They’re called the “unwritten rules” of baseball.
And they’ve been a hot topic this season, particularly after one Sunday’s game between the Tigers and Angels, when Erick Aybar bunted in an attempt to break up Justin Verlander’s no-hit bid in the eighth inning of a three-run game.
In that same game, Carlos Guillen homered off Jered Weaver, flipped the bat and stared down the Angels hurler nearly the entire way to first base.
In response to Guillen’s showboat, Weaver threw above the head of the Tigers’ next batter, prompting his ejection, a war of words, and 24 hours of nauseating talk about the “unwritten rules” of baseball.
But why does everyone call these rules “unwritten.” Is it because most of this banter takes place on sports talk radio and TV, where people don’t know how to write? Or do they not know the game?
Well, let’s put an end to this right now. I wasn’t any good, but I played ball for 15 years as a middle infielder and pitcher before flaming out in college. And I wrote about the game professionally for another 10 years (in print, where we write things down on paper) before joining the blogosphere full time a few years back. And here are my top five “unwritten rules of baseball,” written down, for all the hacks over the airwaves who couldn’t write or play the game.
1.0 Don’t throw at a batter’s earhole … unless of course you were shown up by not one, but two sluggers who lollygagged around the bases and did everything but make fun of your mamma along the way.
It’s OK to plunk a batter on the leg, or maybe an elbow if they’re crowding the plate. The head is off limits, particularly with a fastball. But all bets are off after a carnival act like Guillen’s trip down to first base, where he appeared to blow Weaver a kiss at one point. If Jim Leyland doesn’t kick his tail first, you can bet Guillen’s going to hear a little chin music the next time to two teams meet up. All of which leads to second part of our rule …
1.1 Don’t disrespect the pitcher aiming at your earhole, or his molehill, or the dirt cutout around his pearly white plate during warm-ups for that matter. If you do, the pitcher’s grandmother will tell you to “stick it,” that pitcher will go on to throw a perfect game, and his gramma will again drop some 1940s smack talk about you on national TV.
2.0 Don’t bunt to break up a no hitter, even in a 3-run game. Or you’ll be called a “bush-league” player. (Definition: bush-league (boosh-leeg) adj., 1. Amateur in nature. 2. Of unprofessional quality. 3. Something seen only in the “bushes” or “sticks” where minor league baseball, and Dallas Braden, can usually be found.)
3.0 Don’t call out your horrendous fielders, by kicking the dirt, putting your hands on your hips, or shaking your head when they make an error or ill-advised play. If you do, your mamma will name you something terrible like, I don’t know, Gaylord.
4.0 Don’t spit on the umpire, or another player. Spitting everywhere else in the park is encouraged. You can even spit on all the equipment, except the ball – unless your name is Gaylord. With a name like that, spitballs are allowed. Well, Roberto Alomar was allowed to spit freely, too. It’s not Robbie’s fault umpire John Hirschbeck’s face got in the way a few years back. That whole spitting incident was before Twitter anyway, so Alomar was welcomed into the Hall of Fame with open arms this summer.
5.0 Don’t be a d-bag on the bags. If you’re running the bases, there are a number of unwritten rules you should abide by. Don’t steal a base when you’re up big. Never take out a player unnecessarily, and think twice before taking out star catchers. Grammas and GMs take this sort of thing seriously in the Bay Area. And never, ever call out “I got it” as you run past a player preparing to glove a fly ball. Unless, of course, you’re A-Rod, and it’s a foregone conclusion you’re a d-bag.
Seem like a lot to remember? It’s not if you’ve been playing the game the past 20-30 years of your life like many of these guys have. This stuff in engrained like the ash in their bats, so when an unwritten rule is broken, everyone in the dugout knows it, and there will be repercussions.
In the end, it boils down to the golden rule of the diamond: Don’t disrespect the game. If you respect the game, and the players and fans surrounding it, you’ll be OK 99% of the time.
The other 1% of the time, you’ll be considered a Gaylord, Bush Supporter, or an A-Rod, and people will be driving around with bumper stickers cursing your name … in written form of all things.