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Justin Bour, Giancarlo Stanton and the unwritten rules of the on-deck circle

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Lost in the commotion of Monday’s walk-off win, two Marlins stars reacted very differently to the exact same game situation.

Stanton watched Dee Gordon’s game-winning single from the dugout, even though he was the next scheduled batter.
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

With the outcome of a game hanging in the balance, there’s nobody the Miami Marlins would rather send to the plate than Justin Bour. He leads the team with a 1.73 Win Probability Added this season, consistently performing his best when it matters most. You want to do everything possible to get Bour in high-leverage situations (where he has posted a 1.024 OPS), especially with two outs and runners in scoring position (1.177 OPS).

On Monday night, the Fish were tied with the Philadelphia Phillies at five runs apiece entering the bottom of the ninth. They loaded the bases with two outs. It was Bour’s time to shine!

The only problem? His spot in the lineup wasn’t due up yet. Cleanup hitter Marcell Ozuna would either send everybody home happy with a walk-off winner, or extend the game into extras. Either way, that inning was going to be decided by his plate appearance.

In other words, it was impossible for Bour to have any impact. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at him standing in the on-deck circle.

Courtesy of Fox Sports Florida

Bour was on my mind as this happened live, and I’m still fascinated by it the next day. What could’ve he been thinking in that moment? Did he realize that Ozuna was going to end the inning regardless? Did any of his teammates try to tell him? Or did he just want to take a closer look at Hector Neris in case the right-hander stayed in to face him in the 10th?

Ozuna didn’t get the job done, so the game continued. Mark Leiter Jr. replaced Neris the following inning and—déjà vu—the Marlins found themselves in a familiar predicament. With the score still tied and the basepaths full of Fish, Leiter was just one out away from escaping the jam. Dee Gordon stepped into the batter’s box, making Giancarlo Stanton the new Mr. Irrelevant.

Despite being a year younger than Bour, Stanton has significantly more major league experience. It’s pure speculation, but that might explain why they handled the situation differently, with the veteran recognizing that he was ineligible to fight this battle. Although eager to be the hero himself, Stanton spent the final seconds of game action confined to the dugout, leading to this unique overhead shot.

Courtesy of Fox Sports Florida

You know what happened next.

So what’s the proper etiquette here, when a player is on deck but not actually coming up? Baseball has unwritten rules regarding almost everything. Surely, somebody has addressed this already...right?

For what it’s worth, the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros competed in their own nail-biter on Monday. That is old friend Jake Marisnick in the bottom-right corner, validating the Justin Bour approach.

Courtesy of AT&T SportsNet Southwest

Need a silly subplot to keep you hooked on the Marlins as they head down the stretch in a non-competitive season? Try paying attention to how others on the team behave under those same circumstances. I definitely will.