Saturday night in Oakland, Athletics righthander A.J. Griffin retired the first 14 Red Sox he faced. The A's had fashioned a 5-0 lead and seemed on their way to an easy win; with two out in the fifth and no baserunners for Boston, the game was just about to the point where you might have thought about Griffin, "Hmmm. He might just have something special tonight."
The A's had a shift on against Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a switch-hitter batting lefthanded against Griffin. Saltalamacchia bunted Griffin's first pitch perfectly down the third-base line; with the shift on, no one was in position to field the ball, and the Red Sox had their first hit, breaking up Griffin's budding perfect game try.
Saltalamacchia isn't the sort of hitter who bunts a lot, or at all; he has three sacrifice bunts in his career (all of them in 2007). It's impossible from his numbers to guess how many bunt hits he has, but before Saturday night my guess would be "zero". He was clearly doing this simply to break up the perfect game.
A similar incident happened 11 years ago in a game between the Diamondbacks and Padres, May 26, 2001 in San Diego. Curt Schilling had retired the first 22 hitters he faced. Ben Davis, a slow-moving catcher whose hitting style was very similar to Saltalamacchia's, took everyone by surprise by bunting for a hit.
You could make the argument that, in both of these games, that the teams that were possible victims of a perfect game got more hits, and both scored a run. But would they have done so if not for the bunt hit? The hitter sequence, and likely the pitches chosen by the pitchers, would have been different. In the 2001 situation, both teams were considered playoff contenders, and the score was 2-0; it's somewhat understandable that a manager would want to get someone on base in any way possible.
But Saturday night? With the Red Sox in freefall, far out of playoff contention? The reaction of Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine is telling:
And again on Saturday, when Valentine was asked about the fact that catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia challenged baseball etiquette by breaking up a no-hitter in the fifth inning (of a 5-0 game) with a bunt single, Valentine’s response was not defense but rather dismissal.
"Who cares?" he told reporters.
The rest of that article is about how embattled Valentine is as Boston manager, but the quote seems to show Valentine simply thumbing his nose at everyone in the game and its so-called "unwritten rules".
So what should managers and players do in situations like this? Is bunting for the first hit of a game (once you're past the first inning or two) acceptable? Vote in the poll.