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Mike Quade alleges a violation of The Unwritten Rules

Apr 25, 2011, 11:00 AM EDT

New York Mets v Chicago Cubs Getty Images

This is from Friday night, but it’s well worth revisiting.

Seems that for the second time this year, Mike Quade was unhappy when a Cubs’ opponent tried to steal a base with a big lead. This time it was Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, who attempted to steal with an 8-1 lead in the fifth inning.  Earlier this year Quade was angry when Brewers’ outfielder Carlos Gomez stole a base with a 6-0 lead late in a game.  Quade’s comment: “I probably have to get a copy of the Milwaukee and the Los Angeles unwritten rules books … There might be a Los Angeles and Milwaukee version I need to read.”

Oy vey.  Look: I’ll give you your unwritten rules when it comes to matters of etiquette, ethics and professional courtesy like, say, refraining from flipping bats and showboating after a home run.  Or batters looking back at the catcher to steal signs. Or even the rules governing beanball wars, even if I think beanball wars are themselves illegitimate.

But please, spare me the stuff about stealing bases when you have a lead.  At no time in any game should any perfectly legitimate strategy be considered out-of-bounds. Neither 8-1 nor 6-0 leads are insurmountable. At no time does the losing team cease to use all of the weapons it has at its disposal, so neither should the team with the lead.

But there’s a philosophical point to be made along with the tactical one. Animating Quade’s thinking here is that, hey, the game is over for all practical purposes, so stop trying to win. The next logical step to that is to have Quade throw in the towel and take his losing team off the field. After all, that would be courteous too!  It would save a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the pitchers!  It wouldn’t, if you believe Quade, make any difference in the outcome!  If the team with the lead is expected to stop trying at some point, why doesn’t the manager of the losing team make it easier for them to do so by clearly noting the exact moment they plan to quit, and then literally quit. If Quade’s not going to do that — and I’m guessing he won’t — he shouldn’t have a problem with Don Mattingly still trying to score runs.

This isn’t Little League. Don’t want A.J. Ellis stealing bases on you, Mike? Have your pitchers hold his butt on the bag, OK?

  1. Lukehart80 - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    Of course, Mattingly wound up apologizing for the incident, so I don’t think this unwritten rule is going away anytime soon. Ah, tradition…

  2. jimbo1949 - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    Let’s just supply him with a multi-use towel: after he’s done wiping his tears he can throw it out on the field and pull his team off.

  3. nps6724 - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Next year I hope MLB has a new unwritten rule to the book: when up by 10, each hitter may only advance one base at a time regardless of where the ball is hit. This will keep the opposing team’s feelings intact.

  4. 78mu - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    You have a team that hasn’t won a WS in over 100 years and you are whining about this? Tell your team to toughen up and quit giving teams a big lead by the fifth inning. Maybe the Cubs should be the one stealing bases when they are up big by the middle of the game.

    If this is Quade’s attitude now, what will he be whining about in August when the Cubs are 13 games out?

  5. BC - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    A) It was the fifth inning, not the ninth inning. And it was 8-1, not 15-1.
    B) If you don’t want him to steal the base, throw the guy out. And stop your whining.
    C) And if you’re that mad, have your pitcher plunk the batter in the wallet.
    I mean really Quade… How many o’s are there in stooooooooooooooooooopid?

    • lbehrendt - Apr 25, 2011 at 12:29 PM

      For the record, the Cubs DID throw the guy out. The guy (A.J. Ellis, I think) was the Dodgers’ catcher. The third base coach mistakenly gave the steal sign. I agree with Craig and the commenters, but thought I should mention that the Cubs chances to win actually improved a little bit when Ellis was thrown out at second.

      • BC - Apr 25, 2011 at 12:41 PM

        Good. Then they need to stop their whining. Or like I said, if they feel the need, plunk the next batter in the wallet.

  6. largebill - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    No clock, right? If there is no clock then there is no lead that is actually truly safe. If no lead is safe then there is no attempt to add to a lead that is morally wrong.

