One of the seemingly never-ending debates in baseball is about “unwritten rules,” or criticism of players for doing things fully permitted by the rulebook but frowned on by some. A particularly unusual case came on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s broadcast of the Philadelphia Phillies-New York Mets game Wednesday, where play-by-play voice Tom McCarthy and analyst Ben Davis were not impressed by…Mets’ shortstop Francisco Lindor lobbing the ball to first to finish off an easy double play.
The NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast didn't care for how Mets star Francisco Lindor tossed the ball to first base on an easy double play.
"I'm not a big fan. Be a little bit more professional about it."- Ben Davis ⚾️?️ pic.twitter.com/W8LrDF0mJz
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) June 1, 2023
The outcome of the play here was never particularly in question, as when Lindor caught Edmundo Sosa’s line drive, the runner on first was almost at second base (and, as can be seen in the clip, doesn’t even try to go back to first). There was no need for urgency on the throw, with the only way out of a double play here being a wild throw. But Lindor’s toss to first drew quite the comments from McCarthy and Davis.
McCarthy starts with “Oh my gosh, he just flips it and rolls it over to first base.” Davis asks “Couldn’t he have just tagged him?” McCarthy goes “Yeah. Double play. Two outs.” They then show the replay, and McCarthy asks Davis “You got a problem with that, the way he threw it over there?”, and Davis says “I’m not a big fan. Be a little bit more professional about it.” McCarthy then says “Yeah, it’s almost like showing me up,” Davis says “Salt in the wound?”, and McCarthy says “Listen, it is what it is, it was going to be a double play no matter how it got over there.”
The comments from McCarthy and Davis (especially) here took a lot of criticism in general. And they fit into quite a tradition of oft-criticized “unwritten rules” commentary, which even has drawn pushback at times from MLB’s own marketing department.
But what’s perhaps particularly notable about this is that as a player, Davis was on the other side of unwritten rules criticism. Back in May 2001, he controversially dropped a bunt single to break up a Curt Schilling perfect game, and had that called “chicken****” by then-Diamondbacks manager and current Diamondbacks’ announcer Bob Brenly.
May 26, 2001: Padres’ Ben Davis breaks up Curt Schilling’s (@gehrig38) perfect game on a drag bunt w/ DBacks up 2-0 in the 8th.
DBacks mgr Bob Brenly later called the move “chicken.” Schilling finished the game with a three-hitter and Arizona won 3-1.
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) May 26, 2023
Davis had plenty of defenders then amidst the criticism, especially with the score of that game only 2-0 at that point. But he’s now into a long media career with NBC Sports Philadelphia, working with them since 2011 and on game broadcasts since 2015. And now he’s come out on the other side of unwritten rules discussion, and over a play with no on-field impact. And many looked back to his bunt amidst this:
Isn’t this the same Ben Davis who broke up a no-hit bid (by Curt Schilling, so, OK, but still) with a bunt? https://t.co/TvdKme8skb
— Aaron Frey (@Aaron_Frey) June 1, 2023
The same Ben Davis that once bunted to break up a perfect game… https://t.co/aE8NIqhfFb
— Bryan J (@bryan_judson) June 1, 2023
Ben Davis got some balls calling out Lindor for being “professional” when he bunt for a base hit during a perfect game that was in the 8th inning
— gbass (@g_bass24) June 1, 2023
this is where "hometown broadcasters" go too far. this type of inane criticism is personal. no need for that. and ben davis once bunted to break up a perfect game so he should sit this one out https://t.co/YyPbuBCXkd
— Ken LaVicka (@KLV1063) June 1, 2023
It’s worth keeping in mind the long rivalry between the Phillies and the Mets, and how that has sometimes spilled over onto both teams‘ broadcasts. This play may have drawn more criticism from McCarthy and Davis than usual given the team it came from. But it’s still amusing to see “throwing a ball too softly to first” now seen as an unwritten rule violation, and to see some of the criticism there coming from a player who famously was blasted for breaking unwritten rules himself.