With the Los Angeles Dodgers holding a comfortable lead over the San Diego Padres in the fifth inning last week, manager Dave Roberts had Mookie Betts take on a 3-0 pitch. Luis Perdomo threw a strike, and Betts wound up clubbing the next pitch for his third home run of the game.
Nothing was made of it other than Betts etching his name into the MLB history books. However, matters were much different this week when Fernando Tatis Jr. swung away on a 3-0 count, hitting his first career grand slam that extended the Padres’ lead from seven runs to 11 in the eighth inning.
The Texas Rangers promptly threw behind Manny Machado, and manager Chris Woodward voiced his anger with Tatis for failing to comply with traditions and unwritten rules of baseball. Padres manager Jayce Tingler called it a “learning opportunity,” and Tatis apologized.
The incident became the source of widespread debate, with several current and former players supporting Tatis, who is considered one of the game’s rising young stars. “There’s a lot of layers,” Roberts began when asked for his opinion.
“I came up in a day and age where unwritten rules were sort of abided to and were universally accepted. I think things are changing; some good, some not so good.” Roberts recalled the situation he found himself in with Betts and added, “You see both sides. There’s a lot of gray.”
Those in favor of Tatis taking his hack reason the Rangers were not going to pass on their opportunities to climb back into the game. There’s also the statistical factor of the Padres having a struggling bullpen.
“I do think teams score five runs a night — we did it twice [Monday] — where it just changes the landscape and dynamic of how you use your ‘pen if you don’t add on, so I see it both ways,” Roberts said.
“For me personally, I’ve flipped a little bit more to just playing to win the game and keep playing. Teams that are trailing, they’re not stopping trying to score runs. I learned a little bit more and I might’ve changed the way I see things.”
Roberts sees unwritten rules changing
In addition to coming around for a different view on baseball norms, Roberts overall believes there has been a shift, and for the better. “I think the unwritten rules certainly have changed, should change,” he said.
“Each passing day we’ve got to continue to break some of those rules, and that’s a good thing.”
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