's not exactly unique or surprising in this context.
Intermission: The unwritten rules of texting an apology
Lawrie was all, hey, I texted an apology to Escobar. Escobar was all, hey, I didn't get one. Lawrie was all, well, someone responded in Spanish and said my apology was stupid. Escobar was all, nuh-uh, I text in English when I respond to English.
For those who had asked: Brett Lawrie's text to the number for Alcides Escobar that Eric Hosmer gave him: pic.twitter.com/4svOO6WoUy— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) April 18, 2015
Pick up the damned phone and call. Kids these days.
Throwing at the head, near the head, or anywhere above the shoulders isn't an unwritten rule. It's a written rule, and Herrera will be suspended for a while because of it. It's dangerous and ghastly, and even Royals fans were uncomfortable with that pitch, for the most part.
Forget the location, though. Pretend he threw it at Lawrie's elbow, just like Ventura up there, but this time it broke a bone. Pretend it broke a rib. What would have been the point? There's a "4" up there, and it was answered with a "3." It was over. It was completely finished, and no one should have had to risk injury anymore. That's the biggest unwritten-rules violation -- starting it back up in the first place. Because while we like to focus on the ability of a beanball to kill a person or end a career, throwing a baseball at Lawrie at all was completely unnecessary. Really, it would have taken a McRae slide to justify that sort of vengeance.
Herrera gets a 9 for the combo. You can't do that. There was no reason to do that. What is wrong with you, Kelvin Herrera? He also gets an 8 for being named "Kelvin" in a story about an "Escobar" and making me triple-check my writing to make sure I got rid of all the "Kelvim"s.
Brett Lawrie's eye black
This gets an unwritten-rules score of -1,000,000,000 because there's no earthly reason to play baseball with Martin Scorsese's eyebrows on your cheeks.
Final tally: One questionable slide, one expected plunking, and one extreme jackass. If no one gets hurt, everyone ignores it. Like this play from last week:
No one got hurt. No one cared. This should have been that. Instead, we had a fracas. It should have been over immediately, but here we are, still talking about it.
If there is any unwritten justice in the universe, we'll get to watch a five- or seven-game series with these two in October. It warms the cockles of my heart just thinking about it.