St. Louis Cardinals: Goldschmidt’s walk brings etiquette into spotlight
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt’s intentional walk led to outcries from fans, but the reactions were more disappointing than the walk itself.
As Paul Goldschmidt stepped into the box and looked for his fourth home run of the night, tension gripped St. Louis Cardinals fans everywhere. But when Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell ordered the intentional walk, anticipation was replaced by fury about the breaking of one of baseball’s “unwritten rules.”
The walk was certainly disappointing; I, like every other Cardinals fan, wanted to see Goldschmidt hit his fourth dinger of the night. But I also understood and even somewhat respected Counsell’s decision.
Baseball’s unwritten rules include not stealing a base when you have a large lead, not bunting to break up a no-hitter and, apparently, not walking a batter when he’s shooting for four home runs.
The Cardinals pride themselves on playing the game “the right way,” which includes not breaking these sacred codes. A player such as Yasiel Puig certainly would not fit the team’s values. But I have no issue with players or managers who break these “rules.”
The walk to Goldschmidt showed that the Brewers still believed they had a shot. Indeed, they were only down by four runs, which isn’t an insurmountable deficit. People can argue about how effective an intentional walk is, but my point is that Counsell was making what he believed was a strategic move, and it showed that the Brewers weren’t throwing this game away. It was nice to see.
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When a player tries to bunt to break up a no-no or attempts a steal while his team has a big lead, it shows that he isn’t taking the game for granted. He wants to win at all costs. But say he is only doing it to break the rules. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Baseball has lost popularity over the years, and while commissioner Rob Manfred can prattle on about how the pace of play needs to be quickened, I think another reason for it is that in some ways, it’s stuck in the past with these “rules.”
Some of what was once considered forbidden has been loosened — just think of Tim McCarver’s rants about how opposing players can talk to each other now — but others, such as the aforementioned ones, are still being followed. And if baseball wants to regain some of its popularity, it shouldn’t stick to these curmudgeonly ways.
The Cardinals could stand to learn something from Counsell here: Don’t let off the gas. Don’t avoid doing something just because it flies in the face of what’s deemed ethically acceptable. The team could be seen as more of a villain in some fans’ eyes for doing this, but for the fans, baseball is trying to acquire, it could be exactly what is needed.