Chris Woodward changed his mind.
Last year, he started an uproar after publicly weeping and pearl-clutching when Fernando Tatis Jr—gasp—swung at 3-0. And hit a grand slam.
You’d think he committed an act of indecency in front of women and children. It was worse, though.
He broke one of the unwritten rules. Those stupid, silly, unwritten rules. Those stupid, silly, unwritten rules that were written when they didn’t allow Black players, Hispanics, night baseball, DHs, women broadcaster, you know, things like that.
Woodward was rightfully pummeled for it. If you don’t want the opposing batter to swing at 3-0, don’t feed him three horrible pitches in a row. Run good pitchers out to the mound.
The whole incident reared its silly head again when Yermin Mercedes of the White Sox was batting in the ninth inning of a 15-4 game they were winning a few days ago. On the mound was the Twins backup catcher Willians Astudillo. At 3-0, he tried to throw a 50-mile-an-hour Eephus pitch past Mercedes. He parked it about 450 feet away.
There were glares from the pitcher. How dare you do that? How own manager, Tony La Russa—a man so yesterday he actually built the old school with his bare hands—scolded him after the game, saying you never swing 3-0 with a lead like that (researchers are combing through the Unwritten Rules Book to find that codicil La Russa is refering to), and benched him the next game.
La Russa is now coming under the same attack Woodward did a year ago. His own player, Lance Lynn, a proud member of the pitching fraternity, responded to Twins players who complained, “If you have a problem with it, put a pitcher out there.” Yes, exactly. You are making a mockery of the game by putting a catcher out to pitch. At that point, anything goes.
Tony La Russa’s response was typically arrogant. “Lance has a locker, I have an office.” Translated, “Lance is on the field and has the pulse of the game, I am closeted away and don’t really have an understanding of life in this new century.”
Which leads us back to Chris Woodward. He finally admitted his thinking has done a complete 180 on this. Woodward told The Dallas Morning News’s Sam Blum, “I’ve thought long and hard about it. I don’t have a problem with it, honestly.” As Blum noted, Woodward is now a huge proponent of swinging on 3-0.
It’s the best pitch to hit, he said. Exactly, it’s probably the best pitch a batter will get that game.
(Here’s an experiment: Pay attention when a batter is up 3-0. What’s the first thing they do? Take the next pitch. Almost always a fastball right down the middle. What happens next? They haven’t swing yet after four pitches, so the next one they foul off because their timing is off a bit. Now it’s 3-2, and the pitcher owns them. Then they end up striking out. I don’t have statistics on this, but it happens so often that even I noticed it.)
The game is choking for offense and you expect the hitter to ignore the one single best pitch he is going to get and the one single best chance for him to get a hit? And the one single chance fans might see their team get a hit?
If it’s 3-0 and you get a pitch to hit, swing away.
There. Now it’s no longer unwritten. Somebody, though, please read this to Tony La Russa. You’ll find him in his office. Asleep. With his black and white TV playing Murder She Wrote reruns.