Less than a month into the regular season, the Giants lead the Majors in flaps surrounding baseball’s unwritten rules.
On Friday night at Nationals Park, the Giants drew the ire of veteran shortstop Alcides Escobar, who took exception at Thairo Estrada’s decision to steal second base when he wasn’t being held on with San Francisco leading, 7-1, in the ninth inning. After Estrada was thrown out at home for the final out of the inning, Escobar made his displeasure known afterward, screaming at the Giants’ dugout along with outfielder Victor Robles.
“They did some things that we felt like was uncalled for,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “But you guys can ask Gabe Kapler about that.”
“We scored seven runs in an inning,” Kapler said. “They have Josh Bell and Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz in the middle of their lineup. We know they're capable of scoring seven runs in an inning as well. This is the way that we think makes the most sense to attack series.
“It's definitely not about running up the score. We felt like we're respecting our opponents, and we're going to respect our opponents at every turn. This is about using every tool at our disposal to compete.”
The Giants have made it known that they won’t take their foot off the gas regardless of the score, as they’re intent on continuing to put pressure on their opponents’ pitching staffs and forcing them to burn as many arms as possible. Still, their relentless approach has irked opponents, who feel they’re flouting the sport’s unofficial code of conduct.
“I don’t think it’s surprising,” Austin Slater said. “I think there’s some old-school unwritten rules, whatever you want to call them. The way I see it is [the Nationals] have two of the best hitters in the league coming up in the next inning. Soto gets on and then Cruz hits a homer, all of a sudden, it’s a four-run game and we have to warm someone up in the bullpen. So the game can change very quickly. For us, it’s a strategy thing.”
The Padres were also left fuming during the Giants’ 13-2 win on April 12, when Steven Duggar stole a base and Mauricio Dubón laid down a bunt single with a nine-run lead. San Diego’s dugout visibly barked at Dubón, who drew a death stare from former Giants third baseman and current Padres third base coach Matt Williams. (It’s worth noting that the Padres were also embroiled in an unwritten rules controversy two years ago when Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a grand slam on a 3-0 count with his team leading by seven runs in Texas.)
“I’m not trying to disrespect anybody,” Dubón said afterward. “We’re just trying to win a series. That means carrying on rallies so we can burn arms. That’s it.”
The Giants have yet to face repercussions for refusing to let up, though they’ve stressed that they won’t get upset if an opponent turns the tables on them at some point in the future. In the meantime, they’re not going to apologize for simply continuing to play the game.
“I think it’s part of the old-school unwritten rules ... that people are still holding on to,” Slater said. “I think those days are gone. You have to play until the last out.”