Unwritten rules. Headhunting (ha!). Verlander teasing a third career no-hitter. Oh, and I guess the epic showdown between Cy Young candidates which may have exceeded expectations warrants some sort of a Cy Young race update, too, right?
As my friend Ian mentioned in his feature posted earlier today, Verlander has Weaver beat in every major statistical category not labeled 'ERA.' But, after Sunday's entertaining duel, I'd like to add Verlander's response to broken unwritten rules (RBUR for the SABER-minded) to the evidence suggesting Verlander may have distanced himself in the race for the Cy Young award.
I know it's been well documented, but for posterity's sake, the unwritten rules broken in Sunday's game were player(s) inappropriately admiring their own home runs and a bunt for a hit in a no-hitter. Whether or not you agree with these unwritten rules of baseball is irrelevant. They are unwritten rules and baseball-smart players understand that breaking them elicits some type of emotional (or other) response from the opposing team.
In Sunday's game, Weaver took exception to Magglio Ordonez watching his third inning home run for a second too long (Ordonez explained after the game that he was simply making sure the ball stayed fair before he started to move his old, surgically repaired legs around the bases). Rather than giving Ordonez the benefit of the doubt, Weaver assumed the worst, that he was getting shown up by a 37-year-old renaissanced slap-hitter, and not-so-kindly let Ordonez and other Tigers players know about it.
For the most part, though, Weaver moved on (or channeled the chagrin) by retiring the next 12 batters in a row, five by strikeout. However, when Carlos Guillen took a 3-2 pitch to the right field seats in the bottom of the 7th inning, Weaver's preceding frustrations completely boiled over as Guillen showed exactly how it is one pimps a home run.
After some more choice words, Weaver ignored the warning from home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt and took the next pitch as an opportunity to do the kind of damage to innocent Alex Avila's head the Tigers had already done to Weaver's composure. As Avila ducked out of the way, Weaver was immediately ejected, ending his day and opening the door for him to go into complete meltdown mode by cussing out the Tigers' bench as he stomped off the field.
There are plenty of adequate analogies, but it reminded me of how a child might wildly throw a game controller across the room and yell expletives at his older brother as he'd run upstairs to his room after a bad beat in Madden. (I would know, because I was like 12-years-old when I'd do that.) Weaver was dome-jobbed, beat in-game and mentally.
Possibly in response to all that had already happened, in the top of the 8th inning, Erick Aybar attempted to lay down a bunt against Verlander to collect the Angels' first hit. Nevermind that bunting is part of Aybar's game and that he showed bunt earlier in the game to no discord, this is an unwritten no-no late in the game of an ongoing no-no. The bunt resulted in a throwing error by Verlander, which undoubtedly proliferated his irritation, but it evoked no words from Verlander on the field; he merely gave a not-so-nice, long stare in Aybar's direction.
Perhaps it (or maybe Don Kelly botching a run-down) rattled Verlander, but nowhere near to the extent Weaver was shaken by the Tigers' indifference to unwritten rules. Verlander allowed his first hit and two runs, but struck out two of the next five batters he faced, the second coming on a 101 mph fastball to Torii Hunter to end the inning with the tying run left stranded in scoring position.
It wasn't until Verlander was back in the dugout, where his outing and his team's lead was safe, when he voiced his displeasure to Aybar, warning him that he would get him next year (note that Verlander threatens to hit Aybar in the back, not the next hitter in the head). Childish? Eh, I guess, but my point isn't really about the more mature way to respond to disobedience of debatable unwritten rules. The general premise is, Weaver responded by getting himself, the Angels' best option on the mound, ejected and proceeded to throw an embarrassing fit on the field; Verlander responded by keeping his demeanor and completing the inning.
To those keeping official score at home, one 28-year-old Cy Young candidate successfully finished his outing without throwing a tantrum on the field; the other 28-year-old Cy Young candidate did not complete his outing and threw a temper tantrum on the field.
A wiser man than most once said that good manners is putting up with other people's bad manners. I don't think the Angels or Tigers showed good baseball manners on Sunday, but one ace displayed relatively good manners.*
That ace was Justin Verlander, your current leader for the AL Cy Young.