There are 130 pages in the official MLB rulebook, but in recent years, much more ink has been spilled about baseball’s so-called unwritten rules. On Sunday, Manny Machado became the sport’s latest code breaker by flinging his bat toward A’s third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Benches cleared, words were exchanged, and Machado offered up an amusingly hollow apology after initially claiming that the bat just happened to “slip out” of his hands. You know, standard procedure whenever someone has the temerity to disrespect the game.
This was Machado’s third incident in as many days, making it all too easy for Bud Selig to slap him with a five-game suspension. Worse, though, was the chorus of “He doesn’t play the game the right way” lines from baseball’s fraternity of self-appointed gatekeepers. “The game should be played the right way,” noted A’s DH John Jaso in a rather cryptic postgame interview. “And when it’s not played the right way, people should be told, you know, in a certain way.” Oh, we know.
With respect to Machado, Jaso has a point: Throwing your bat at an opponent is definitely not the right way to play baseball. The problem is once a player gets this label, it tends to stick, at least among curmudgeonly sportswriters and oversensitive players. Machado could return from his suspension a changed man and it wouldn’t make any difference — he has been branded for life, and pitchers will probably target him for it.
Alas, he’s not the only miscreant plaguing the basepaths these days. There are others — so many, in fact, that it’s time we started a team of them. The following players have violated baseball’s sacred (if ethereal) code. They do not play the game the right way. Ladies and gentlemen, here are your Wrong-Way All-Stars.
(NOTE: The Wrong-Way All-Star Team does not recognize positions. Everyone is capable of everything.)
Victim: Madison Bumgarner
Description: When it comes to Puig, there’s a seemingly infinite number of disrespect-the-game incidents to choose from, each more ridiculous than the last. Many of them involve grown men taking offense to a bat flip, Puig’s signature home run celebration, even though they could’ve easily prevented said bat flip by pitching better.
Everyone has a cause, I guess, and this is Madison Bumgarner’s.
Stain on democracy: Horrifying
Victim: Denard Span
Description: Span entered the batter’s box, and Lee threw a pitch. Such occurrences are common in baseball, and you’d think a professional like Span would be used to them by now. However, Span “wasn’t ready” for the pitch, leading to an INTENSE bench- and bullpen-clearing discussion, which appeared to be both profane and highly Socratic.
Stain on democracy: Irreversible
Crime: Stealing late with a lead
Victim: A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross
Description: Up 8-3 in the seventh, Escobar stole third because his job is to improve his team’s chances of winning baseball games. For the average fan, this is an easy concept to grasp, but it’s evidently far too advanced for the simple mind of 17-year veteran/legendary irritant A.J. Pierzynski. Meanwhile, the world is a better place when David Ross’s viewpoints go unheard, so we’re just gonna ignore whatever he had to say.
Stain on democracy: Alarming
Crime: Aggressive tagging
Description: Look, Manny, if you want to be part of the Wrong-Way All-Stars, you can’t be playing the victim card like this. Donaldson’s tag seemed perfectly normal and not at all worthy of a goofy-ass helmet throw. And if you’re gonna use baseball equipment as projectiles, you could at least hit your target.
Stain on democracy: Toxic
Crime: Admiring his triple
Victim: Gerrit Cole
Description: Back in April, Gomez thought he had homered off Gerrit Cole and decided to appreciate the spectacle before heading to first. Cole was visibly peeved with Gomez’s second-long pause, and when the ball failed to clear the center-field wall, he approached the Brewers slugger at third to give him an earful. Of course, a smart pitcher would want opposing batters to waste time rubbernecking, but Cole is not smart. We know this because he picked a fight with Carlos Gomez, which is an awful idea.
Stain on democracy: Lasting
Crime: Rounding the bases too slowly
Victim: David Price
Description: Price wasn’t cool with Ortiz’s glacial home run trot in last year’s ALDS, so he beaned his back eight months later. For good measure, he plunked Mike Carp, too, because no one holds a grudge like a pitcher. I mean, Papi is old! Give the guy a break!
(This is playing the game the right way.)
Stain on democracy: Unconscionable
Crime: Posing for ESPN The Magazine’s annual “Body Issue”
Victim: Columnist Bob Klapisch
Description: Last July, Matt Harvey accepted an invitation to pose for ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue.” One month later, he suffered an elbow injury and, unfortunately, required Tommy John surgery. These events couldn’t be less related, of course, unless you’re hot-take artist Bob Klapisch, who blamed Harvey’s torn UCL on the photo shoot. This would be too on-the-nose for Sharp.
Stain on democracy: Pornographic
Victim: Cole Hamels
Description: This one’s from two years ago, but it’s the greatest “He doesn’t play the game the right way” moment of all time, so we’re obligated to include it. Hamels openly admitted to throwing at Harper because, well, “It’s just, ‘Welcome to the big leagues.’” Wait, what? Please explain further. “I’m trying to continue … the old-school, prestigious way of baseball,” said Hamels, presumably with a straight face. BRYCE HARPER CAME OUT OF THE WOMB THE WRONG WAY AND YOU CAN’T PROVE COLE HAMELS WRONG.
Stain on democracy: Dark