It seemed odd, that the “change the game” White Sox, who have blasted Tim Anderson’s bat flip heard ‘round the world out all over the place, would suddenly go all old school.
They insist they didn’t.
Of course, that’s how these things usually go.
Willson Contreras put the White Sox on the other side of a monster bat flip Friday night, launching his stick after smashing a three-run shot off Dylan Cease in the third inning of what ended up an embarrassing 10-0 loss for the South Siders. It was a fantastically GIF-able moment, worthy of inclusion in the Bat Flip Hall of Fame.
But just like what happened to Anderson after his bat spike infuriated the Kansas City Royals last year, Contreras ended up with a ball in his back, this one courtesy of White Sox reliever Jimmy Cordero. The Cubs got mad, the umpires conferred, the umpires tossed Cordero, Rick Renteria and Don Cooper got mad, the umpires tossed Renteria and Cooper.
Wait? Renteria? The same guy who had this to say after the Royals beaned Anderson last year?
“You want him to not do that? Get him out.”
Good advice. After the game, both Cordero and Renteria insisted the relief pitcher tried to follow it.
“It was just a bad pitch, a bad pitch to him. The ball sinked a lot, and that happened,” Cordero said. “It was not intentional.”
“Jimmy has a strong sinker, and I didn’t need him to do what (he did),” Renteria said. “The ball got away from him. He pitched him in, and the ball got away. … It wasn’t something that was expected. Obviously we couldn’t convince (the umpires that it was unintentional). It was already done, the ejection was done. I was a little livid because we were sure of what we were at and how we viewed it, but understandably the umpires have a judgement on that and they did what they did.”
Renteria provided further reason that he didn’t want anything that jeopardized the availability of his bullpen arms to happen, pointing to his use of infielder Yolmer Sánchez as a pitcher in the ninth inning. Of course, the White Sox were down by nine runs when Sánchez took the hill.
“We put Sanchy out there for goodness sake.”
The Cubs, unsurprisingly, saw things differently, as their raucous dugout immediately after the hit by pitch indicated. Their postgame comments expressed some continued surprise that the White Sox, of all teams, would suddenly start punishing someone with a flair for fun.
“All the hype was on the guy on the other side when he bat-flipped, and we just let him play, right?” Cubs manager David Ross said, referencing Anderson. “I thought Tim Anderson’s bat flip last year, where he flipped it and looked in his dugout, that’s what you want. And that’s exactly what Willson did. He bat-flipped. It wasn’t to disrespect the other group. … Probably not my style if I'm playing, but these guys need a little bit of an edge. I don't think he deserved to get hit at all. I don’t think you ever throw at somebody on purpose. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, I knew it was coming,” Contreras said.
While Anderson’s teammates all backed him during his venture into the national spotlight post-bat flip last season, they haven’t necessarily all signed up to volunteer for the “baseball is boring and needs to change” campaign he’s spearheading. Multiple guys have described themselves as “old school” on various occasions, though not necessarily in reference to Anderson or even home-run celebrations in general.
But a team is made up of 25-plus guys, and you can’t expect them to all have the same opinion on the postgame meal, much less the tug of war between old- and new-school and the debate over baseball’s unwritten rules.
Anderson jumps at the chance to celebrate other bat-flippers. His teammates might not be unanimous in that praise.
But the South Siders say they didn’t hit Contreras on purpose Friday night.
Truly, this is a controversy that ought to pass quickly, considering how dire the White Sox end-of-season tailspin has gotten. They’ve got bigger fish to fry than unwritten rules.
Perhaps someone in the home dugout or bullpen did think Contreras embarrassed Cease with his celebration in the third inning. The real embarrassment, though, was on the scoreboard. And if the White Sox don’t figure things out soon, the embarrassment could spread to the length of their postseason stay.