Unwritten Rules Need to be Written in Pencil….So We Can Constantly Edit Them

With Monday afternoon’s jabber-jawing between Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista and Chicago White Sox hurler Jon Danks during a spirited contest, it seems maybe a few Major League Baseball players have forgotten some of the”Unwritten Rules” of baseball. Some of the interpretations of these age-old visions of sage advice could have finally reached their expiration date, while other’s just seem to live out an eternal life without a hint of compromise. 

Everyone has heard their own stories or versions of these  unspoken “Codes” or “Unwritten Rules” while playing the game of baseball. They might have been passed down by your first Baseball Coach, your father or grandfather , or possibly a veteran player. While the code has been encircling the game for a long, long time, it is still a very taboo subject to be mentioned in or outside the clubhouse, much less divulged for the media or “outsiders”.

In fact, some MLB players are still uneasy to chat openly about them “on the record”. For if they talked about a set of parameters or even rules of conduct within the scope of baseball, (most admit there are a set of rules) it can be considered a blatant disrespect of the game and can be dealt with internally by team Kangaroo Courts or even worse.

This might be the real  life sports version of of Pandora’s Box that we all read about as young kids. The essence of this covert “code” were initially built on the game within the game, and not on the basic rules for playing the game. It can viewed as a system of checks and balances within the scope of the game using versions of  intimidation, retaliation and possible retribution chalk lines. 

Its main goal seems to be squarely centered on keeping the game on an even playing field, with no see-sawing of emotions or out of character action within the finely defined scope of the contest. But who is really right here? 

Who out of these two self-proclaimed “defenders of the game” was in the right during that Blue Jays/White Sox  staredown? Actually, they both seemed to have great cause for their vocal opinions to be the supreme guidance that day. The unwritten bible from baseball infant stage to probably 1950 was envisioned because of the low scoring contests and a more gentlemanly aspect of the game.  

My generation was taught from an early age to “never give up” or ” fight until the last out.”  While some youth baseball leagues do not even keep score, and everyone gets to play in the games. And that is fine at the grass roots level, but not in a professional environment such as Major League Baseball. So looking at the game in the retrospect of the past, then some of the rules seem a bit too restrictive and have no sort of wiggle room for sideways interpretation needed to be excavated. Where do we draw the line?

Where is it that we can make the needed changes or attempt to bring to light some of the outdated and antiquated rules that seem to beg for a extreme makeover. First let’s take a gander at some of these older established “U
nwritten Rules” and you can be your own judge, jury and executioner on if they are in fact in need of a little twisting or restructuring ( I am not putting the rules in any order).

 Unwritten Rule: Never bunt to break up a no-hitter. 

 If an opposing pitcher just has your number that day, you should honor that event with an element of class and respect, not try and throw it under the bus to establish your own agenda. I’ve never understood this unwritten rule. What if there is not a no-hitter and the score is 0-0 in the bottom of the 9th inning and the team at bat tries to bunt? Isn’t it considered a viable option for the team to try and win that contest at any cost, but then bunting in a no-hitter situation is thought of as a cheap way to end a no-hitter? 

Unwritten Rule : Do not show up the pitcher after hitting a home run.

I think that this rule is going to get more and more intense in the next few years. As relievers and starters  are adjusting to their own emotional outbursts on the mound, the actions of the batters have been deemed to stay consistent and not provoke a  retaliation or bean ball or even a well placed intentional pitch high and inside at another hitter.

When a batter hits a home run it is considered rude to jump up and down and celebrate or to watch and admire your homer.  Some say tossing your helmet either towards a dugout or give eye contact to the opposing team before crossing the plate in a “Walk-off” situation is also considered taboo. I  can understand this rule in the game, but if it is a game-winner, You have to consider the rush of emotions that will explode within a players as he rounds those bases. I think I could take a bit of a breather knowing it is a classic event and let the batter slide ..maybe.

Unwritten Rule: If the opposing pitcher hits one of your batters then you must retaliate and hit one of their batters.

Sometimes there is a reason for a pitcher to take offense to a hitter. Plucking a hitter has always been a part of the game. And most hitters know when it is going to happen to them in their career no matter if they are respectful or not. Most of the time, a hitter knows it is coming, but sometimes pitchers can take an isolated hitting incident from the far reaches of Leftfield and run the situation into a personal vendetta against a hitter. Basically saying that “the other team has insulted us now we’ll show them!”

That’s the ballplayer’s intuition, or sixth sense, taking over. And here is another thing: If a batter gets nailed with a 95 mph fastball on the fleshy part of his thigh, he had better not act like a baby and start rubbing it. No way. He should suck it up and be a man by simply “walking it off” on his way to first base. Period. A batter can never let a pitcher know that he hurt him, that would be a psychological advantage and a clear sign of weakness. 

So here I have listed a few of the “Unwritten Rules” that most of the fans of this great game might already know. There are pages of antiquated and outdated rules that do need to be readdressed and potentially modernized to support the current pace and future aspects of the game. But it is not my place to sport the revolution of the rules .

That has to be done within the confines of the sport itself.  Either by the members of the teams, their managers, the Major League umpires, or even the guy who lines and grade the turf and clay for each game at your ballpark. Isn’t it a grand notion to know that a set of rules ,or a simple code, still alive and in place to keep the respect and the admiration of the game within guideline for all of us to enjoy.


I think I’m going to have to get that book. I don’t believe in unwritten rules. Yeah, I think players should honour a pitcher’s feat, but you’re right in the 0-0 scenerio.

It’s a tough call.
—Mark Gauthier

Believe me, there is a huge amount of “Unwrittens” that I did not even scratch the surface on, but did not want to write a Dissertation or lengthy post.
From stealing in a lop-sided win, to trying to show-up the Umpire by starting to walk to first on a close pitch for Ball 4….So much else to dig into and think about….My head spins just thinking of it all.

You’ll enjoy this site RR.

Thanks Razzlegator.
I used to know a bushelful of the “Unwrittens”, but I guess they have morphed and completely 180 or more since I last hit the plate in college.
Most think they are common sense guidelines, but some of them are set in stone to keep the competitive and respect of the game fresh in the mind at all times.
With the guy proving themselves daily physically out on the field, some forget the mental aspects of the game can leave the mind after long road trips, late night excursions, and that always popular ” get-away” game in the afternoon.
Worst thing about the “Unwrittens” is their different interpretations from team to team at times.

Have you read Jason Turbow’s “The Baseball Codes?” He goes into a lot of background and stories about some (though not all, I’m sure) of the unwritten rules. Personally, I like knowing there’s an unwritten code of conduct in MLB. In most cases, it can add a sense of decorum that might otherwise be lost–for instance, when it comes to not rubbing home runs in your opponent’s face.

However, even a good thing can be taken too far. In the end, I think teams just needs to keep in mind that they’re there to win games–not give other teams no-hitters, not exercise personal vendettas. The unwritten code should be honored, but not at any expense.

I have not read that book, but it is now on my list of books to read this season. Most pitchers do not have a super ego that would take personal vendettas, but some guys seem to own some pitchers.
Take Rays RP/SP Andy Sonnanstine, his kryptonite was former Indians OF Ben Francisco. It always seemed like Francisco was in Sonny’s head, or right there with every pitch guessing correctly and bashing the heck out of it.
But Andy never threw at him because there was a level of respect there, even if it was painful.

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