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Baseball’s actual unwritten rules uncovered

Apr 13, 2012, 10:35 AM EDT


Over at Deadspin, Erick Malinowski reveals baseball’s unwritten rules. Which, strangely enough, were written down in a 1986 issue of “Baseball Digest.”  I got “Baseball Digest” back then and I think they’re all still in my basement. Which, if my basement wasn’t a hellscape, I’d consider looking for right now.

Anyway, a lot of the unwritten rules mentioned there are just conventional baseball strategies. Others are artifacts of 1960s-80s baseball.  All of them are broken routinely these days.

Missing: the kinds of unwritten rules issues that come up now, which are all about respect and decorum, it seems. But then again, since Tony La Russa is retired and Chris Carpenter is on the disabled list, there isn’t anyone around who cares about that crap.

  1. spudchukar - Apr 13, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    I ain’t biten’. Still bitter over that whole collapse thing last year I see.

  2. Utley's Hair - Apr 13, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    Pretty crafty there, Craig. That link brings you right back to this very same post. Pretty crafty indeed.

    • Utley's Hair - Apr 13, 2012 at 10:52 AM

      Never mind…I clicked on the wrong tab, and I apparently opened up two of these. Is it Friday yet?

      • Old Gator - Apr 13, 2012 at 1:09 PM

        That’s okay. The rules were written in the Akashic Records anyway and your only real options for accessing them were either Ouija Scrabble or to ask Slobbering Ozzie how to read a splatter of goat guts.

  3. jkcalhoun - Apr 13, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    I saw two games this week that illustrate one of baseball’s current unwritten rules: once you put your closer in the game you must leave him in the game until he either gains or blows he save, and possibly until he loses the game, even if he has no command, is injured, or performs badly enough for you to relieve any other pitcher on your staff in any other circumstance, including your very best starters.

    The Giants won against the Rockies yesterday in spite of Bochy’s decision to leave Wilson in the game, while the Royals lost to Oakland Wednesday because Yost allowed Broxton to continue a search for the strike zone that concluded in the batter’s box instead, not once but twice.

    Closers: once they are anointed you gotta respect their roles, even if it costs you wins. So let it be unwritten, so let it be done.

    • APBA Guy - Apr 13, 2012 at 11:58 AM

      Add to that the Rangers Joe Nathan blowing a save against Seattle.

      Some of this is early in the season stuff, as managers seek answers to their question marks. Even though Boston and New York seem to play each game all out, other teams, like the Rangers, often take some time early in the season to clarify things like closer, 5th stater, etc.. However, the Rangers may want to re-think that because of the Angels, who, even though they are losing some games now, will gel and press the Rangers before the season is over.

      I think Yost is doing something different with Broxton. On the one hand, he’s got to instill a culture of winning with his young team. KC has spent decades losing. That isn’t easy to turn around. Having talent is a necessary first step. But part of winning is giving everybody confidence. Looking at Broxton, Yost and staff could be thinking that he’s close to being back in form, and the last thing they want to do is erode his confidence. So while KC needs to fight and scrap to win every game they can, it can’t be a place where one bad days sees a player on the bench or out of a job because they aren’t playing for the playoffs yet. Step at a time.

      • jkcalhoun - Apr 13, 2012 at 3:56 PM

        Looking at Broxton, Yost and staff could be thinking that he’s close to being back in form, and the last thing they want to do is erode his confidence.

        Naturally they would not want that. In fact that’s probably why they suppressed the impulse to sit Gordon down after he started the season 0-14.

        Oh, wait.

    • natstowngreg - Apr 13, 2012 at 2:08 PM

      And Brad Lidge blowing the save for the Nats. The bullpen was silent as Lidge blew a 2-run lead.

    • mgv38 - Apr 13, 2012 at 2:10 PM

      “So let it be unwritten, so let it be done.” Well played.

  4. qcubed3 - Apr 13, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    My favorite: 13. Never let the score influence the way you manage – even though the unwritten rules, which are now written, specifically dictate what to do if you are either ahead or behind.

    This rule reminds me of Ned Flanders’ quote after the hurricane: Why me, Lord? … I’ve done everything the Bible says! Even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! What more can I do? I… I… I feel like I’m coming apart here! I wanna yell out, but I just can’t dang-darn-diddly-darn-dang-ding-dong-diddly-darned do it! I just… I…

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 13, 2012 at 11:04 AM

      Almost had to give you a thumbs down for not including the relevant link in your comment:

    • 12strikes - Apr 13, 2012 at 11:25 AM

      Rats…. I was just going to say the same thing. #13 goes against about 8 other rules.

  5. bigharold - Apr 13, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    I guess Dallas Braden was wrong about that “get off my mound” malarkey.

    • xmatt0926x - Apr 13, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      I think Dallas Braden was actually more concerned with promoting “Dallas Braden” then he ever was worried about the mound. Only Logan Morrison has been more of an example of self-whoring in the past 5 years than Dallas Braden. His name recognition far outweighs his actual talent.

  6. jkcalhoun - Apr 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    There’s no need to hazard a visit to the basement, because the whole article is available here.

  7. Jonny 5 - Apr 13, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    “hit the ball where it’s pitched”

    Uhh really?

    I’d say half of these rules are just common sense.

    • Utley's Hair - Apr 13, 2012 at 11:29 AM

      But, really, how common is common sense?

      • stex52 - Apr 13, 2012 at 12:14 PM

        And, of course, a lot of the commonly perceived wisdom of the past was based on experience but not a hard-eyed analysis of the statistics. Note item #14, don’t play against the percentages, but which percentages? You could appeal to about three different analyses of any situation and get a different answer. That’s when common sense gets hard.

        I thought unwritten rules, though, applied more to things like “don’t show up the pitcher”, “don’t steal when far ahead” type of stuff that applied to gentlemanly behavior anyway.

      • Jonny 5 - Apr 13, 2012 at 12:16 PM

        Excellent point Hair.

  8. rooney24 - Apr 13, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    But, now that they were written down, they are no longer “unwritten” rules. That must be why they had to come up with more of them, like that you can’t bunt to try to break up a no hitter.

    In my eyes, if it isn’t written in the rule book, it is not a rule.

  9. jwbiii - Apr 13, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    These are more up to date:

  10. stlouis1baseball - Apr 13, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    We care Craig. In fact…YOU care. Live it. Own it. Embrace it.

  11. stlouis1baseball - Apr 13, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    My personal favorite: #21. Don’t bunt with a power hitter up. Really? You don’t say?

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