Rewriting the Unwritten Rules
The baseball season is off to a rather decent start. Some things have turned out as expected: Mike Trout is really good.
Angel Hernandez is not, various rookies are making an exciting impact, and a lot of players are adapting to their new surroundings. There really hasn’t been all that much happening that’s gotten under the skin of this Mudville lover of baseball. Well, except for anyone caring about violations of the old unwritten rules. Oh, and Mike Trout is really good,
Picture it: It’s April 12 and the Giants are playing the Padres.
These teams look destined to battle all season in what should be a pretty exciting National League West. The Giants jump out to a nine-run lead early and in the sixth inning, with the Giants still holding a nine-run lead, Mauricio Dubon bunts for a base hit. What on earth is up with that? That is a massive violation of the unwritten rules. Padres manager Bob Melvin starts yelling at anyone who’ll listen; Eric Hosmer, Padres first baseman, lectures Dubon; and Giants manager Gabe Kapler basically tells everyone to get over themselves.
Now, is it sportsmanlike to bunt for a hit in the sixth inning when you’re up nine? Probably not. The Giants have an excellent bullpen and despite a strong Padre lineup, they probably had the game pretty much sewn up.
But, stranger comeback wins have happened. According to gregstoll.com, a nine-run lead in the sixth carries a 99.3% win expectancy. Either Gabe Kapler focused on the .7% possibility that his Giants could blow that lead, or Dubon bunted on his own despite the unwritten rules. Or maybe, just maybe, Kapler recalled the (then) Cleveland Indians scratching back from a 12-run deficit in 2001 to beat the Mariners in 11 innings. Of course, he surely remembered the 1925 Philadelphia A’s rallying back from 12 down to beat those same Indians. Nothing is impossible.
The Giants had the unmitigated gall to keep trying to score runs. The nerve! Here’s my thought for Bob Melvin: Shut up and take your medicine. Either be better today or come back tomorrow and get a win (they lost 2-1). Maybe worry about your own team. The possible psychological advantage Kapler now created could potentially help the Giants against the Padres as the season goes along. At least they didn’t bunt to break up a no-hitter, heaven forbid.
Maybe it’s time to rewrite the unwritten rules. Maybe the game has changed regardless of whether my peers and I want to accept it. Perhaps the unwritten rules don’t apply in some ways anymore, especially if MLB is trying to grow interest in the game. After all, many of those rules suppress stats or the opportunity to pad stats, and yet players are paid based on that very thing.
Below appears a written list of the unwritten rules and how they could be changed.
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 6: Mauricio Dubon #1 of the San Francisco Giants rounds third base on his way to scoring during the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 6, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Batter-Focused Unwritten Rules:
- Do not bunt to break up a no-hitter – my team is down 1-0 in the seventh and hitless, I’m doing whatever I can to get on base. Sorry, this rule can be amended to say you don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter if your team is down more than12 runs.
- Do not swing on a 3–0 count when your team is comfortably ahead – Hey Fernando Tatis Jr.! Please read this one twice.
- Do not spend your time admiring a home run you hit – Let the kids play! Also let them take one in the ribs if the pitcher is so inclined in their next at bat.
- Do not steal bases if your team is ahead by a significant amount – this rule is outdated anyway as stealing is about as popular as Rob Manfred.
- Do not swing at the first pitch of the at-bat if the pitcher has allowed back-to-back home runs – seriously?
- Do not work the count if your team is winning or losing by a significant amount – remember the “don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter 12-run rule?” It also applies here.
- Do not rub the spot where you were hit by a pitch – it’s all about pace of play.
- Do not walk in front of a catcher or umpire when walking to the batter’s box – next up in MLB stadiums, sidewalks with sponsorship rights painted on them. Make sure to step on those.
- Do not stand on the dirt near home plate when the pitcher is warming up – this rule is irrelevant. We need to hear the walk-up music
- Do not assist a member of the opposing team – unless you’re giving them directions back to their dugout after they have made an out.
- Do not speak to a pitcher who’s in the process of throwing a no-hitter – but he’s sitting in my seat. That’s my seat and I want it. Maybe I can have a teammate pass him a note.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 29: Tylor Megill #38 of the New York Mets and Brandon Nimmo #9 of the New York Mets celebrates after the final out completing a combined no-hitter in the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on April 29, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Pitcher-Focused Unwritten Rules:
- A pitcher who’s removed from the game in the middle of an inning must stay in the dugout until the end of the inning – maybe his teammates don’t want him there because they’re now down by nine and the other team might bunt to run it up. (Actually, under some circumstances this is now a written rule.)
- A pitcher should not indicate displeasure if one of his fielders commits an error – this one stays. Be a good teammate. I’m sure I could find no recent examples of fielders throwing their gloves in disgust after the pitcher gave up a lead-blowing homer.
The only fan-focused item in this list is to not discuss a no-hitter that is currently in progress so I’m adding a few more.
- Do not propose marriage at a game – look, if you’re confident in your relationship you don’t need between 4,000 (Hellloooo Oakland!) and 50,000 people’s support to get a “yes” answer. (Also, the ego-crushing embarrassment of the possible “no” always looms.)
- Be creative with your signs – “Hit it Here” is not creative. Part two of that rule is if you hold up that sign in my line of sight while the game is being played I’m shredding that sucker with my bare hands and teeth.
- Heckle but don’t get personal – players expect the good-natured ribbing but they don’t have to expect comments about their families, personal lives, or relationships. Be better fans.
- Keep your feet off the back of my seat – the same rule that applies on flights.
- Specifically for Yankee fans – F*#k Altuve has really run its course.
Well, there you have it. The rules are no longer unwritten. They’re right here in black and white. Sadly there are even more; but as you probably are after reading this, I’m bored even thinking about them. Maybe next time I’ll write about umpire accuracy and call the article “I Miss Joe West.” Nah. That ain’t happening.
So, until next time, don’t step on the baseline coming on or off the field and please be thoughtful about breaking out the wave. That’s it from Mudville: for this edition… let’s have some fun. .