Ron Darling thinks Andrew Benintendi twice broke baseball’s unwritten rules

Bill Baer
NBC Sports

Broadcaster and former player Ron Darling has had an interesting few days calling the ALDS for TBS. Referencing the Red Sox getting to Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka in Game 2, he used an old idiom that happens to include a racial slur. Darling apologized for the remark. During Game 3, when the Red Sox were getting to starter Luis Severino, Darling suggested that the right-hander had gotten a late start warming up, explaining his struggles. After the game, Severino pushed back against the comments and denied having warmed up late. Darling didn’t see any reason to walk back his comment.

We now have a new controversy at Darling’s suggestion. The Red Sox obliterated the Yankees 16-1 in Game 3, which saw them take a 10-0 lead after four innings. In the fifth, after the Yankees clawed back to score one run, Red sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi drew a two-out walk against reliever Chad Green. With J.D. Martinez at the plate, Benintendi stole second base. Baseball’s unwritten rules typically refer to the regular season. In the playoffs, anything goes within reason, usually. Benintendi’s stolen base was in something of a gray area. Is a nine-run lead in the fifth inning big enough for a team to avoid running up the score in the postseason?

Darling said after Benintendi stole second base, “Well, I guess [that’s] from the school of never taking anything for granted. You don’t usually see that. In the postseason, maybe. In the regular season, never.”

The Yankees, however, were holding Benintendi on with Luke Voit at the first base bag. If it’s so obvious he shouldn’t steal given the game state, then don’t hold him on.

In the seventh inning, with the Red Sox still up 10-1, Benintendi went ahead 3-0 against Jonathan Holder, then swung at a fastball. Swinging 3-0 in a blowout is another behavior covered in baseball’s unwritten rules, so Darling had an opinion about that. He said, “I found [Benintendi stealing second base] unusual, but you know, you can still keep pushing the envelope. But boy, swinging 3-0 in the seventh with a 10-1 lead … there used to be a book. There’s no book anymore. Everything’s grey, but I would find that offensive, personally.”

Despite getting embarrassed on national television, the Yankees likely don’t care to focus on Benintendi’s infraction heading into Tuesday night’s Game 4. Perhaps in the regular season, CC Sabathia (Tuesday’s starter) might have gone for retribution, which would not have been out of character. Facing elimination in the postseason, however, the Yankees are likely singularly focused on the goal of staying alive. Giving the Red Sox a free base runner would only get in the way of that goal.

As an aside — and I’ve talked about this before — the broadcasters for the postseason thus far have been quite underwhelming. Many of them, like Darling, have come off as curmudgeonly. John Smoltz, for example, has spent much of his time on air complaining about the way baseball is played today and that it’s inferior to the way the game used to be played. Others, like Jim Kaat (who called Jesús Aguilar “Jesús Aguilera”), simply seem ill-prepared. More focus should be put on giving broadcasting gigs to people who are enthusiastic and make the effort to stay knowledgeable about the game and the players who play it. If I weren’t a baseball fan (or perhaps a lapsed fan) but happened to be tuned into a broadcast, I would not be motivated at all to continue watching because the Darlings, Smoltzes, and Kaats make it seem like the game is a drag and the players are buffoons.

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