Baseball’s five dumbest unwritten rules, ranked by their stupidity – SportingNews.com
Play hard, but not too hard. Be excited, but not too excited.
And, whatever you do, don’t do anything with your play that might hurt your opponents’ feelings. But hurting their bodies if you get upset? That’s OK.
These statements summarize much of the silly collection of alleged truths that make up baseball’s unwritten rules, a supposed code of conduct that binds the baseball universe together and brings harmony and balance to the game. Or something like that.
I know, I know. It’s about respect and tradition and being a gentleman’s sport and lots of other things that sound suspiciously like Nicholson trying to justify the Code Red. I get it. It’s still dumb.
So here are baseball’s five worst unwritten rules, ranked by their stupidity.
5. Don’t run up the score in a blowout
There’s no mercy rule in the big leagues. They play for 27 outs, no matter what. Yet, there is supposedly a point at which one team, when leading by a lot (whatever that means), should be expected to show mercy to the losing team because, well, losing by a lot (whatever that means) is embarrassing. And if there’s one thing baseball has no room for, it’s hurt feelings. Physical pain? Sure. But not hurt feelings.
Consider this 2014 incident between the A’s and Astros:
Don’t you dare try to get on base via a bunt, Jed Lowrie. Not when your team is up 7-0, even if it’s just the first inning. Even though we got you out, we’re still mad!
In Lowrie’s next at-bat, the Astros attempted to dole out some unwritten-rule justice.
Then, the next time the teams met, “justice” was served.
The argument is that trying to run up the score or pad personal stats during a blowout is a selfish approach to the game. And, as we all know, baseball players — average MLB salary: $4 million — have always been nothing if not selfless.
Getting on base by any legal method, at any point in the game, is fine. Never stop trying to win. Because, well, I’ll just leave this right here.
Hey, speaking of bunts …
4. Don’t bunt during a no-hitter
When a guy’s throwing a no-hitter, you should try to help him out. OK, that’s an extreme interpretation of this rule, but it’s pretty close. The idea is that a hitter should swing his way on base because, for some reason, a bunt is cheap and illegitimate. But batters are paid to get on base. Whatever it takes. Their job is not to approach plate appearances with reverence for a no-hitter. But that kind of surprise is uncalled for. It’s deception! Riiiight. Just like crafty pitch selection, a phantom double play or the hidden ball trick?
If a pitcher doesn’t like a guy bunting to break up a no-hitter, that pitcher should throw pitches that are hard to bunt. But what if that makes the pitch easier to hit? Or what if they aren’t strikes and he walks? Oh no! It’s almost like throwing a no-hitter should be hard. If it’s OK to lay down a bunt in the first inning when your team has no hits, it’s OK to lay one down in the ninth inning when your team has no hits.
3. Don’t ‘show up’ the other team
This is one of two rules on this list that is 100 percent subjective and is centered around an idea that really doesn’t exist. It’s also the rule that’s “violated” the most. It usually happens in one of two ways: 1) A guy hits a homer, or gets some other big hit, and flips his bat and/or reacts with too much enthusiasm, at least according to the other team’s enthusiasm-measuring instruments; or 2) A guy hits a homer and takes too long to watch it, takes too long to round the bases or says something to the other team on his way home.
The claim is that it amounts to taunting, which, of course, it doesn’t.
This happens to Carlos Gomez a lot.
Yasiel Puig, too.
Again, though, what’s the big deal? Are pitchers really in such a fragile emotional state? Other sports are much more tolerant of big celebratory moments. Think of a monster dunk in the NBA, most touchdown celebrations in the NFL or a goal celebration in the NHL. Spontaneous joy is just part of the game. But baseball is the game where, outside of a walkoff win or winning in the postseason, joy must be suppressed out of “respect” for the pitcher or the other team. This makes no sense.
A joyous reaction to a big hit is — shockingly — not about the pitcher. In 99.999 percent of cases it’s, “Hey, I hit that ball a long way! Cool!” and 0.001 percent of the time, “I’m picking on your because your pitch got hit a long way.” Pitchers, everyone who saw the home run already knows the batter got the better of you. It wasn’t suddenly revealed when he flipped his bat or watched the homer sail into the seats.
Don’t like batters “embarrassing” you after they hit homers? Solutions: 1) Make better pitches; 2) Get over it.
