Pull up a chair while we talk about all things Blue Jays-related.
Healthy discussion is always encouraged!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Baseball's Top-6 Unwritten Rules

There are unwritten rules everywhere. They pervade almost every aspect of life in some way: at work, while driving, in line at the grocery store, and of course, in sports. And in the sporting world, I'd wager baseball has more unwritten rules than any other.

Initially, this was going to cover all of baseball's unwritten rules, but then I started researching, and frankly, I don't want to write (you definitely don't want to read) 50,000 words about arcane - and ultimately stupid - ungovernable rules that most people don't even know about. (For example: "Don't walk over the mound". Seriously, that's an unwritten rule. Sometimes baseball has to GTFO.)

Therefore, here are the top six unwritten rules that seem to pop up more often:

1) No bunts when working on a no-hitter
This is one rule that makes a modicum of sense, when thought of in the context of sportsmanship. But then again, we're talking professional sports, a multi-billion dollar industry where athletes are paid millions of dollars to win games, so should sportsmanship even be a consideration?

Anyways ... if a pitcher has thrown 7 or 8 no-hit innings, the theory is a player should have to work for their hits (although, is it really easier to bunt for a hit rather than swinging for one? Just ask Otis Nixon, Brett Butler, Juan Pierre or any National League pitcher if bunting is easy). The question about when this rule takes affect is the real quandary, and one that's wildly open for debate. Through the first 3 or 4 innings seem to be fair game because plenty of pitchers have no-hitters through the first third of a game; 5th and 6th innings are a grey area - bunt at your own peril - while 7th, 8th, and into the 9th are definite no-nos. (See what I did there?)

2) No cheering/admiring after hitting a home run
This rule seems to be going to the wayside, except when players on the wrong end of the homer decide they want a reason to cause a ruckus.

Just about every big-time home run hitter pimps an occasional tater, especially if it's a walkoff or an absolute bomb. But on rare occasions, a team may decide they dislike the level of celebration or the circumstance, at which point the offending party can expect some chin music in the near future.

The other side of the coin is when pitchers cheer, usually when they strike a player out, and the repercussions are pretty much the same, except it's not the pitcher to get hit, but a select member of the offence.

If players followed this rule with more regularity, though, we'd never get the amazing bat flips we've seen in recent years, and bad-ass bat flips are reason alone to watch baseball. So, everyone has permission to ignore this one, K? K!

3) "Spikes down"
This is the second unwritten rules that seem to make sense, mainly because it's a bit of a dick move to intentionally try to impale an opposing, defenseless player with tiny metal spikes, but that's none of my business.
Unless a player is trying to make a statement - like they just got beaned or maybe the second basemen slept with their wife - they should slide into bases with their spikes down. The reasoning should be pretty self-explanatory: spikes are sharp little bits of metal in the bottom of shoes, if a player slides with said spikes pointing out a couple feet off the ground, there's a good chance they'll hit the player and, while I'm no doctor, that would probably hurt. This isn't to say players can't still slide aggressively to break up double plays, but the spikes shouldn't be much higher than a defensive players' ankles.

4) Don't talk about no-hitters in progress
This rule applies primarily to the media and - some people think - to fans, who actually get mad at broadcasters when they mention the dreaded "NH" word during a broadcast. Why is that? Because they think what a TV person says can affect the outcome of a baseball game. Sounds reasonable.

Y'know what? If Vin frickin' Scully thinks it's stupid, it's stupid: Here's what Scully - the unquestionable gold-standard in sports broadcasting, said on the topic:
"It's insulting the listeners to make them think they're silly and superstitious enough to believe my telling them that a no-hitter is going will affect the game."
So what does this superstition give us long-suffering Blue Jays fans? We get Buck Martinez saying everything except the hyper-specific taboo word: "no-hitter". Instead, he tip-toes around it, saying things like "no hits and no runs", or "has yet to give up a hit", both of which are okay because "no" and "hitter" aren't said in succession. #Stupid

5) You hit our best player, we'll hit yours
This is just straight-up stupid. If a team's best player gets hit with a pitch - intentionally or not - the other team will occasionally throw at the opposing team's best players so they're "equal". Surely using a 100-mph projectile as a weapon during a sporting event is super-brilliant, right? Sports truly is a beacon for unseen levels of intelligence sometimes, isn't it?

(This was going to be a top-five list, but then I remembered the reason why I wrote this entry to begin with, sooooo ... BONUS UNWRITTEN RULE!)
6) Don't run up the score
If a team is up by a significant margin, say, 10 runs in the 9th inning? Here's a list of things they shouldn't do:
  • Attempt to steal a base
  • Try to stretch a single into a double (or double into triple, or triple into inside-the-park homer)
  • Bunt
And, once again, the inning and score creates a constant moving target so it's impossible to know when the rule is applicable. And given that they're unwritten, we can't even check the rule books. Darn.

The idea with this one is the game is all but over, so most players just want it to end so they can grab a beer, soak in an ice bath, or get home to family/bed (or whatever they do after a game). Why prolong things for a few extra minutes to - in essence - pad some stats? Well, to pad stats, obviously. No one is saying "get out on purpose", but more than a few players would be fine if the last couple at-bats went the same way as this Alfredo Griffin beauty*:

Final Thoughts
The underlying theme of these rules is ... stupidity. Unabashed stupidity. And rest assured, there are myriad other rules that haven't been mentioned because they steadily slide downhill from these lofty heights, all bathed in the glowing neon lights of the ubiquitous and nebulous "playing the game the right way".

All of the rules also go to show how baseball tries to take the fun out of the game. No cheering? Stop trying to score runs? Don't be proud of an important hit? Why? Sports are emotional, people are emotional, why not let emotions into the game? Here's a shocking #HotTake as I send you on your way: sports are supposed to be fun, why not let them be?

*Here's the explanation of what happened there (or so I've heard): it was late 1992, Jack Morris' first season with the Blue Jays. In the game shown in the video, Morris started in search of his 20th win of the season (which would have been the first time the Jays had a 20-game winner). Well, the Jays were winning, but it started raining. The players desperately wanted Morris to get his 20th win before the game got called due to the weather, so they tried to get the game to end as soon as possible, hence Alfredo Griffin going up and swinging at the first three pitches he saw. After the second pitch, the pitcher knew what was going on, that's why the third pitch was so bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment