The unwritten baseball code...it's one of life's great mysteries. It's right there with the Lochness Monster, the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, and the Bermuda Triangle. It's also being followed religiously by the Red Sox and Orioles this year, leading to a number of ugly incidents between both teams.
This is all started when Orioles third baseman Manny Machado slid late into second base, spiking the heart and soul of the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia missed three games recovering from the injury. The slide was clearly late, and Machado apologized after the game. Case closed, right? Not exactly.
The "code" says a team must respond and defend their injured teammate. The Sox waited a couple of days, but sure enough, they did. First, Eduardo Rodriguez threw inside to Machado three times. But as young pitchers often do, he missed. It turns out throwing at batters takes some practice.
Enter reliever Matt Barnes. Sox manager John Farrell ordered the code red. But again, the execution was horrible. The "code" dictates the retaliation must not be aimed at a batter's head. So Barnes got a bit excited...his juices were flowing, and he threw the pitch behind Machado's head. Sox legend Pedro Martinez spelled out part 74 of the "code." If you're going to hit somebody, hit him between the knees and the ribs. Code violated. Barnes was suspended for four games, and he earned it.
Moments after the pitch, NESN cameras caught Pedroia yelling across the field to Machado. Pedroia clearly mouthed that it wasn't his call that Machado be drilled, throwing Barnes and manager John Farrell under the bus for all to see. Another "code" violation. No matter what happens on the field, you can't be seen selling out your teammates. That's unacceptable, particular if you are the senior member and leader of the Boston Red Sox. That is a bad look for Pedroia.
At this point both teams told the media the ugliness was over. The air had been cleared and that normal baseball operations would be resumed. For a brief moment I actually believed it. Silly me.
The Orioles then came to Fenway to renew the hostilities. Sox superstar Mookie Betts was drilled. The pitch was in the acceptable range and not near the head. At this point, the bitterness must surely come to an end, right? The payback for the payback had been administered. The code had been followed and life goes on.
Wrong! Fast forward 24 hours. Machado digs in against Sox ace Chris Sale. Sale has memorized the "code." You have to, since it's unwritten. Sale's first pitch was thrown behind Machado's knees. Machado stared. The umpire warned both benches to cut the crap. After the inning, Sale was fired up, high-fiving everyone in the Sox dugout. His teammates hooted and hollered. He had defended the honor of his teammates by following the "code".
Machado responded a few innings later by hitting a long home run out of Fenway Park off of Sale. His home run trot was legendary, taking him a full thirty seconds to round the bases. As "code" violations go, that's a big one. Slow home run trots are not appreciated by pitchers, especially fiery ones like Sale.
But wait there's more! Major League Baseball stepped in and told both sides to knock it off. Apparently home plate umpire Sam Holbrook took the message to heart. When O's starter Kevin Gausman hit Xander Bogaerts with a CURVE ball, Holbrook tossed him. Holbrook hadn't read the code. You don't hit somebody intentionally with a curve ball. The Orioles were incensed, but the damage had been done.
So where does this leave us? Right now the Orioles are furious because their superstar was thrown at and their pitcher was tossed. That Sox are angry because Machado basically walked around the bases after his home run. Two "code" violations that need to be addressed, meaning grown men will continue to throw baseballs at each other. If you think this over, time for a crash course so you too can decipher the "code."