In an age when ball players hold lodge meetings at every base and deliver fist bumps on every random encounter between “opponents,” it is refreshing to see old-fashioned crankiness, animosity – and even knucklehead thinking, as recently demonstrated by the Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia.
Sabathia, a competitor and generally rational person, spouted off about the Red Sox’ Eduardo Nuñez, for plunking down a bunt rather than trying to lash the ball into the seats of Yankee Theme Park in the Bronx. The nerve.
Sabathia was quite adamant that bunting on such a fine person as himself was bad form – showing up a colleague.
Nuñez, a former Yankee teammate, pointed out that he was trying to get on base any way possible, a quaint theory long scorned by players unashamed to strike out regularly. Be a man. Don’t bunt.
Where do they get these standards?
Jim Rice, the former Red Sox star, a member of the Hall of Fame, chimed in that Sabathia – listed as 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds – could go easier on the clubhouse food spread and perhaps he would be able to bend down and field his position.
This is wonderful stuff, reminiscent of the Fisk-Munson feud when the Red Sox were emerging as rivals in the Steinbrenner Sucks! Era of the ‘70s. Those were the days, star catchers rolling in the dirt.
Nobody knows what tribal rule Sabathia thought had been violated.
There is an old baseball belief that it is unsporting to lay down a bunt in the very late innings when a pitcher is working on a no-hitter.
Mets fans let Randy Hundley have it for bunting on Tom Seaver just before the Jim Qualls single broke up a no-hitter in 1969. Hundley pointed out, quite rightly, that the Cubs were ahead of the Mets in the division race. Who knows, if Hundley had been able to get to first base, maybe the Cubs would have won the pennant – and not have to wait 47 more years.
Players are so touchy these days.
Pitchers’ feelings are upset when batters “flip” the bat in celebration of some moon-shot homer they have just launched. But that feeling goes back to when pitchers virtually checked their stopwatch as sluggers performed the so-called Cadillac Trot around the bases.
And hitters do not take kindly to pitchers who launch a quick pitch, the way Hansel Robles did to the Phillies Darin Ruf in the 2015 season. To be fair, a hitter could be hurt if he does not know a pitch is coming in his direction. But ultimately, with all the dawdling that extends games, players are responsible for being prepared.
I don’t want to sound blasé about the dangers of flying baseballs, but I covered Bob Gibson in the ‘60s and appreciated his skill – and crankiness, cussing out his catchers for visiting the mound.
I swear I have heard Gibson, Ron Fairly and Joe Torre all tell the same story about the time Fairly dared to make conversation with Gibson, who had just smitten a single, and Gibson just glared at him.
When Fairly came to bat next time, he said to Torre, “I don’t think I’m going to enjoy this at-bat.” At which point Gibson hit him in the ribs – for praising him.
(Some savvy web fans seem to have proven that this never happened in an official game. But it’s still a good story -- indicative of the way the lads played half a century ago.)
The stuffiness by Sabathia can be traced to the gimmick of the American League, where pitchers do not hit for themselves, and bunting has no place. In the National League, pitchers are asked to bunt…and run the bases…and in general be baseball players.
Look, kids, don’t try this at home. Don’t act like the Yankees and Tigers did recently when they obviously threw beanballs and punches at each other – a throwback to the old times. Somebody could get hurt.
Still,the concept of dropping a bunt and trying to run 90 feet fast is a venerable and honored tactic. It is called baseball.