Already familiar with baseball’s assorted unwritten rules? Apparently, we all need to update our handbooks, according to Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis.
During the fifth inning of Saturday’s Rangers-Blue Jays game, with Toronto holding a 2-0 lead, Lewis had a major problem with Colby Rasmus laying down a bunt to get a base hit. With two outs in the inning, Texas was playing a shift on Rasmus — a tactic frequently employed against the Blue Jays outfielder all season — leaving an opening down the third-base line. Rasmus bunted and easily reached base, partially because Lewis was slow to field the ball.
Why didn’t Lewis act more quickly to make the play? He didn’t think Rasmus should have bunted to begin with. Lewis could be seen on the telecast yelling over to Rasmus at first base. Was Lewis upset over giving up a two-out base hit? No, it seems that Rangers pitcher felt Rasmus broke an unwritten rule by laying down a bunt in that situation.
“I told [Rasmus] I didn’t appreciate it,” Lewis told reporters after the game. “You’re up by two runs with two outs and you lay down a bunt. I don’t think that’s the way the game should be played.”
Say what? Please clarify your stance so that we may record it for posterity, Mr. Lewis. What etiquette was breached?
“I felt like you have a situation where there is two outs, you’re up two runs, you have gotten a hit earlier in the game off me, we are playing the shift, and he laid down a bunt basically simply for average,” Lewis continued.
Oh, there was more.
“[Rasmus] didn’t steal within the first two pitches to put himself in scoring position,”said Lewis. “That tells me he is solely looking out for himself, and looking out for batting average. And I didn’t appreciate it.”
What the hell was Lewis talking about? Has anyone heard of this heinous breach of sportsmanship that Rasmus supposedly committed? Bad form, Mr. Rasmus! Oh, bad form!
Baseball has plenty of unwritten rules. Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter. Don’t steal bases with a lead of five or more runs. Don’t swing for a home run on a three balls, two strikes pitch with a lead of five or more runs. Don’t stand at home plate and watch your home run go into the seats. Don’t adjust your cup with your left hand when there’s a waxing crescent moon, the temperature is below 60 degrees and one runner is on base with a lead of five or more runs.
If you didn’t know that a batter isn’t supposed to bunt with a two-run lead and two outs in the inning, a defensive shift being used against him, and a sub-.225 average that would benefit from getting a base hit, Lewis is here to enlighten you, son. He’s here to educate all of us on how the game should be played.
Just in case, don’t put your elbows on the table during dinner and don’t you even think of placing the fork on the right side of Lewis’ plate, you unclean brute.
You know, it probably would’ve helped if Lewis had conducted a seminar on this stuff during the All-Star break. Maybe that can be a part of All-Star festivities next year during the Home Run Derby. Between rounds, Lewis can come out in a tuxedo and white gloves and write out other unwritten rules with a quill on a roll of canvas.
When blowing one’s nose on the field, begin with the left nostril, then the right. And don’t you dare wipe your nose on your glove. Use a rag from your back pocket. And always the right pocket, never the left. This isn’t rugby, sir.
To be fair to Lewis (if we must), he’s having a rough season (coming off hip surgery that put his career in jeopardy) for the most disappointing team in MLB midway through the season.
The 34-year-old veteran is carrying a 6.37 ERA and allowing 13.7 hits per nine innings. A 4.10 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) indicates that Lewis is actually pitching better than his traditional numbers suggest, though still not at his best. He’s also allowing a .413 BABIP, a ridiculously high number that demonstrates some pretty terrible luck. Opposing batters are finding all the empty space on the field for their hits (and the Rangers’ defense isn’t helping).
So Lewis is perhaps understandably a bit grumpy these days. Things just aren’t going his way this year. But does he have to take it out on a guy for getting on base when his job is to get on base? Oh, Rasmus was trying to boost his batting average? What hitter isn’t trying to do that?
And maybe Rasmus didn’t try to steal second base because he didn’t want to make the third out on such a play. Or because the next batter, Dan Johnson, is a left-handed hitter who had a hole in the defense to exploit with the first baseman holding Rasmus.
Is it possible that there’s more to this? Are we not looking deep enough here? Maybe Lewis is hinting at higher ambitions with his outrage over baseball etiquette. With Bud Selig retiring, and a replacement not yet named, could the Rangers pitcher have his eye on being the next commissioner of baseball? Oh, he could really enforce the unwritten rules then. Maybe Brian McCann could be his deputy. There will be order here, people!
Until Lewis gets an opportunity to run for higher baseball office, let’s hope one of his teammates or coaches sits him down, tells him put down the Unwritten Rule Handbook and unclench a bit. Ride a tandem bicycle in a park with someone special. Maybe get some ice cream afterwards. Watch The Battered Bastards of Baseball with some friends and try to remember that this is a game and the other side is trying to win too.