There are a lot of unwritten rules in baseball-things you don’t do in certain circumstances. In the last game of the recent series against the Boston Red Sox, we saw one of them. With the Tampa Bay Rays up 8-3 in the bottom of the 7th, Yunel Escobar took third on defensive indifference. The Red Sox were unhappy about it. A.J. Pierzynski began jawing with Jose Molina at home plate and David Ross was shouting at Escobar from the Red Sox dugout. It is an unwritten baseball rule that, when you are up big in a game, at some point the running game is put to bed for the night. It’s all in the name of sportsmanship. The problem is that it, like all “unwritten rules,” it is open to interpretation. From a Rays standpoint, it was good to see Escobar take third. In spite of the fact the Rays were up 8-3, Escobar’s head was in the game and he was being aggressive.
Recently, for whatever reason, Escobar has made some questionable decisions in the field, which have lead to errors and ultimately runs. To date, Escobar has accounted for eight of the Rays’ twenty-six errors. It is not all on Escobar, either. It hasn’t helped that the pitching has struggled to throw strikes and, some days, the pace of games has been taken down to a snail’s crawl. Mentally, he has seemed to wander at times. Even if it was 8-3, Joe Maddon has to be pleased that Escobar had the presence of mind to take an extra base when it was being given to him.
As well, this Rays team hasn’t really shown much of a sign that they are a small ball team. What fans have come to know as Rays’ baseball-taking extra bases, stealing, and cashing in on opponents’ mistakes- has largely been non-existent. These features are what drew fans to the team. They are the David in a division of two Goliaths on steroids. This season, because the Rays have a deeper and more talented line-up, they are playing more station to station ball. It’s an easy trap to fall into, what with all the talented hitters, in theory at least, the Rays have in their lineup. However, as we have seen, when a team struggles, it is the little things that pull you out of a slumber. And then the home runs come. If the Rays want to be Goliath, they will have to play like David and, before you know it, the home runs and 10-0 wins will start coming in droves. While it is indeed an unwritten rule, so not to show up the other team, that was not Escobar’s intent. Rather, he was just doing as much as possible to ensure the Rays won an important game, and you can’t blame him for that.
But history is a tattle tale ready to spill it’s guts. We need only remember Game one of last year’s ALDS when the Rays were losing 8-2 in the eighth inning. Jacoby Ellsbury lead off with a single and stole second base. David Ross, the Red Sox player who was unhappy with Escobar stealing third, was on that team, so it’s not as if he is coming into this rivalry new. It is unfortunate that the brawl occurred but there is no blame on Escobar taking third. The Rays need to get back to playing “Rays’ Baseball” and that is how it is done.