I was walking home from the grocery store and listening to the Twins-Orioles game on the radio Sunday when a sharp change in play-by-play guy Cory Provus’ tone caught my attention.
Apparently, Chance Sisco had bunted for a hit. Here’s what Provus and Dan Gladden had to say about it.
Provus: He bunts. Third base line, and this will roll past the bag. That is a ninth-inning, one-out, bunt single, in a 7-nothing game. Are you kidding me?
Gladden: Look at Paul [Molitor]. He’s staring in the dugout of Buck Showalter right now.
Provus: Wow. That’s shocking. Shocking.
Gladden: That’s cheesy.
Provus: It’s not a 2-nothing game; it’s not a 3-nothing game here. It’s 7-nothing.
Gladden: You’re talking about a young kid, Chance Sisco, and maybe he doesn’t know any better, but he’s going to find out later when he comes to Target Field.
Provus: That is one you mark down for early July [when the Orioles play in the Twin Cities].
Wow. That’s shocking. Shocking. I needed to get home and see this for myself — a bunt single that so appalled two radio announcers they were promising violent retribution when Sisco (a.k.a. “The Dragon”) returned.
Here’s the moment that so shocked Cory Provus.
That’s shocking. Shocking.
By the time the dust had settled on a brilliant Twins’ 7-0 win, much of the conversation around the game had shifted from Berrios’ first-career complete-game shutout to Sisco’s bunt hit, which many others besides Provus and Gladden had apparently also found shocking.
“Berrios shuts out O’s, but not without drama,” read Rhett Bollinger’s headline on MLB.com; “Twins miffed by rookie catcher Chance Sisco’s ninth-inning bunt,” Phill Miller wrote for the Star Tribune.
Here’s how Miller begins his story:
Brian Dozier thought about approaching Chance Sisco at second base during a ninth-inning timeout Sunday but decided against it.
“I could’ve said something, but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there, with Chris Davis, Adam Jones and those guys,” the Twins’ de facto spokesman said. “I’m sure they’ll address it and move forward.”
What needs addressing? In the Twins’ opinion, it’s Sisco’s decision to bunt to the vacant left side of the infield with one out in the ninth, trailing 7-0. Jose Berrios was trying to complete his first career one-hitter and shutout, and there were some players in the visitors’ dugout who felt it inappropriate for the Baltimore catcher to lay down a bunt to end Berrios’ streak of 17 straight outs, rather than swing away.
“Obviously, we’re not a fan of it,” Dozier said.
Alternate headline: “Twins miffed other team tried to win.” As Miller writes, the Twins vacated the left side of the infield. If a large part of your strategy requires the other team to pinky swear to not do the one obvious thing to beat the strategy, you may be culpable when it fails. You don’t get to telegraph the Death Star’s one super-obvious flaw and then be aggrieved when the Rebels destroy you with it.
Also, “our pitcher hasn’t actually gotten to have one of those nice, shiny complete-game shutout things, will you please let him?” is some sad-ass shit. “There were some players in the visitor’s dugout who felt it inappropriate.”
Oh, my stars!
If Berrios wants to throw a complete-game shutout, then he should probably just throw a complete-game shutout. And if it seems like maybe the other team has come up with a life hack to defeat your super-secret plan (i.e. just put the ball where they don’t have any fielders), maybe tell your fielders to cover that one really obvious hole up.
You know who isn’t a coward? Logan Morrison, that’s who. He got shifted on Sunday night, and he didn’t take the easy way out and grab the complimentary base hit he was offered. No, he acted like he didn’t even see the stupid shift, and just did what he always does.
Logan Morrison may be 0-for-13 this season, but at least he can say he didn’t try and take advantage of a team’s glaring vulnerability. He Cowboy’d up. (Is that still a thing?)
I hate unwritten rules so much, even when they’re being invoked “correctly.” But I especially hate when a team is so brainwashed by the whole “Play the Game the Right Way” ethos that they don’t even know what to get mad about.
Here is a brief guide to help the Twins navigate baseball’s unwritten rules.
Advancing bases when losing isn’t “bush league”
You know why baseball’s the best? You can’t run out the clock. You can’t take a knee. A team gets 27 outs, and as long as they can keep avoiding outs, they get to keep playing. So, remember Twins players: if you’re losing, it’s not “cheesy” or “bush league” to keep not making outs.
