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Tim Anderson, Pitcher Privilege, and Unwritten Rules: Baseball Must Change

by Nik Gaur

Have the Royals forgotten who they are?

Kansas City’s identity in the 2010s has practically been built around emotion. Whether it was Yordano Ventura celebrating after a big out on the mound or Salvador Perez exclaiming at second base after a double, the Royals are a team that has embraced such passion on the field.

Unless, of course, it’s another team displaying emotion. The aforementioned Perez, for example, has taken exception to this in the past, arguing that players without playoff success should not be allowed to celebrate accomplishments during games. Given the Royals’ past as a team that consistently displays intense reactions, these comments were puzzling.

Today, the Royals again took exception to Tim Anderson after he pimped a deep home run to give the White Sox the lead:

Royals starter Brad Keller responded by hitting Anderson with the first pitch of his next plate appearance, resulting in the benches clearing and multiple ejections. For a team that has embraced emotion in its own right in the past, taking a pro-unwritten rules approach whenever other teams reciprocate is quite hypocritical.

But the Royals are not the real enemy in this situation. The issue plaguing baseball relates to a large segment of both players and fans clinging to old-fashioned values which mirror Victorian era masculinity standards. When baseball first became popular in the 19th century, players were supposed to always remain honorable and avoid any form of showboating, which was seen as “boyish” and emasculating.  While other popular sports have since adapted and embraced emotion, baseball is stuck in this mindset and, as a result, is losing popularity in America relative to other sports.

Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the “unwritten rules” still prevailing in 2019 is how mind-numbingly backwards the whole premise is. For example, it is deemed totally acceptable for a pitcher to celebrate a big strikeout by exclaiming as he walks off the mound. However, when a batter exclaims after a home run, he is somehow immoral and worthy of punishment. And this is not even the worst part: the pitcher is then allowed to purposely hit the batter, who is unable to properly defend himself, with a pitch. Sure, he can charge the mound and incite a brawl, but this would be in response to already being hit (or at least thrown at), and would lead to the batter being suspended. Thus, pitchers are privileged in the sense that they can show emotion as much as they want, and when a hitter retaliates, the pitchers can attempt to injure, or at least hit, the batter without any real risk of harm.

If baseball wants to grow in popularity and regain young fans, perhaps umpires should stop incentivizing this behavior. If pitchers can show emotion, batters should be able to as well, without an ensuing brawl. That Tim Anderson was ejected after the incident with Keller today is a complete abomination and in direct conflict with what the game of baseball should strive to be. Anderson took Keller deep and fired his team and fans up in the process. If Keller has a problem with that, it is in his best interest to get him out next time. After all, isn’t it more manly to attack your problems directly as opposed to attempting to hurt someone who cannot defend himself?

With respect to Tim Anderson, Derek Dietrich, and all the other hitters who have caught flak for showing emotion after big hits, it is important that they do not relent. Doing so would only reaffirm to pitchers that they hold an inordinate amount of power relative to hitters in these situations. In addition, it is important for umpires to realize that they are not doing the sport any favors by ejecting both the pitcher and the hitter after a retaliatory hit by pitch. Effectively, what they are doing is punishing the batter for showing emotion. If baseball wants any chance of maintaining youth interest, players like Tim Anderson should be celebrated. In reality, most fans do appreciate that Anderson and others keep games fun, and MLB decision makers need to understand that for the game to survive.

The follow-up to this post can be found through this link: Tim Anderson must continue to challenge baseball norms.

Featured Photo: Chris Tejeda (@FotoGenocide_ on Twitter and Instagram)

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[…] This is a follow-up to: Tim Anderson, Pitcher Privilege, and Unwritten Rules: Baseball Must Change. […]

Billy l. Ruffin

I agree 100% with this writer. These unwritten rules are ABSOLUTELY STUPID, PETTY, AND CHILDISH for GROWN men to be upset about an opponent showing glee and joy over a sports accomplishment. I love the bat flips. My favorite thing to seeing MLB is a curtain call by fans for a player who hits a homerun. They bring me to tears almost every time because of the expression of gratitude that thunderous applause and cheering (when the player comes out of the dugout)is shown by an appreciative paying customer.

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