To plunk or not to plunk – baseball’s “unwritten rules”

First it was the locker rooom charging anger of Prince Fielder, now it’s Ozzie Guillen threatening retaliation.

Plunking batters has become all the rage lately and it’s led to a lot of comments dismissing the process as “just baseball.” But is it?

I’ve had this conversation a few times this season, since the Brewers are second in the NL, fourth in MLB in hit batsmen, with 47. (The Dodgers are second to last, having been hit 23 times, so maybe that’s why they’re so angry about each one.)

What do we think about these “unwritten rules?” Do you agree with them? Are they part of the game?

I really find it hard to wrap my head around the whole process and I wonder if some of that doesn’t boil down to a whole difference in the sexes. I really think a lot of it has to do with ego and that’s just so much more a male thing. But does that mean I’ll never be able to comprehend any of it?

I really thought about this mid-July when the Brewers re-engaged in a plunk fest with the Pittsburgh Pirates which stretched back to the end of last season. I’m using this for an example because it’s a situation I’m familiar with.

Here’s the thing to understand from the beginning. Guys like Ryan Braun are easy for other team’s to hate. I’m pretty sure if he were on a different team in our division, I’d hate him. He’s cocky and not camera-shy and with these sorts of unwritten rules, he’s a prime target.

That being said, at the end of last season, when the Brewers were in the heat of a post-season race, in Braun’s first full season in the league, he hit a walk-off grand slam against the Pirates with just three games left in the season – and he celebrated what I thought was appropriately.

But maybe I’m wrong, because the Pirates took major exception to the celebration and plunked Braun on April 27 of this season in retaliation for his apparent show-boating.

Let’s pause there.

I understand the laws of showboating, but I feel like there have to be some exceptions to the rule, and a walk-off Grand Slam in the final week of a season while still in the pennant chase seems like it should be one of those exceptions – especially when it was Braun’s first Granny and he’s still a kid. And it’s not like he did cartwheels around the field.

So tell me – because in all fairness, I’m biased – does that deserve a plunking held over to the next season?

I mean – it’s the Pirates, which sounds snobby, but really, the Brewers had won 17 in a row against them until a loss in July. There were probably plenty of reasons they were pissed with the Brewers – but I felt like a genuine celebration by a young player was not a reason for them to be pissed.

And really, neither of these teams were in a position to be wasting on energy on this crap. Both are doing poorly and it just seemed so petty.

But whether or not I agreed with it, they hit Braun back in April in retaliation and then the Brewers hit the pitcher that had plunked Braun in July.

But ok, the Pirates carried a grudge I don’t understand the whole offseason and then pegged our guy between the shoulder blades and caused him to miss some time. Yeah, you’re going to get pegged back. Why are the Pirates surprised?

But that whole ongoing saga made me wonder – I think I’ve become complacent about the whole beaning thing. It’s standard practice in baseball and guy’s like Braun are always going to engender that kind of reaction. I won’t pretend I understand these unwritten baseball rules – they’re so entrenched in male ego and baseball code, I know I’ll never be able to wrap my head around it. I don’t even try. I don’t condone it – I just know that it’s a part of the game and these sorts of head games go on in every game for every team.

After the Dodgers game last week, Brewers manager Ken Macha gave a pretty heated post-game interview. He made it seem as though he’s anti the whole thing, but since the team’s engaged in the drama more than once, I’m not sure we can believe him. Either way, they’re interesting comments to the media about the supposed accepted MLB behavior:

The reporter asks if it’s about where the ball hit Prince and said “it’s baseball.”

Macha snapped back at him “what’s baseball?”

The reporter said “well, two of their guys get hit and then they come back and hit one of yours?”

Macha: “We’re not trying to hit anybody. Uh, that type of mentality I think, uh, should be taken care of. Um. We’ll see what happens. But uh, as far as I’m concerned, the guy just hit him, hit him on purpose and walked straight off the mound into the dugout …  this kind of mentality puts everyone in jeopardy. Myself, the other team, the players for the other team, uh so, you know giving a guy a $500 fine and a two day suspension is not enough. This type of stuff should be cleaned up.”

So is it something I should just learn to understand or be ok with not understanding, or is it like Macha says? Is it wrong to say that it’s a guy thing and therefore I’ll never get it? Do these rules cross the line, or am I being a whiny homer? Let me know!

6 thoughts on “To plunk or not to plunk – baseball’s “unwritten rules”

  1. The Pirates hit Pujols last night and the pitcher got ejected immediately. La Russa got all huffy about it, but the Pirates pitcher said it wasn’t intentional. Maybe the Pirates’ pitching staff just has poor aim.

    That being said, I think the retaliation plunking issue has just become more confused since the tightening of the ejection rules. None of the umpires enforce them consistently, so it just leaves plenty of room to doubt any call they do make.

    I don’t think it’s a “guy thing” necessarily, though. I think it hurts to get hit with a baseball, and when one person in a close group of very competitive people gets hurt in a way that is arguably preventable, the others in that group want to strike back somehow. It just so happens that these particular groups have the ability to do so almost immediately, before cooler heads can prevail.

  2. It’s NOT like fighting in hockey – it takes TWO to fight and they are BOTH penalized for it. Plunking involves distance and has the ability to cause a lot of physical damage to a person who didn’t ask to get plunked in the first place. Intentional hitting a batter is just as out of line as someone rushing the pitcher’s mount and punching him in the face. Hockey makes no bones about being a full contact sport. Baseball is supposed to be non-violent….. You’re seriously supporting this garbage????

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