If your team is winning and does not hold a runner on first base, ceding second via defensive indifference, and he takes it to keep out of a double play, YOU DON’T GET TO BE MAD. If you’re up by 11 runs and put in a terrible young pitcher to give him some seasoning, and he throws 17 pitches to the backstop, and the other team advances on those wild pitches, YOU DON’T GET TO BE MAD. When you vacate the left side of the infield, and someone decides that maybe they’d like to keep playing baseball and try to win, so they bunt, YOU DON’T GET TO BE MAD.
If you are winning and allow the losing team opportunities to get back in the game, they are allowed to take those opportunities to attempt to win the game. That is not bush league.
You know what some could argue (not saying me, just some) is bush league? Stealing a base when you’re winning 6-0 in the fifth.
Again, not saying that steal is bush, but it’s definitely more bush than the losing team stealing a base down six runs.
One-hitters aren’t a thing; you can’t “break one up”
In baseball, we love our stats. We memorize numbers and cling to data. It’s what keeps us warm.
You know what’s not a stat? A one-hitter. I mean, sure, it’s like an event that happens. But a one-hitter isn’t a thing. You cannot “break up” a one-hitter. You’ve just turned a one-hitter into a two-hitter. Bunting to break up a no-hitter? Sure, that’s breaking an unwritten rule. Bunting to break up a one-hitter? Does. Not Compute. There’s nothing to break up. It’s already been broken.
You can “break a one-hitter,” like if your buddy Travis thinks you’ve got it in your hand but you don’t got it, you weren’t paying attention because you thought someone was coming and you got a little jumpy, and he let go of it but you didn’t grab it, and then it fell and shattered in the alley. But you can’t break up a one-hitter.
Or, let’s say we’ve decided it is a thing. But then so is a two-hitter, right? Because that’s good. And, hey, even a three-hitter, that’s pretty darn good! Jose Berrios just twirled himself one of those. Shucks, I just thought of this but hear me out: you can just put any number next to “hitter” and it’s a thing!
And, now that we’ve determined that there are plenty of notable events in baseball games, I say the losing team must consult with the winning team to decide what events are being held sacred by the winning team — say a pitcher’s first complete-game shutout, or his first one-hitter — and which therefore the losing team must not be monkey with. We must allow the winning team to attain the goals it’s decided are important for The Good of the Game. This just makes sense.
Please spare me the “Chance Sisco prevented Jose Berrios from getting a one-hitter” takes. Because (1) yes, of course, he did, that’s literally his job; and (2) I don’t care about your one-hitter because it’s not anything. It’s a failed no-hitter. Berrios got a complete-game shutout; that’s a thing, and he should be proud of it.
When Bert Blyleven is the most sensible voice on an issue, you may be in trouble
After I got home, I watched the final out of the game and forgot all about Chance Sisco. Later, as absurd quotes from Twins players began piling up, I wanted to see the bunt for myself and hear what Dick and Bert had to say about it. What I heard shocked (Shocked) me.
Here’s their call:
BREMER: Squaring to bunt. Are you kidding me? Good for him. [He said “good for him” with like stratospheric levels of condescension and smugness.]
BLYLEVEN: Dick, if they’re gonna put the shift on him, we saw Rosario do it earlier. It’s still the game. He didn’t break up a no-hitter. So, they give it to you, take it.
Holy balls. Bert’s right! Bert is dead-on right. “It’s still the game.” “They give it to you, take it.”
And Rosario did do it earlier, to plaudits from Dick and Bert.
Here’s why Bert’s right: you can’t give a player or a team an advantage and then be pissed when they use it — or denigrate them with some faux-manly B.S. about “real men don’t bunt” or “swing the bat, bro” or whatever. If Brian Dozier has a problem with the strategy, his beef should be with Paul Molitor and whoever is aligning the defense.
Strategies in sports are tradeoffs. You pull your goalie to add an extra attacker, and you become more vulnerable to the counterattack; you double team a post and leave a wing open for a three; you blitz everyone to create pressure and hope your overwhelmed secondary survives; you overload one side of the infield and leave the other side vulnerable.
If they give it to you, you take it.
Now can we get back to talking about how good Jose Berrios was?