My Advice to Tatis, Jr.? Next Time, Swing Harder

If you’re wondering what every baseball fan on Twitter is talking about today, look no further than right here:

On Monday night, Fernando Tatis, Jr., hit a grand slam off Texas Rangers pitcher Ian Gibaut. The score was 10-3 in the top of the 8th. Doesn’t really seem like a big deal, right?

But what sent baseball purists into an absolute spiral was the fact that the grand slam occurred on a 3-0 count. For people that don’t know, this is sort of an “unwritten rule” in baseball, a phrase I’m sure you’ve seen about seven hundred times today. When the other team is struggling, especially late in the game, and the count is so heavily in your favor as it is on 3-0, you let the guy groove a strike. That’s the premise, as it shows sportsmanship and you acknowledge the other team isn’t doing so hot.

So on a 3-0 count up 7 in the 8th, Tatis, Jr. absolutely spanked a ball over the right field wall and everybody in the park got mad. The next pitch by Gibaut to Manny Machado was thrown behind him. BOTH managers complained about the circumstance. Now Gibaut has a three-game suspension for throwing at Machado, Rangers manager Chris Woodward has a one-game suspension for instigating it, and Padres manager Jayce Tingler has hurt the relationship he has with one of his roster’s best and brightest stars.

Players from around the league, and baseball fans in general, defended Tatis, Jr. They said he was making the game better, more exciting, and the bad guys here are actually the people who had an issue with the situation in the first place.

And you know what, they should be. The fact that they instigated all of this is wrong. It was about their egos being hurt because they had a bad game and they’re taking it out on an exciting, really good player who’s been the face of baseball over the past few weeks. And when you really break it all down, they don’t have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to being angry.  Here’s why:

-7 runs is by no means a lock. The Rangers could have scored three runs in the bottom of the 8th and four runs in the bottom of the ninth, no problem. Is it likely? No. Have crazier things happened? Yes…have you seen the 2004 ALCS?

-If Tatis, Jr. popped that 3-0 ball up or even grounded into a double-play, the pitcher is thanking him. In fact, not only is he thanking him, he’s probably sending him a Derek Jeter-style gift basket for helping him out so much. The problem wasn’t with the swing alone, it was with the result.

-Easiest point to make here: pitch better. Don’t load the bases and go down 3-0. Don’t make excuses as to why you are mad. Gibaut had a bad inning and the Rangers aren’t really that good of a team. Take your frustrations out elsewhere, not on a player doing his job.

-This isn’t amateur hour. You’re a professional team with a professional pitcher on the mound. If the Rangers had a position player hucking in 58 MPH fastballs and Tatis, Jr. did this, I could understand the outrage. That would be rubbing it in. And it’s not high school or Little League where guys spend 45 minutes trying to find the zone before the ump starts calling balls at your eyes strikes. Grow up and don’t expect any gimmes.

-The 3-0 “unwritten rule” is not like other unwritten rules around sports. Like how the opposing team would be pissed if an NBA player took a shot as time runs out, or how a pitcher would be livid if a batter would bunt to break up a perfect game. Those are things you “don’t do” because they are simply disrespectful. Swinging 3-0 is not in that category in the slightest.

In summary, the Rangers overreacted. Big time. But this stir in baseball that went in favor of Tatis, Jr. means the larger portion of the fanbase believes in keeping the sport entertaining instead of “pure”. That’s a great sign moving forward and hopefully we can keep seeing the game grow.

My only advice to Tatis, Jr.? Next time, swing harder.

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