Should a player swing on a 3-0 count, no matter the situation in a game? That depends who you ask.
“I want my best players swinging as often as possible [3-0], if they’ve got a plan,” Cubs manager David Ross said Tuesday. “With a seven-run lead, I’m probably not even looking at my coach and telling the guys to take or not.”
Baseball’s unwritten rules reared their ugly heads on Monday, when Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. belted a grand slam on a 3-0 count, his team already leading 10-3 in the eighth inning.
Tatis’ swing drew the ire of Rangers manager Chris Woodward, and Padres manager Jayce Tingler called it a "learning opportunity" because the 21-year-old Tatis missed a sign. The moment has been the talk around baseball on Tuesday, with players — including Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo — defending Tatis.
The thing about unwritten rules is they're not hard and fast because, well, they're unwritten. For instance, Woodward said “it’s typically not a good time to swing 3-0,” in the eighth inning when up seven runs.
On the other hand, players across generations, from 1970s catcher Johnny Bench to current pitcher Trevor Bauer, came to Tatis' defense on social media.
“Each individual team and manager and organization and players, they all have their own thoughts and the way they want to handle things on the field,” Ross said. "I come from the old school but definitely don’t agree with all the ‘old school unwritten rules.’”
Those unwritten rules — don’t admire a home run ball, don’t bat flip, don’t steal bases with a big lead, and, yes, don’t swing 3-0 with a big lead — have been challenged in recent years. Baseball has a reputation of being boring, and the idea of ‘letting the kids play’ has grown popular, clashing with the notion of ‘respecting the game’ and playing the ‘right' way.
Was Tatis wrong to swing in that situation? If somebody ever puts it in writing, maybe you can look it up.
"There’s a lot of things that we can talk about with what you should and shouldn’t do," Ross said. "You just gotta take it as how you feel.
"If the guy wants to swing, I don’t have a problem with it, especially when they’re one of the best players in the game."