Over the past few weeks there have been a few skirmishes in the Majors. Namely the dust-ups between the Red Sox and Orioles, and the Braves and Blue Jays. These aren’t the only ones but they are the biggest instances thus far. If you listen to commentary on these things, you more than likely heard that these were a result of the Unwritten Rules of Baseball. What are these Rules you may be asking yourself? And how does everyone know them if the are Unwritten? Are they still Unwritten if I try my best to write them down in this column? Good questions reader.
There are many things cited as Unwritten Rules, some of them just common sense ways to play the game, but most deal with having respect for your teammates, your opponent, and the game itself. That sounds like a great thing and in reality, most of them are, but when a Rule is broken, there is a price to pay and that’s when things get dicey. Before we get into retaliation, let’s go through some of these Unwritten Rules.
NEVER DISCUSS A NO HITTER IN PROGRESS
Sadly, the sports outlets seem to have forgotten this rule, but it is baseball superstition that simply saying the words “No-Hitter” or “Perfect Game” will cause them to end.
DON’T BREAK UP A NO-HITTER WITH A LATE INNING BUNT
What you’re going to come to realize is that I think a lot of these Rules are foolish. This is the first. The pitcher and defense needs to know the scouting report. If someone has the speed and wherewithal to drop a bunt for a hit, then its on the defense for allowing it to happen. Now, if it’s a DH dropping down a bunt in the 9th while down by 6 runs simply to break up the no-no, that’s a dick move.
THE POWER HITTERS SHOULDN’T BUNT
Nope, this is stupid. Get on base anyway you can if you have to.
DON’T SHOUT WHILE ROUNDING THE BASES ON A POP UP
In other words, don’t yell “I got it” to try and get a fielder to let a ball drop. Notoriously, A-Rod did this back in the late 2000s and if we know anything, we know that you should always strive to not be like A-Rod.
DON’T WALK ACROSS THE PITCHER’S MOUND
This one is disputed more than any of the others on this list I think, because I think we only know about it because of the Dallas Braden – Alex Rodriguez nonsense. Basically some pitchers believe it to be a sign of disrespect for position players to walk across the pitcher’s mound. I don’t know if I necessarily believe in this one, but I also don’t believe it’s bad luck to say MacBeth in a theatre. However, I don’t do it because I know plenty of people who do. And again, don’t be like A-Rod.
DON’T CROSS IN FRONT OF THE CATCHER AND UMPIRE ON YOUR WAY TO THE BATTER’S BOX
This is out of respect for the Ump over anything else. But pay attention next time you watch a game. If a player has to make it to the opposite batter’s box from their dugout side, they will walk behind.
DON’T STAND IN THE BATTER’S BOX WHILE THE PITCHER IS WARMING UP
At the very least this is for safety. But a pitcher doesn’t throw balls towards the on-deck circle so don’t get in their way.
DON’T TURN TO ARGUE WITH AN UMPIRE
This pretty common sense, especially the last one which will quickly get you tossed from a game.
DON’T SHOW UP THE OTHER TEAM
There are a few rules that explore this further, but basically respect your opponents. Bat flips fall into this rule. For example:
DON’T SWING 3-0 IN A BLOWOUT
DON’T STEAL A BASE IN A BLOWOUT
DON’T RUN UP THE SCORE LATE IN A GAME
This one I disagree with in the sense that you still need to play the game. Don’t purposefully lower your stats because the other team is having an off night. But at the same time, don’t try to manufacture runs if you don’t need them.
DON’T STEAL SIGNS (WITH OUTSIDE SOURCES)
Stealing a catcher or base coaches signs is an honored tradition in baseball. It’s why they run through so many. Because smart players will start to pick up on trends and figure out what’s coming. This is good strategy. Using cameras and telescopes to steal signs is bush league. A few years ago Chris Sale thought the Tiger’s were stealing his signs from the center field camera well. In truth he was tipping his pitches and having an off day. But there was some bad blood between the teams for the rest of the year.
DON’T SLIDE CLEATS UP
Ty Cobb was known for this. And hated for it. Even his staue in Comerica Park has him cleats up.
It’s very dangerous and can ruin player’s careers. This is the one that started the Red Sox – Orioles feud this year. Basically the Sox think Machado went in intentionally cleats up and spiked Pedroia. Machado says it wasn’t intentional and I’m inclined to believe him based on the videos I’ve seen.
RELIEVERS ONLY SEE FASTBALLS FROM RELIEVERS
This only applies in NL parks obviously, but if a reliever is left in to hit, typically something has gone wrong and the opposite reliever should not be throwing 0-2 sliders to drive up their strikeout numbers.
PITCHERS ARE TO REMAIN IN THE DUGOUT DURING THE INNING THEY ARE PULLED
PITCHERS SHOULD NEVER SHOW UP THEIR FIELDERS
These are both Rules about the pitcher having respect for his teammates. I like both these rules and they’re pretty much impossible to dispute.
So what happens when these Rules are broken? Well, that’s where issues arrise. Because the most common way for a team to retaliate for the slight that is breaking one of these Unwritten Rules is to hit a batter. And of course there are more Rules about that.
NEVER THROW AT A BATTER’S HEAD
This shouldn’t even have to be said. It’s dangerous and could end a career or even a life. And yet:
One of the first things you hear in that video is “You knew that was coming?” WHY IS THAT OKAY? That should not be okay and by continuing to pass down these inane, archaic rules we are teaching the next generations bad habits.
DON’T RUB THE SPOT WHERE THE BALL HIT YOU
Basically, don’t let the pitcher know he hurt you. Be strong. “Be a man.” Toxic masculinity at its finest. And sense you can’t rub the wound, most players yell at it until someone charges the mound and a fight breaks out.
ALWAYS RUN ONTO THE FIELD IF A FIGHT BREAKS OUT
The whole protect your teammates thing. And hopefully a deescalate the situation thing.
AN INTENTIONALLY HIT BATTER DESERVES ANOTHER
Or the “Eye for an Eye” Rule. Stupid. But it also means that these rules are a cycle that never end. Because when ever someone shows up the other team they get hit. And so then the other team hits back. And so on and so on.
There’s an old story about Ed Farmer taking exception to how long Wayne Gross took to round the bases after hitting a home run off him. He vowed to get him back the next time they faced another. That next time was 4 years later in a BP session while they were teammates. “What was that for!” Gross screamed. “That was for four years ago!” Farmer screamed back. “OK,” Gross said. “We’re even!” And this is treated as not only okay, but expected. “It’s a part of the game” and all that. And it’s reckless. And it’s not just limited to the majors. There was a story a few days ago about a high school player with the most majestic bat flip I’ve ever seen.
Turco GC HR just fair makes it 7-4. pic.twitter.com/k7RP3jrMvW
— David Housel (@CoachHousel) May 21, 2017
Now, you could reasonably argue that that’s excessive. (And that you shouldn’t bat flip if your bat makes a pinging sound, but that’s another argument all together). What you can’t reasonably argue is that the next two batters deserved to be hit by the pitcher intentionally. WHICH IS WHAT HAPPENED. You could potentially ruin a kid’s career before it starts, or mess him up for life. Which I have no time for, and frankly neither should anyone else.
So the next time you’re watching a game and you hear a commentator say something along the lines of “they had that coming,” odds are high the reason why is written on this page. And hopefully you have a better understanding as to how stupid the whole concept really is.