Baseball is changing. It’s about time its unwritten rules catch up.
For evidence of that, look no further than the second leg of Thursday’s doubleheader between the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays. The Phillies jumped out to a seven-run lead in the first inning, a lead big enough that the Texas Rangers felt Fernando Tatís Jr. broke those unwritten rules by swinging at a 3-0 pitch with the exact same score advantage Monday night.
But while the Rangers lost by a total of 14-4, the Blue Jays came roaring back. They scored two in the first then seven more in the sixth—the latter a clutch rally because the game was only seven innings long. It was an improbable comeback by any measure, yet it did show one thing: In today’s run-happy era, few deficits are truly insurmountable.
When baseball’s unwritten rules were, uh, written, home runs were a delicacy. Nowadays, they’re more frequent than Tommy Shelby at The Garrison. Offenses aren’t scoring at a historic rate—2020’s average of 4.7 runs per game ranks 19th among all seasons since 1900 and 2019 was just above it at 4.83—but MLB teams are averaging 1.32 homers per game in 2020, the second-highest rate in league history behind… 2019, at 1.39. The increase in long balls has allowed offenses to strike quickly and score in bunches, just as the Blue Jays did Thursday.
Sure, let the kids play. Tatís should be celebrated for the grand slam he hit on that 3-0 pitch, not forced to apologize. The young players creating big moments and bringing their own flair to the field are the ones who will draw in a much-needed younger audience. But even if some players hold on to those longstanding expectations of how a player should behave, the rules of a sport should reflect the way that game is played—even the unwritten ones.
For the unwritten rules to still say that a seven-run lead is impregnable in 2020 reflects how out of touch they really are.
Just ask the Phillies how safe that lead was.