On Sunday, the Minnesota Twins beat the Baltimore Orioles 7–0 thanks to a complete game three-hitter from starting pitcher Jose Berrios. You might think this early-season victory, which moved Minnesota to 2–1 on the year, would’ve left the Twins feeling content with the world and all those who dwell in it. Not so! Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier told reporters afterward that he was angry that Baltimore catcher Chance Sisco had bunted in the ninth inning. “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it,” the 30-year-old Dozier said, before noting that he didn’t yell at the 23-year-old rookie himself because the Orioles “have tremendous veteran leadership.” Berrios, meanwhile, said Sisco’s bunt was “not good for baseball.”
Baseball players have been complaining about various things being “not good for baseball” for as long as baseball has existed. But this particular claim is so historically dumb that the postgame quote sheet should be bronzed, shipped to the Hall of Fame, and placed in an exhibit on idiocy in the national pastime.
1) It’s dumb, but not notably dumb, to complain about a team bunting with a 7–0 lead. You know, running up the score and that whole bit. But the Orioles were losing! Sisco, who’d doubled earlier in the game to give Baltimore its only hit prior to the ninth inning, should be praised for getting on base in whatever manner he could. Indeed, he gave his team a chance—albeit a very slim one—to mount a comeback, as the Orioles loaded the bases with one out before Berrios worked his way out of the jam. Controversial take: Making one’s opponent work for a victory is a thing a player should strive to do.
2) Minnesota was playing a defensive shift against the left-handed Sisco, leaving the left side of the infield open. The Orioles catcher took what the defense gave him, bunting to the open space. According to the Twins, it’s an “unwritten rule” that you shouldn’t bunt against a defensive shift if you’re losing 7–0. But why were the Twins playing a defensive shift in the first place? If their argument is that both teams should’ve stopped trying because the game was out of reach, then why would they deploy a maneuver designed to make it harder for the other team to get a hit? Wouldn’t it have been just as reasonable—and by just as reasonable, I mean just as dumb—for the Orioles to have groused about the Twins violating “unwritten rules”?
The Twins’ Dozier, for his part, noted on Monday that he was “getting hammered” for criticizing Sisco’s tactics. Even so, he refused to relent, telling the St. Paul Pioneer Press that this whole rigmarole had started when the Orioles declined to hold a Twins baserunner at first base in the top of the ninth inning. “When they didn’t hold our runner on, they conceded to the fact they didn’t want us to steal, so we didn’t steal,” Dozier told the newspaper. “We could have very easily stolen and put up more runs, so therefore in return you don’t bunt. That’s what everybody is missing in this whole thing.”
Dozier’s argument, essentially, is that the teams had come to an unspoken agreement to go through the motions, an agreement the Orioles violated with their ninth-inning bunt. In his view, the rookie Sisco didn’t “play the game the right way” because he was still trying to win, whereas a savvy veteran like Brian Dozier respects the game by refusing to try. If Sisco is lucky enough to have a long major-league career, perhaps he’ll one day be in a position to tell the young players around him why that makes no sense. For now, he’ll just have to take some satisfaction from the fact that he understands what too many of his peers don’t: that the game isn’t over until the last out is recorded.