2. Retaliate, retaliate, retaliate!
The most common version of this is when one team plunks a batter, apparently on purpose, and the other team retaliates in the same way. Eye for an eye. Sometimes it’s because of ongoing bad blood, but other times it’s seemingly for no (good) reason. In either case, it can get out of hand.
It also happens when a team hits too well. (Yes, it’s wrong to do your job to the best of your ability at all times. Or so the rule goes). As in, say, a team hits back-to-back-to-back homers, then the pitcher hits the next batter to say “enough is enough.” Sometimes there doesn’t even have to be a home run involved, just a pitcher who feels it necessary to retaliate after a batter hits the ball too hard — even for an out.
Here’s a video that combines all of these into one helping of ridiculousness. #ThrowbackTuesday.
Rather than make better pitches to avoid the “embarrassment,” the solution is to cause physical pain to the other players for doing their jobs too well. Makes sense.
Just stop. The false machismo is ridiculous. The best retaliation is to win.
1. Respect the game (AKA: Play the game the right way)
This ranks as the worst of the unwritten rules because it’s the glue that holds together all other unwritten rules and the violations thereof. And it’s also completely subjective. It something that sounds serious and based in some sort of accepted reality, but the real reality is it’s meaningless. Baseball has no feelings. It’s can’t be disrespected. Further, players have given the word “disrespect” an incredibly broad meaning:
A guy watches his homer too long: disrespect.
A guy flips his bat: disrespect.
A guy swings too hard: disrespect.
Disrespect. You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.
In baseball, it’s just a shorter way to say, “My poor performance embarrasses me, but I’m going to make it your fault.”
As for playing “the right way,” what does that even mean? Apart from “don’t cheat” and “don’t play dirty” (yes, that’s subjective), is there any other “right” way to play? No, there’s not.
Why do we hate fun?
Speaking of “right,” should batters have the “right” to celebrate big in-game moments? Yes, they should. Should pitchers have the right to show spontaneous celebration after a big strikeout? Yes, they should.
Should this bother anyone? No, it shouldn’t. Baseball is a game. Games should be fun. Stop defining fun like a bunch of codgers.
Here’s the point of all this: These rules are not really about maintaining the nature of baseball or protecting the integrity of the game. They’re about 1) punishing players for spontaneous reactions to joyous moments that stemmed from an opponent’s mistakes; or 2) playing hard on every play, no matter the score, no matter the situation.
As these rules are unwritten, they should be subject to revision or deletion, depending on the mores of the era’s players. In other words, if enough players think bat flips are OK, they are.
It’s just odd that so many of the rules deal with human emotion, or rather the suppression of it. If a guy is happy he hit a homer and wants to show it, so what? Baseball is such a joyful game. Why pretend it’s not?
Some argue that the game has always had a stoic nature, that players 30, 40 or 50 years ago knew this and respected it, that today’s younger players play a version of baseball that would’ve seemed foreign just a few decades ago. Well, not really. Despite the claims of universal “respect” for the game back then, it’s, at best, selective memory and, at worst, revisionist history.
Bat flips wouldn’t be tolerated back then? Observe Tom Lawless of the Cardinals in the 1987 World Series. Lawless was an .080 hitter at this point with one — ONE — lifetime home run. Certainly someone on the Cardinals would know how to play the game right … right? Well …
There was no verbal sparing from the Twins, no call-out after the game, no retaliation. Notice the broadcasters (Al Michaels and Tim McCarver) simply found it amusing. If Lawless did that today, it would become a storyline and the takes would he hot.
Players didn’t celebrate excessively during games? Observe Kirk Gibson after his homer in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series that put the game away and sent the Tigers to the championship. He doesn’t exactly rush around the bases. Then when he crosses the plate, he turns the on-field celebration to 11. Would this be considered too far in 2015? Almost certainly yes.
Players kept emotion to themselves back then? Have we forgotten about Pascual Perez and Juan Berenguer? The late Perez was quite the colorful character — hopping, jerking his body, almost dancing on the mound after strikeouts. The animated act was part of his mojo and people just accepted it, even if they didn’t like it. Berenguer would do some sort of matador-like move after strikeouts. Again, just part of his game.
So, please, flip your bat. Pimp your homer. Score as many runs as you can. Express your joy for all to see. Because here’s a little secret: Most fans love it, at least when it’s their team doing it.
When it’s the other team? Well, we all need to learn to get over it.
As for players and other Keepers of the Code? Lighten up. Baseball is a game. Why not maximize the fun?