Erick Aybar's bunt not 'bush league'
August, 1, 2011
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
Sunday's Angels-Tigers game was one of the best of the season, with Cy Young candidates Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander facing off. Verlander flirted with a no-hitter. Weaver got upset at Magglio Ordonez staring at a home run (it appeared Ordonez wasn't sure if it going to be fair or foul). Carlos Guillen later homered off Weaver and did stare him down as he walked slowly to first base, leading to words, benches emptying and Weaver getting tossed after throwing his next pitch over the head of Alex Avila.
But that wasn't even the most interesting part of the game.
Angels shortstop Erick Aybar attempted to bunt for a base hit leading off the eighth inning against Verlander while his no-hit bid was still in progress.
THE BASEBALL CODE WAS VIOLATED! THE UNWRITTEN RULES WERE IGNORED! ERICK AYBAR IS AN EVIL PERSON WHO DESERVES THE WRATH OF THE BASEBALL GODS FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY!
Verlander wasn't too happy with the play.
"There's arguments both ways, but obviously from a pitching standpoint, we like to call it bush league," Verlander said after the game. Verlander did soften his opinion by adding, "It's a three-run game, so if you get a guy on base, you never know what can happen."
You know what I say?
Give me a break.
Aren't the Angels trying to win a game? They were down 3-0, the bunt is a big part of Aybar's game, and they're in a pennant race. It was 3-0 at the time, hardly a blowout. Aybar's job is to get on base. And it worked -- Verlander threw away the bunt attempt for an error and the Angels went on to score two runs.
The last time I remember a big uproar over such a bunt attempt was when Padres catcher Ben Davis bunted for a base hit off Arizona's Curt Schilling with one out in the eighth inning to break up Schilling's no-hit bid in 2001. The Diamondbacks basically called Davis gutless, even though the score was 2-0 at the time.
"They say every game counts, but when a guy's doing something masterful like that, if you get a hit you want to earn it in the right way," said Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez.
Schilling admitted that maybe it wasn't the worst play.
"It was a 2-0 game. ... If it's 9-0, yeah, I think it's a horse---- thing to do. But it was a 2-0 game and the bottom line is, unwritten rules or not, you're paid to win games."
Part of the controversy with Davis was the bunt wasn't part of his normal game. Arizona manager Bob Brenly was particularly critical, saying he'd never seen him bunt before. Aybar, however, has had eight bunt hits this season and 58 in his career.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland provided a voice of reason: "It was a beautiful play. I'll be in the minority with the people that didn't like that," he said. "They've got a good team with a lot of speed and they're trying to win a pennant just like we are. I don't have any problem with that play whatsoever."
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.