Your mileage on this story will solely depend on where you stand on the “unwritten rules” of America’s pastime.
For those unfamiliar with these “unwritten rules” of baseball, there’s no real set definition to them (hence, why they’re “unwritten”).
Using broad strokes, these unwritten rules effectively amount to some sort of code of honor or sportsmanship. Breaking the honorific protocol means that the offending player is fair game for retaliation — oftentimes in the form of a 100-mile-an-hour fastball to the rib cage.
It’s a contentious debate (there are ample supporters on both sides of the issue), and it was dredged up anew after a bizarre sequence of events saw a bloodied catcher and his teammate seemingly retaliating on his behalf.
In the first inning of that game, Cubs outfielder Ian Happ took to the plate against Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas. Happ swung and missed, normally a positive for the pitching team, given that Mikolas was behind in the pitch count at the time.
For Cards catcher Wilson Contreras, it was anything but positive, as he took a nasty hit to the head when Happ’s backswing clipped him (most of the protective meshing on a catcher’s mask protects the face, not the back of the head).
It seemed like an honest mistake and one that even Contreras acknowledged (the two seemingly made peace, or at least acknowledged each other with a hug, as the catcher was going to get looked at by medical officials) in the moment.
Mikolas, however, knew what needed to be done, per the unwritten rules.
As the game resumed, Mikolas sent a 94-mile-per-hour fastball right into, seemingly, Happ’s hip and/or butt cheek. After a quick conference of the umpires, they swiftly decided that Mikolas intentionally hit Happ and was to be ejected. Umpires are actually required to eject a pitcher if they determine that a hit by pitch was intentional. There also does not need to be any warnings before said ejection.
Compounding matters for the Cardinals (they would get annihilated in this game, to the tune of a 10-3 home loss), Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol was also subsequently ejected for arguing the call.
You can watch all the relevant incidents of that eventful first inning below:
Ian Happ hit Willson Contreras on a backswing and Contreras was removed from the game
Two pitches later, Miles Mikolas hit Happ with a pitch. Mikolas and Oli Marmol were ejected from the game pic.twitter.com/vP3LgdRn3X
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) July 28, 2023
The responses to the above video were predictably split.
According to ESPN, Mikolas is appealing the five-game suspension and undisclosed fine he was handed by MLB.
Speaking of the world’s best professional baseball league, the league is very much aware of how polarizing and divisive this employment of the unwritten rules can be, but hasn’t exactly remained neutral on it.
In 2018, a mere five years ago, MLB actually launched a “Let the Kids Play” campaign that took an indirect shot at those unwritten rules:
Now, it does need to be stated that when MLB took a jab at those unwritten rules, they were specifically talking about allowing players to showboat a little after a home run. Pitchers versus hitters, who may admire a home run a little too demonstratively, or take a little too long to round the bases, is usually the context given anytime the unwritten rules are dredged up.
It’s not nearly as clear how those rules should apply when a hitter (accidentally) injures an opposing player, or whether it’ll require further retaliation.
You can be sure that MLB officials will be watching tonight’s Game 3 between the Cubs and Cardinals more closely than normal.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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