McCutchen Proves MLB Needs To Delete Unwritten Rules

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Andrew McCutchen (Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Andrew McCutchen (Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

By Damon Amendolara 

Baseball’s unwritten rules are killing the game from the inside. One of the league’s most exciting players, Andrew McCutchen, will miss the better part of a month because of the sport’s age-old coda of an “eye for an eye.” But why would McCutchen, last year’s N.L. MVP, have to answer for a play he had no role in? Ah, because baseball can become its own Diamondback Ouroboros, the ancient Greek snake eating itself.

Friday night, Pirates pitcher Ernesto Frieri comes inside on Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt and unfortunately breaks the slugger’s hand. “You can’t do that to our best hitter!” the Diamondbacks scream, and decide justice must be served. Since McCutchen is the Pirates best player, Arizona targets him. And the following day in the 9th inning, D-Backs pitcher Randall Delgado tees him up with a fastball in the back.

Now McCutchen has a fractured rib and will miss 3-4 weeks in the heart of the pennant race. The MVP had three at-bats after the plunk before he pulled up lame, so maybe the fastball didn’t directly injure him. Of course, McCutchen has never had a history of back-related issues, and writhed in pain when he was zipped in the box by Delgado. So, it’s not hard to make a connection there.

Even if McCutchen’s rib has nothing to do with the plunking, why is baseball sitting idly by and accepting one of the game’s most exciting players being targeted because of another dopey unwritten rule? The NFL and NBA have built empires by bubble-wrapping the people Americans love best: superstars.

When Serge Ibaka fouls Dwight Howard hard, the Rockets don’t retaliate by throwing Kevin Durant into the mezzanine level. If Tom Brady gets hit in the head, Vince Wilfork doesn’t line up Peyton Manning the next series and lunge at his ACL. And if these scenarios ever played out, if there was ever a hint of intent to injure, Adam Silver and Roger Goodell would hand down suspensions faster than you could spell R-o-e-t-h-l-i-s-b-e-r-g-e-r-s K-n-e-e.

If David Stern had one of his most marketable young stars taken out for a month, he’d send the offending player to the NBA’s equivalent of Guantanamo Bay (which is probably Donald Sterling’s dinner parties).

But here is baseball nodding its head in tacit approval of its century-old coda. You hit mine, I hit yours. An eye for an eye. Which, as the old proverb says, leaves everyone without their MVP.

On top of it, McCutchen wasn’t even hit in his next at-bat by Arizona. He had no idea it was coming since the D-Backs waited until the second pitch of the at-bat in the ninth inning to come in on him.

“They had all game to retaliate. They had the first inning to retaliate. They had the first pitch (of the ninth inning at-bat) to retaliate. They missed. You throw a slider on the second pitch and then you throw up and in on the next pitch. We understand that retaliation is going to happen in this game. But you know, there’s a right way to do it.”

McCutchen doesn’t need to give Kirk Gibson that much credit. It didn’t need to happen, and it certainly didn’t need to happen in the middle of an at-bat in the ninth inning the following night. Retaliation doesn’t have to be part of the game. The NBA and NFL seem to be doing quite well, thank you, without it. This rationalization is where baseball starts eating its tail.

McCutchen had nothing to do with the original play that injured Goldschmidt and Frieri had a pretty good defense when asked if he meant to throw at the hitter.

“My ERA is like 100-point-something. I don’t want to be putting people on base right now.”

It’s not that bad. It’s a scintillating 9.31 with Pittsburgh. Yikes. But here we stand with one of baseball’s most intriguing young teams, and a city that exploded with baseball fever last summer, without its effervescent star until football season starts.

Seems to me like an old set of rules that needs some editing.

D.A. hosts overnights across the ever expanding universe of CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10″ opining on Zubaz pants, Tecmo Bowl and Andre Reed’s HOF credentials. D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and immediately started looking for ways to make a sports radio show more like a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and become one with the Facebook page experience. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY – a sleepy town existing somewhere between the suburbs and the sticks.

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