by WorldTribune Staff, June 9, 2019
A minor league player who broke one of baseball’s unwritten rules by bunting for a base hit to break up a no-hitter has reportedly received death threats on social media.
With his team trailing 3-0 with one out in the ninth inning on June 4, Matt Lipka of the New York Yankees’ Double-A affiliate the Trenton Thunder laid down a bunt single. It was the first hit of the night against the Hartford Yard Goats, the Colorado Rockies affiliate.
The Yard Goats were attempting to complete a combined no-hitter, as they used four different pitchers in the game.
After the final out was recorded in the Hartford victory, the two teams nearly brawled reportedly after arguing over Lipka’s bunt single.
Hartford starting pitcher Rico Garcia, who struck out 11 over six no-hit innings, said the following when asked about Lipka’s decision to bunt, per MiLB.com: “It is what it is. [Lipka] was doing what he had to do. And we were really passionate about getting the no-hitter. It is what it is. I can’t really speak for what he was trying to do or what he was trying to accomplish. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get the no-hitter. Emotions were high after.”
The 27-year-old Lipka received death threats on social media following the game, NJ.com reported. The report cited a source as saying the Yankees have been alerted to the threats and are investigating.
While baseball’s unwritten code frowns upon bunting to break up a no-hitter, analysts say two important factors should be considered in Lipka’s case:
1. Lipka was batting with his team down by just three runs in the ninth inning. If he gets on base, Lipka turns over the lineup and gives the Thunder a chance at rallying. One more baserunner and a home run ties the game So Lipka, as the No. 9 hitter, bunting for a base hit can be justified as legitimate baseball strategy
2. The no-hitter being thrown by Hartford was a team effort, with the Yard Goats using four pitchers in the game.
Lipka’s was not the first controversial bunt during a no-hit bid.
Perhaps the most famous incident occurred on May 26, 2001, when the Padres’ Ben Davis bunted for a hit in the eighth inning to break up a perfect-game bid by the Diamondbacks’ Curt Schilling.
Writing for TheBaseballCodes.com, Jason Turbow recounted the 2011 incident:
Davis came up in the eighth inning as the twenty-third hitter to face Schilling, entirely cognizant that his team was 0-for-22 to that point. Because swinging the bat against the big right-hander had not yet paid dividends, Davis switched gears and, noting the deep positioning of third baseman Craig Counsell, laid down a bunt. Although the execution was lacking — Davis popped the ball up, just over Schilling’s head — the hit nonetheless fell between the mound and second baseman Jay Bell, who was also stationed deep. Davis safely reached base with his team’s ﬁrst hit.
The Arizona bench exploded at the audacity, calling the player gutless and intoning that he was afraid to take his hacks like a man. To judge the play by the unwritten rules, the Diamondbacks had a point. ‘The ﬁrst hit of a no-hitter is not a bunt,’ said Kansas City Royals pitcher Danny Jack¬son ﬁfteen years earlier, in 1986, after Angels rookie Devon White attempted to break up his own no-hitter with a failed eighth-inning bunt attempt.
Arizona manager Bob Brenly called Davis’ bunt “chickenshit” and said that Davis ‘has a lot to learn about how the game is played.’
There was, however, a mitigating factor. The score of the game was 2–0, and when Davis reached base it brought the tying run to the plate.
Schilling said: ‘Whether I agree with it being the right thing to do or not is not really relevant. It was a 2-0 game. . . . If it’s 9-0, yeah, I think it’s a horseshit 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. That’s the only reason you’re playing in the big leagues.’
The Schilling-Davis affair, however, was full of gray area. Some baseball people will accept a no-hitter-spoiling bunt if bunting is an established part of the hitter’s offensive repertoire — but Ben Davis was hardly a bunter. In fact, said Brenly, ‘That was the only time Ben Davis ever tried to bunt for a base hit to my recollection. . . . For a backup catcher who had never bunted for a base hit before in his life to do it, I thought that was unnecessary to begin with, and disrespectful, to top it off.’
Schilling added: ‘I was mad that it was such a bad bunt and was still a hit. He bunted as bad a ball as you can bunt, to the most perfect spot in the inﬁeld to bunt it. . . . I never said it was a horseshit play. I thought it was a horseshit bunt.’ ”