Tuesday morning was abuzz with baseball talk, but not for the reasons one might suspect. Everyone from Jeff Passan to Trevor Bauer to our own Kyle Koster and Ryan Phillips had strong opinions on San Diego Padres young stud Fernando Tatis Jr. Specifically, his decision to send a 3-0 pitch into the stratosphere for a grand slam while the Padres were up 10-3 over the Texas Rangers in the top of the eighth inning.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward was clearly displeased during the game and voiced that afterwards to the media, saying that being up seven runs in the eighth is "typically not a good time" to be swinging at a 3-0 pitch. Even Tatis' own manager, Jayce Tingler, agreed with Woodward and called it a learning experience for his young shortstop. Both sides were apparently upset at the breaking of the "unwritten rules" of baseball.
Woodward seems to have cooled down a little bit after sleeping on it. He appeared on KWFN-FM/97.3 The Fan's Ben & Woods radio show with Ben Higgins and Steven Woods on Tuesday morning to discuss the incident. He called himself a "progressive" mind when it came to enforcing the unwritten rules of the game, and explained why he reacted the way he did last night. Listen to his full interview here with his thoughts on Tatis beginning at 2:35, with a transcription of his comments below:
""All these unwritten rules, I've always challenged them. I'm definitely a progressive mind when it comes to that. If it makes sense, if it doesn't. Can you bunt against the shift if they're shifting you while up by 12?... So I'm always open to listen to an argument about it. The 3-0? Obviously, if he takes it, we had one of our guys who doesn't normally get in the game. The game was kind of out of hand. They had bases loaded. Listen, it can go either way. There's a bunch of different ways to look at it. And I know everyone is going to have their opinion on it. I talked to Jayce after, talked to some of their guys. I just felt like, at that point, it is one of those unwritten rules, it's right on that border. I felt it was on the other side of that border line.""
So while Woodward isn't a big "unwritten rules" guy, he felt like Tatis tagging one of their lesser relievers to put the Padres up 11 was still uncool. Which is understandable from a certain perspective. To make a cross-sport analogy, it's kind of like Nick Bosa planting the third-string QB in the turf in the fourth quarter of a three-touchdown blowout. It's going to happen because that's how the sport is played, but for the guys on the receiving end, it's easy to see why they might get worked up.
After Ben and Woods pointed out that the Padres' bullpen has been rather disastrous this season and Tatis was never going to get a better pitch for a grand slam than on a 3-0 count, Woodward admitted they discussed it from that angle afterwards and he encourages his own players to swing at such pitches:
""That was the perspective we talked about after the game. That put the game a little bit out of reach when, at the time, we had come back from a 7-0 deficit. We almost had the tying run at the plate. I get your guys' point. It is one of those things where I'm one of the biggest advocates of swinging at the 3-0. I tell my guys all the time, I don't want you to take the 3-0. I don't care who you are, that's just the best pitch in baseball to hit and that's been proven. So like I said, the kid put a good swing on it. He got his money's worth. I can't really say much after that.""- Chris Woodward
This all blew up in a spectacular fashion in a way it didn't sound like Woodward wanted or expected it to. Turns out there can be reasonable minds when it comes to this sort of thing. Maybe this will finally put Tatis on the map for the casual fan. Oh, what roads MLB must travel for relevancy in the daily discourse.