August 22, 2012
The Hidden Complexities of Baseball's Unwritten Rules
On August 11 in Toledo, the Durham Bulls’ Will Rhymes hit a second-inning, two-run home run off of Toledo Mud Hens starter Drew Smyly. (If you watch the video above, you’ll see a replay of Rhymes’ homer partway through.)
The next batter was Nevin Ashley, and Symly drilled Ashley near the thigh with his next pitch. Message delivered, but not quite the right way: Smyly and Toledo’s manager, Phil Nevin, were ejected, and both benches were warned.
That should have ended the thing. But in the game’s final inning, Rhymes came to bat against hard-throwing Mud Hens’ reliever Bruce Rondon. As Ben Lindbergh detailed last week, Rondon is a very young (21 years old), highly regarded Tigers farmhand. His fastball can top 100 mph and was called by one evaluator, Baseball Prospect Nation’s Mark Anderson, an “absolutely elite pitch… that can be unhittable when thrown for strikes.”
Rondon was making just his third appearance at the Triple-A level, called up from Double-A when Mud Hens closer (and 2011 Durham Bull) Chris Bootcheck went down with a season-ending injury.
In addition to the “elite” fastball, Anderson called Rondon “still very wild,” and he wasn’t describing only Rondon’s pitches. Anderson also reported on Rondon’s “poor makeup. Lacks drive and desire. Frequently characterized as lazy. Lacks effort on the field and carries off-putting emotion on his sleeve.” Anderson isn’t the only observer to make assessments like these about Rondon.