Fernando Tatis Jr. smacked a grand slam on a 3-0 count with a big lead, leading to criticism from both managers.
What do you think about this unwritten rule in baseball?
— The Athletic MLB (@TheAthleticMLB) August 18, 2020
Is an unwritten rule an unwritten rule if the people involved have never heard of it?
Despite growing up with a father who played in the major leagues for 11 years, Fernando Tatis Jr. wasn’t aware that you’re not supposed to swing on a 3-0 pitch when up by a certain amount of runs.
He certainly knows now.
Tatis angered the Texas Rangers on Monday night, and annoyed his own manager, when he launched a grand slam on a 3-0 count in the eighth inning of a game the Padres led 10-3. The home run caused Rangers skipper Chris Woodward to step out of his dugout to voice his displeasure, which was reiterated by Rangers reliever Ian Gibaut throwing behind Manny Machado with the next pitch.
“I didn’t like it, personally,” Woodward said. “But, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis. So just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not right. I don’t think we liked it as a group.”
If you expected Tatis’ manager, Jayce Tingler, to defend his player, you are underestimating how much some within the game respect these unwritten rules. Tingler says that Tatis missed a take sign, and that the grand slam will be a learning experience for him.
“He’s young, a free spirit and focused and all those things,” Tingler said. “That’s the last thing that we’ll ever take away. It’s a learning opportunity, and that’s it. He’ll grow from it.”
“Just so you know, a lot of our guys have green light 3-0. But in this game in particular, we had a little bit of a comfortable lead. We’re not trying to run up the score or anything like that.”
When it comes to Tatis, he had no idea he was breaking baseball’s code by hitting an inappropriate home run, but was contrite, saying he probably won’t swing in that situation again.
“I’ve been in this game since I was a kid,” he said. “I know a lot of unwritten rules. I was kind of lost on this. Those experiences, you have to learn. Probably next time, I’ll take a pitch.”
To those looking for ammunition for an argument that Tatis had every right to do what he did, there’s this from ESPN Stats & Info:
Fernando Tatis Jr.'s grand slam came when up 10-3 in the top of the 8th inning.
The last team to win when trailing by 7+ runs after 7 innings was the Padres on June 14, 2019 – a game in which Tatis played (beat Rockies 16-12). pic.twitter.com/75vkCwzQXd
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 18, 2020