  7. catsmeat - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Quade is complaining about the same Dodgers who scored 8 runs the next day and lost, right?

  8. micker716 - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    New unwritten rule submission: Don’t whine to the media when you believe your opponent violates an unwritten rule. Take care of business on the field or face to face.

  9. a125125125 - Apr 25, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Quade’s other unwritten rules:

    “No fair beating teams that haven’t won a World Series since the Van Buren administration.”

    “No fair beating teams with a hairless manager.”

    “No fair beating home teams in stadiums that were built as part of reconstruction after the Civil War.”

  10. O.Handwasher - Apr 25, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Jason Turbow covered this one over at The Baseball Codes (also a terrific book, BTW):

    http://thebaseballcodes.com/2011/04/20/brewers-late-baserunning-renews-questions-about-how-much-is-too-much/

    • Jason Turbow - Apr 25, 2011 at 4:23 PM

      Now that I’ve been dropped as a reference in this discussion, it seems reasonable to chime in.

      Craig, I can’t take umbrage with your philosophy that leads such as 6-0 and 8-1 are anything but bulletproof. Occasionally a manager who plays as if his team’s lead is insurmountable (doing things like failing to hold opposing runners on base, or keeping his own runners from advancing two bases on a single) will pay for his strategy with a loss.

      One great thing about baseball’s Code is that there are legitimate arguments to be made about it, pro and con. You just touched on the con. Without getting into too many specifics, here is a brief defense of the other side.

      Baseball’s leisurely pace offers copious time for reflection between plays. This is part of its beauty. It also allows players to send messages through their actions. A stolen base doesn’t have to mean anything beyond a runner advancing, but it can; look no further than Nyjer Morgan’s two steals against the Marlins last year, which precipitated a brawl. Similar sentiments can be expressed through inside fastballs, hard tags and home run trots.

      Because so many messages can be sent through actions on a diamond, the concept of respect—for one’s opponent, for one’s teammates and for the game itself—is paramount. With the understanding that there is plenty of gray area about which to argue, enforcement of the unwritten rules almost inevitably keeps players in line.

      A baseball version of LeBron James, for example, could never get away with going back to Cleveland and pulling his chalk-in-the-air routine; opposing pitchers wouldn’t allow it to happen more than once. This seems to fall into what you label “professional courtesy,” and it’s entirely valid.

      Having devoted an undue amount of attention to the topic over recent years, however, I’d take things a step further and posit that virtually every section of the Code can be labeled “professional courtesy.” Nobody likes to be shown up during a blowout, partly because they know that the following day the score can go lopsided in the opposite direction. We can argue about what constitutes a blowout and when in the game to pay attention to it, but the notion of on-field courtesy is unassailable, at least to those who play the game.

      That’s the way of baseball, one thing that makes it different—and better—than any other sport.

      Thanks for the great ongoing coverage.

  11. marshmallowsnake - Apr 25, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    If I were managing the cubs, then I would be trying to blame everyone else too…

  12. Jonny 5 - Apr 25, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    I don’t think I have ever agreed more to anything written. Ever. Man, The Cubs pick Quade over Ryne Sandberg huh? Well everyone makes mistakes, and i’m just glad it was Philly to take advantage and hire him. I guess it’s fair though since Philly basically gave away a HOF 2nd baseman for a hill of beans when Ryne was young.

    Here, you compare.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/phillies/20110424_Hall_of_Famer_still_willing_to_pay_his_dues.html

    keep the volume low, crappy ads.

  13. nyy0202 - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:19 PM

    I have played ball for over 30 years and have seen many teams lose because they didn’t keep playing hard. Up by 1 or 25 runs show respect for the game play until the game is over!

  14. umrguy42 - Apr 25, 2011 at 8:20 PM

    I realize the quote is from football, but when “Mad Mike” Martz was still coaching the Rams (back when they were still good) and was accused of running up the score by the opposing coach, his response was (in essence) “I thought the point was to win the game”. Yes, professional courtesy is nice, but again – 5th inning. That’s a lot of time for somebody to come back, even if the odds aren’t in their favor.

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