Every fan of baseball knows that there are two sets of rules in the game: the ones written in the rule book, and the ones that are understood and passed down but never written. The second ones are simply known as the unwritten rules of baseball and they are more grey than they are black and white. Some of the rules are understood within the playing the game, while others deal with superstition, common courtesy and smart baseball.
First let’s take a look at some of these unwritten rules:
Don’t talk about a no-no or perfect game in progress
Don’t steal bases when you have a big lead or a big deficit
Don’t steal third with two outs
Eye for an eye: if your batter gets hit, your pitcher is hitting one of theirs
Don’t show up the pitcher on a homer
Don’t run over the mound and don’t step on the baselines when taking the field
Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter/perfect game
Take a strike when behind in your last at bat
Don’t swing on a 3-0 count
Don’t steal pitch signs from second or third base coach play signs
The center fielder and shortstop are in charge on the field
Do not throw a strike on 0-2 count
There are hundreds, some smaller than others, and a lot are centered around baseball strategy. Rules such as taking a strike when your team is down or not swinging on a 3-o count are to keep you from doing something brash and could put you at a disadvantage when really you’re the one in control. Others are more about superstition, rules such as not touching the pitcher’s mound or the baselines when taking the field or not talking about a perfect game that’s happening in the fifth inning out of fear you’ll jinx it. Those, as a former player who had half a dozen superstitions at any one time, I completely understand.
However, there are others that have to do with gamesmanship more than anything and those need to go. Here are the one’s I am talking about:
Don’t steal pitch signs or third base coach signs
Don’t show up the pitcher after hitting a dinger
Don’t bunt to break up a no hitter
Don’t steal bases when up by a lot of runs
Let me break this down for you.
Don’t steal pitch signs or third base coach signs
Fuck this. If you are tipping your pitches to me, or I can read your third base coach like the Sunday Times, I am absolutely going to do it. You think there is a reason that the third base coach doesn’t stand down the line and yell “BUNT!” to his batter? Yeah, because it puts them at a competitive disadvantage if the fielding team knows what’s coming. You think that the catcher likes putting down a confusing as all hell sequence of pitches to his pitcher with a runner on second base? Hell no. This is done because you need to hide as best you can what you’re doing, because if you don’t, you will probably lose, and nobody likes to lose. So my argument is this, if you can hide them, why can’t I steal them? If you are too stupid to hide them well, then practice. Tipping the pitches from second to your boy in the batter’s box, or telling your catcher when their runner is going to try and steal second= smart baseball, pure and simple.
Don’t show up the pitcher after hitting a homer
This is a tough one for me. I was a multi-position player almost my whole life, like most kids, until college where I really stuck with pitching. As a pitcher, I hated watching people celebrate hitting a homer or getting an RBI double, but you know what, I was more mad at myself for giving it up. Here’s the thing pitchers, if you don’t want the batter to flip his bat as he admires the 400 foot bomb he just hit off you, DON’T GIVE IT UP! I am so so so sick of hearing this debate about whether bat flips are good for the game. Showing up pitchers who made a bad pitch, to me, is good for them because if they don’t want to experience that ever again, they will make better pitches. Bat flips and some (minor) celebration, is what makes the game fun and exciting and we need more of it in the game if we want it to survive.
Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter or perfect game
First let me say this: if you are this guy, you are a huge douchebag, but god dammit if I don’t respect the hell out of you. Listen, nobody wants to be this guy, and nobody likes that guy, but at the end of the day, especially in the MLB, you are getting paid to win baseball games. If you are in a tight game and its getting into the later innings, you need to be trying to win. At the end of the day, in a baseball game, it’s you vs the pitcher, and all day the pitcher has gotten the better of you, but the guy in front of you walked and stole second, you step into the box with the tying run on second, you’re o and 2 on the day and your best fly ball hitter is in the box behind you. Guess what, you bet your ass you’re bunting if that third baseman is back. It’s a real dick move, but at the end of the day you want to win as bad as the pitcher, so if you gotta bunt for a hit to make something happen, you better be laying it down.
Don’t steal bases when you have a big lead
This one does start when you are a kid in little league, when the coaches are friends, there are mercy rules and the parents are just hoping for a quick sixth inning so they can go home and drink a beer. But as you get older, this one absolutely goes out the window. In the major leagues, there is no such thing as a mercy rule and leads can shrink faster than one can imagine. If you can run and there is an opportunity to swipe a bag, you have to take it. You don’t get brownie points for not blowing a team out, in fact, you’re better off giving your closer the night off. There is absolutely no reason to think that you make the other team look bad by stealing. Like the bat flips, if they don’t want it to happen, don’t let it. If you don’t want someone stealing on you, throw them out. Don’t cry about them trying to run up the score. Losing by 1 or 100 doesn’t matter, it’s a big fat ‘L’ in the loss column.
The bottom line is this, yes these rules are there to help protect the integrity of the game, but many of them are just straight up dated and need to go. Baseball is on the verge of dying. Kids aren’t participating as much as they used to, there is an influx of international players that are a large part of the MLB and they are bringing a new style of baseball with them. Baseball with flair. If you want more kids to play a “slower” sport like baseball, then you need to make it more fun. If letting them steal bases, swing and bunt when they please and give their best bat toss a try when they hit a bomb, then let them. Whatever this sport needs to do to survive, it should do. Get rid of your grandpa’s rules, he isn’t playing the game anymore. Let the kids play; the way they want to play.
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