Fernando Tatis, Jr. Did Nothing Wrong, Nor Did Ian Gibaut
With the bases loaded, the count 3-0, and the Texas Rangers trailing the San Diego Padres by the score of 10-3 in the eighth inning, Juan Nicasio threw what was essentially a get me over strike. For much of baseball history, no batter would swing at the pitch.
There were and are unwritten rules where you don’t show up your opponent. When the score is this lopsided late in the game, you don’t steal bases, take the extra base, and you certainly don’t swing when up 3-0 in the count. Last night, Fernando Tatis, Jr. swung 3-0 and boy did he connect:
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 18, 2020
The swing caused some controversy. Tatis’ manager Jayce Tingler spoke about how he didn’t like it calling it a “learning opportunity.” Seeing that, perhaps it should come as no surprise Tatis apologized for it.
When Rangers manager Chris Woodward addressed the “incident,” he said, “I didn’t like it personally. You’re up by seven in the eighth inning. It’s typically not a good time 3-0. It’s kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But … the norms are being challenged.”
Woodward hit it right on the head. There are going to be people who don’t like it. There’s NOTHING wrong with that. In sports and life, there’s always room for sportsmanship and not showing up the opponent or rubbing it in their face.
On the other hand, baseball is definitively evolving. Players are throwing out the unwritten rule book. There’s definitely merit to it.
Look at it this way, Tatis’ homer helps his case for MVP discussions. It also helps him for a future arbitration cases and salary discussions. Understand the point here. It’s not that one single PA affects it, but rather all of these PA accumulated.
As a Mets fan, we have heard Keith Hernandez comment on several occasions about these purportedly garbage time at-bats. As he’s said, you don’t just give away these at-bats. From his old school perspective, it could be the difference between hitting .300 and reaching 200 hits or falling short.
Almost assuredly, Hernandez would not be a fan of Tatis swinging 3-0. However, even with his old school mindset, you don’t just give away at-bats. That has an impact on your season and career. You’re a professional hitter facing a professional pitcher. You go up there, and you try.
That’s also part of the unwritten rules. The batter isn’t up there to just give up. Another part of the unwritten rules is the Rangers are still going to try and comeback to win that game no matter how unlikely.
That last part is why Tatis swinging is justified. The Rangers didn’t give up. Sure, if it was a position player pitching, we could see swinging 3-0 as beyond the pale. Still, these are Tatis’ numbers and MVP voters and arbitrators aren’t going to tally unwritten rule points to factor into their determinations.
So yes, for a multitude of reasons, Tatis was justified in swinging. By the same token, there’s no problem with the Rangers feeling like they were shown up. That goes double when for over 100 years things like swinging 3-0 just wasn’t done.
The Rangers just threw behind a Padres hitter because the previous hitter (Fernando Tatis Jr.) hit a granny on 3-0.
Here's a thought: how about you learn how to not give up 14 runs and not give up 7 RBI to a kid who can barely legally buy a beer. pic.twitter.com/y68zDQW8dS
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) August 18, 2020
It’s important to note Gibaut did it the right way. He kept the pitch low and towards Machado’s backside. It wasn’t towards the head or hands.
Gibaut went up there, and he stuck up for his teammate. He properly delivered the message to the Padres to knock it off. They found what Tatis did wasn’t acceptable.
Machado understood. He assuredly wasn’t happy, but he didn’t escalate the situation. The umpires did what they needed to do to make sure the situation didn’t escalate from there. Gibaut then did the right thing by moving on and pitching normally to Tatis.
There are going to be many who didn’t like what Gibaut did. To that, there’s still room in this game for having your teammate’s back, and there’s room for delivering messages. Notably, by getting it out of the way, it was addressed and no issues should fester.
Ultimately, we should all be able to admit Tatis did absolutely nothing wrong while also saying Gibaut did nothing wrong. Both can be true, and honestly, baseball is better if we can admit this.
It’s great if we have a sport where talent like Tatis can shine, and we have the ability to have one teammate stick up for another (in the right way). To a certain extent, this is what Woodward was hinting at in his statement. Essentially, he said, I don’t like it, we don’t have to like it, but things are different.
Really, when you break it down, only one person was absolutely in the wrong here – Tingler. He needed to have Tatis’ and Machado’s backs. He needed to say my players compete, and don’t throw at my players. He didn’t, and that’s plain wrong.
Overall, other than Tingler, who embarrassed himself, no one should have a problem with anything that happened. Tatis’ grand slam was great, and the Rangers response was fine. That’s baseball.