October 29, 2020

MLB’s Unwritten Rules

Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden continues to talk about A-Rod running over the mound during a game he was pitching back on April 22nd. Braden is so pissed about the incident that he made a reference to the likelihood of a fight with A-Rod during their next series July 5th-7th. Most people in society don’t see A-Rod’s actions as an issue at all, but Braden feels it directly broke one of the unwritten rules of baseball thus the reason for his deep rooted anger.

From time to time you hear a reference to the unwritten rules of baseball, but do you have any clue what they are all about it? Well, here are 10 of baseball’s more obscure unwritten rules for your reading pleasure:

1. Don’t swing at the first pitch after back-to-back home runs
This is a matter of courtesy, respect for a pitcher who is clearly struggling, offering just a sliver of daylight with which to regain his senses. When Yankees rookie Chase Wright gave up back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers against Boston in 2007, the guys who hit numbers three and four — Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek — each watched a pitch before taking a cut.

“Let him know, okay, I’m not swinging,” said Hal McRae. “I know you’re out there trying to do a job, and I have to do a job — but you’ve just given up back-to-back home runs. So I take the first pitch.”

2. Don’t work the count when your team is up or down by a lot
This is true for both pitchers and hitters. Nobody wants to see the fifth guy on a bullpen’s depth chart nibbling on the corners in the late innings of a blowout. Similarly, hitters are expected to swing at anything close. It’s an effort to quickly and efficiently end a lopsided contest.

3. When hit by a pitch, don’t rub the mark.
This one is all about intimidation or lack thereof. It’s a hitter’s way of telling the pitcher that his best shot — intentional or otherwise —didn’t hurt. Pete Rose made a point of sprinting to first base after being hit, to ensure that he stripped all satisfaction from the pitcher.

“It’s a macho thing, like a fighter who gets clocked in the mouth and shakes his head like it didn’t hurt him,” said Rich Donnelly. “But believe me, it hurts.”

Lou Brock was the only hitter Sandy Koufax ever threw at intentionally, and despite the fact that his shoulder was fractured by the pitch, forcing him from the game, never once did he rub the spot. The Washington Post once reported that Don Baylor “was hit by 267 pitches yet never rubbed, even once. Of course, several of the balls had to be hospitalized.”

4. Don’t stand on the dirt cutout at home plate while a pitcher is warming up
Just as Braden dismissed A-Rod’s attempt to enter his sacred space, the area around the plate is meant only for the hitter, and then only when it’s time for him to hit. Should a pitcher be getting loose before an at-bat, it’s strictly off-limits. “I stay as far away from the cutout as I can when the pitcher is warming up,” said Ken Griffey “If they could, they should put the on-deck circle in left field to make me happy. I don’t want anything to do with messing with the pitcher when he’s getting ready.”

5. Don’t walk in front of a catcher or umpire when getting into batter’s box
This is respect, pure and simple. If the line from your dugout to the batter’s box takes you between the pitcher and the catcher, walk around. Like the A-Rod incident, you’ll likely never hear about this one until a player is called out for brazenly violating it.

6. Don’t help the opposition make a play (bracing them from falling into the dugout, etc.)
In 1998, Dodgers left fielder Matt Luke braced Arizona’s Andy Fox as the third baseman staggered into the Los Angeles dugout while chasing a pop fly. He knew the Code, but he had also been Fox’s roommate in multiple levels of the Yankees’ minor-league system, and was so tight with him that Fox had served as an usher in his wedding. Even then, he had his limits. “I waited until he made the play,” said Luke in the Riverside Press Enterprise. “I wanted to prevent an injury. We’re competing out there, and not for one second do I want to help the opposition.”

7. Relievers take it easy when facing other relievers
The caveat to this piece of the Code is that for the most part, relievers don’t step to the plate in close games, which gives their counterparts on the opposing team some leeway in their approach. “You’d probably give them all fastballs,” said Dave LaRoche. “It was just a professional courtesy type of thing. Here it is — I’ll give you a chance to hit it if you can.”

8. Follow the umpire’s Code when addressing them on the field.
This is a book in itself. How one talks to umpires goes a long way toward getting favorable calls, or at least not getting thrown out of a game. (“That call was horse—-” is generally acceptable; “You’re horse—-” is never acceptable.) Some savvy teams go so far as to post headshots and bios in the clubhouse for the umps working that day’s game, so that players can butter them up a bit.

Still, there are ways to express anger without getting tossed. After umpire Shag Crawford called Dick Groat out on a play at second base, Groat told him, “You’re still the second best umpire in the league.” Then he added that the other 19 umpires were tied for first.

9. Pitchers stay in the dugout at least until the end of the inning in which they get pulled
This is purely about respect for one’s teammates. “I know you’re having a tough day, but give your teammates the respect to stay out here until the end of the inning,” said Sean Casey. “You don’t want to show that you think the game’s already lost.”

10. Pitchers never show up their fielders
This doesn’t happen frequently, but when it does, players notice. One pitcher who made a habit of excessive body language on the mound was Gaylord Perry, who would put his hands on his hips and stare down fielders who made errors behind him.

Rules provided by an article from Jason Turbow Yahoo Sports – The ‘Code’

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