The Unwritten Canon, Revealed

A couple of Sundays ago in St. Louis, the Braves' Freddie Freeman hit a home run against Jaime Garcia in the first inning. In Freeman's next at-bat, in the fourth inning, Garcia hit him on the shoulder blade with a pitch. In the bottom of that inning, Braves starter Gavin Floyd plunked Garcia in turn.

"I went up to [Floyd], hugged him and said 'I love you,'" Freeman said after the game. "He said, 'I've always got your back.'"

"If you're paying attention, you know when someone is being thrown at," Davis says. "You are responsible for sending a message. I hope someone wouldn't have to tell a pitcher what he has to do. If you don't do it, you'll have a target on your back. You will be alienating teammates. It's not that you don't have the guts to do it; it's that you don't care."

Coke says, "It's unacceptable to not take care of business, no matter what the business is. If you're supposed to hit a guy in the ribs and you don't do it, then shame on me. I didn't do my job. I didn't protect my teammate. If you don't, you will never be right with the guys."

Reynolds says, "You lose respect in the clubhouse. I don't know a pitcher who wouldn't do that."

Wilson says, "One year in Tampa, one of their relievers hit Gary Matthews Jr. in the neck at about 96. It was intentional. I was pitching in relief. It was the fourth inning of a 12-5 game. I know I have to hit someone. I know it has to be Carl Crawford because he is the equal guy. One of our veterans got in my face and screamed at me -- not because he didn't think I was going to do it, he just wanted to make sure that I did.

"He said, 'You hit him in the ribs as hard as you can!' I said, 'Yes, sir.' First pitch slider; then the next pitch, I threw behind him. Crawford yelled at me. I yelled back, 'Did you not see that our guy got hit in the neck? Are you watching the game? You're lucky, I could have hit you in the face.'"

Thirty years ago, it was different. Forty, 50 years ago, someone might have gotten hit in the face.

"Times have changed. That was much more prevalent in the '80s," Baker says. "That was more of the wild, wild west back then. Maybe they were more serious about the game then. The pay wasn't nearly as high. They weren't as worried about losing money [over being suspended or hurt in a fight]. When George Brett slid hard into Graig Nettles at third base, that started a fist fight, and no one got thrown out. That doesn't happen anymore."

Coke says, "You don't see very often these days a pitcher say, 'I don't care. I hate you. I'm going to hit you.'"

Baker says, "In Bob Gibson's day, if you looked at him cross-eyed, he would hit you in the head. [In 1981] Pete Rose was going for another record [the NL record for hits]. He got a hit, was one hit away from the record, and Nolan Ryan told him he'd hit him in the face before he'd let him get another hit. So he struck him out the next three at-bats. Things have changed. It has been cemented with the amount of money invested in these players."

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