Here we go again.
Those unwritten rules? Scrap 'em.
Or better yet, take a page out of Tim Anderson's book and flip 'em.
Two years ago, it was Anderson and the Kansas City Royals setting off this conversation. "Should he really have bat-flipped?" All this time later, it seems an even more ridiculous question than it was then. But Anderson, showing off some major swagger, on his never-ending mission to have fun on the baseball field and bring a little excitement to a game he calls "boring," won that culture war. He's a face of the game.
Yermín Mercedes isn't there quite yet. But the long-awaited and white-hot start to his career has made him an instant fan favorite. And it continued Monday night in Minnesota, when he launched a ninth-inning home run — off a position player.
Mercedes was up in the count, 3-0, against the Twins' Willians Astudillo in a clash of social-media favorites: The Yerminator vs. La Tortuga. Well, the Yerminator won, lifting a 47 mile an hour pitch — if you can call something moving at that speed a pitch — out over the center-field fence to add to the White Sox already monstrous lead, the final blow from the visitors in the eventual 16-4 win.
As Twitter is prone to do, it went nuts. This was entertaining stuff.
As the announcers for a team that's losing by a dozen runs are prone to do, they weren't thrilled.
Here we go again.
Who knows if Mercedes will attract the same national attention as Fernando Tatís Jr. did a year ago, when he blasted a 3-0 grand slam in a blowout, reigniting the firestorm Anderson lit a year before that.
The gall of these baseball players to play baseball.
It's a tad more nuanced than that, sure, and obviously what Twins manager Rocco Baldelli did Monday, sending a position player to the mound, was as much of a white flag as a manager can wave in a baseball game.
But they didn't turn off the cameras and head home. They didn't kick everyone out of the stadium. Baseball's rulebook mandated that game be finished. There's nothing in there about the fun having to end well before the final out, nothing about the potential for entertainment needing to vanish because the deficit was what it was.
Some viewers of Monday night's affair caught Mercedes having a chat with veteran outfielder Adam Eaton in the dugout following the home run. And though there's no way to know what the chat was about, it at the very least brought to mind the kinds of comments San Diego Padres manager Jayce Tingler made after Tatís' grand slam last year, when he called the budding superstar's decision to swing at that 3-0 pitch "a learning opportunity."
These kinds of thing make baseball fun. Teaching someone not to be fun? That's not fun.
Baseball knows this. The league has promoted the heck out of the game's exciting young personalities, first with the "let the kids play" ad campaign, then by putting Anderson and Tatís on video-game covers. With all due respect to sportsmanship, I'd much rather pay to see a monster home run and an accompanying bat flip than someone politely take a pitch or two and then ground out.
Mercedes is constantly saying the key to his success is to "be Yermín," on the verge of turning it into a catchphrase. The White Sox know it. The White Sox love it.
"That's the thing, I want him to be himself," Anderson said a month ago. "I want each and every one of those guys to be themselves because that's how you're going to get them at their best.
"You see what he's doing now. He's authentic, he's being himself. You hit it a mile, it's OK to pimp it, it's OK to watch it. It's cool. Not everybody's doing that, not everybody's hitting a big league home run. For him to be able to do that, it's OK for him to enjoy it, man. And I'm going to back him up 1,000 percent.
"Hopefully he can keep it going and keep being that guy in the lineup and keep us going and keep coming up with huge hits. I'll definitely be cheering him on."
White Sox fans have been cheering him on, too, in big numbers. And because there's a guy who waited so long for his big league chance hitting the cover off the ball and getting Photoshopped onto movie posters and having burgers named after him, there might be some fans cheering him on who weren't cheering at all before.
Let Yermín be Yermín. It's good for the White Sox. It's good for the game.
As former White Sox manager Rick Renteria said the day Anderson executed the bat flip heard 'round the world:
"You want him to not do that? Get him out."