There are so many things I miss so much about baseball. I miss the deep breath the crowd takes in when the shortstop throws the ball a little too softly to second on a double play. I miss the way a pitcher throws over to first so obviously that the runner is diving before he even lets go of the ball. I miss the snap of the catcher’s glove echoing through a packed stadium as the team closes in on a win. What I do not fucking miss at all is watching my favorite players absolutely deteriorate when asked to bunt.
The Washington Nationals, a team I love very much, embarrassed me not once but TWICE in the 2019 season by bunting so badly they injured themselves. Trea Turner held the bat incorrectly and got his delicate little finger smashed by a fastball that put him on the IL for weeks. Max Scherzer, during a batting practice, somehow bunted a ball straight into his own face, giving himself two black eyes. Though this was admittedly hilarious, and he looked cool as hell pitching afterwards, both of these incidents should have been completely avoidable.
Let’s look at this Max Scherzer bunt, as it is absolutely terrible.
Look how his bat is basically vertical. This is not correct. Look how his knees are not bent. Also not correct. Look how his fingers are wrapped around the bat instead of delicately hidden behind the bat like a coy damsel who doesn’t want her FINGERS SMASHED TO BITS. If I had done a bunt like this on a middle school softball team, I would have been made to run foul poles until I vomited.
Everyone is so horny for home runs. Home runs are “cool.” Home runs make everyone yell really loud and give high-fives. And yes, years of sabermetric scholarship has shown bunting to be an inefficient use of an at-bat, but that hasn’t stopped managers from calling for the ol’ sacrifice now and then. The least players can do when that happens is know how to bunt without wounding themselves.
Lucky for me, every single Major League Baseball player cannot practice hitting home runs right now because their stadiums are closed, and most of them are quarantined at home with their wives and several 7-to-14-year-old children whom they rarely see. Now is the time for them to finally learn to bunt like professionals.
Take the oldest and wisest of your little children into the backyard, and have them soft-toss you the ball so that you may bunt it. Go into your home batting cage and just bunt bunt bunt. If you break your nose now, that’s fine. Baseball isn’t coming back for a while. You’ll have time to recover. If you smash your little finger, it will be okay right now–you can still do your cast-iron pot squats while you recover.
Imagine: After months of just allowing your small child to toss balls to you and carefully bunting them down on the ground, you return to the field. There is a runner on first base. The shift is on. The third base line is wide open, and because you have spent all of this bonus offseason practicing, you want to bunt, you need to bunt. You turn your bat and you hide your fingers and the ball makes that awful thunking sound and just glides halfway down the third baseline and stops. A beautiful hit.
Every out on a popped-up bunt is an embarrassment. Every out on a third-strike foul bunt is a disgrace. Stop humiliating me with your terrible bunts and just practice for a little bit while you have nothing better to do.