Many sports have some kind of guidelines about etiquette. Some of these are expressed as actual rules, whereas otherwise are just understood aspects of the game. In golf, you shouldn’t step in someone’s putting line. In football, you shouldn’t call out fake signals to confuse the offensive line.
But perhaps no sport is more famous for its unknown rules than baseball. This sacrosanct set of rules has been known to cause on-field brawls and stoked the flames of rivalries for generations.
Baseball’s written rules cause enough trouble, especially when they’re not applied correctly. The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates recently ran afoul of that in their series in Pittsburgh. First it was a slide into home by Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo that the Pirates deemed illegal. Then Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove seemingly retaliated with his hard slide into second, which cleared both benches. In both cases, there was controversy over how Major League Baseball reviewed the plays, both times finding no wrongdoing.
Baseball’s unwritten rules get even more abstract. In April, Baltimore Orioles catcher Chance Sisco drew the ire of Minnesota Twins infielder Brian Dozier by bunting for a hit in the bottom of the ninth. One of baseball’s most enduring unwritten rules is that you don’t bunt for the first hit of the game. But Twins starter Jose Berrios had already allowed a hit — to Sisco, earlier in the game. Dozier’s anger seemed to stretch the already dubious unwritten rulebook into the absurd.
Then there are the debates on bat flips, who threw at who, if someone was stealing signs, and so on and so on.
Despite the frustration or confusion, these rules have been around forever. They’re passed down from generation to generation. Does history matter? Should they be gotten rid of? How would you even do it if you wanted to?
What’s your take?
Take 1: The only rules are written rules
You can’t stop players from taking offense to something when they feel slighted. That said, nobody should feel compelled to act based on some conventional wisdom. It can get players hurt. If someone doesn’t know “the rules,” that could result in a player getting hit by the pitch or starting a fight they never meant to start. In fact, these rules are actually anti-competitive. Take the Twins-Orioles example. This “rule” is basically saying this player shouldn’t do something that could help his team win. Is that really something that should be in the spirit of the game?
Take 2: Baseball’s unwritten rules make it special
Baseball’s defining characteristic is its history. No major North American sport is as unchanged over the years as baseball, and the players’ etiquette and respect for the game have helped with that. The goal of these rules is fair play and respect. Isn’t that something that should be promoted? Learning the rules is part of being a Major League Baseball player. Not everything is addressed in the official written rulebook. The game’s players have filled in the gap with their own code.
So should baseball’s unwritten rules become a thing of the past? Or are they a vital part of players self-policing the game? Have your say in the comments below.
From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier
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