The National Anthem Standoff Has Returned to Major League Baseball

It's a tradition like no other

A general view of Citizens Bank Park during the national anthem.
Citizens Bank Park during the national anthem
Steve Boyle/MLB Photos via Getty

Major League Baseball has many traditions, and although many are annoying, the most perplexing practice in MLB has to be national anthem standoffs that players on opposing teams sometimes engage in. Irritatingly, there was one such standoff on Saturday night after the national anthem was completed at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

To the delight of no one but themselves, injured Boston right-hander Kutter Crawford and his former Red Sox teammate Matt Strahm of the Phillies were ejected from the game before the first pitch was even thrown after they both ignored warnings to vacate the field following the playing of the anthem. After being tossed out of Boston’s 7-4 win over the Phillies, both players were hit with fines by MLB with Crawford’s being the heftier of the two because he was on the injured list at the time of his ejection.

Luckily for Crawford, his multi-millionaire teammate Chris Sale will be paying his tab. “If you get thrown out and you’re on the IL, you get crushed,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said on Sunday. “I know there’s a guy that went to the same school as him that’s probably going to take care of that.” (In addition to being teammates on the Red Sox, Crawford and Sale both attended Florida Gulf Coast University.)

Speaking with Rob Bradford of Boston sports radio station WEEI, Strahm said the silly standoff had not been planned in advance and was just an impromptu occurrence. “Zero of it was planned,” he sais. “Just, [the] anthem was over and I looked across and Kutter kind of gave me a grin and I know exactly what that grin meant so I just stood there. If you know me, you know competition is everything to me so kind of felt like I was being called out right there. Looking back on it, probably not the wisest decision I’ve made in my big league career. I guess I should’ve known better with how strict they are with pitch clock.”

It’s great the pitch clock exists and was put to good use. There’s far too much standing around in baseball as is and certainly no reason to allow Crawford and Strahm to delay the start of play by engaging in a staring contest. It’s not the first time umpires have tossed players for screwing around following the playing of the national anthem. Royals reliever Luke Weaver and Mariners starter Robbie Ray were tossed out of a game before it began last season, but hopefully it will be the last time umps are forced to intervene when grown men act like children.

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