Baseball’s ‘Unwritten’ Rules Strike Again, Even When They Aren’t Violated
I am a baseball guy.
Always have been.
Always will be.
That's why I am one of the few people actually watching this year's World Series between the Royals and Giants (even though TV ratings are at an all-time low again).
I don't have dog in the hunt in this series (I'm an Angels fan), but I do enjoy the excitement of a well-played game and thought Kansas City's five-run bottom of the fifth in Game Two was post season drama at its' best.
That is until Hunter Strickland decided to start acting like a baby.
After giving up a home run to Omar Infante (the fifth Strickland has allowed in this post season so far), the San Francisco reliever began jawing with Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who was on base when Infante went deep over the left field wall.
No one (including Perez) could figure out what the fuss was all about, but the incident brought the entire Royals team out of the dugout, and nearly started a brawl.
Almost immediately, TV commentators, bloggers, and fans on social media began a discussion of one of my least favorite parts of my favorite game: baseball's 'unwritten' rules.
Did Infante take too long to admire his home run?
Did he take too long to round the bases?
Did Perez celebrate too much when he doubled earlier in the previous at bat?
Was he staring at Strickland from second base?
It turns out, none of that contributed to Strickland blowing a gasket.
So what was it?
It simply a case of the reliever yelling at himself for yet another playoff gopher ball, which Perez mistook for something being shouted at him.
After the game, Strickland tired to clarify:
My emotions got to me. Miscommunication between us I guess. I was frustrated with myself mostly. I let the team down. It was miscommunication. No hard feelings toward anyone. I want to handle it a little bit better. I was pretty frustrated with myself. I don’t know if he thought I was yelling at him. No, I was just frustrated with myself. I don’t speak Spanish so I don’t know what he said.
Is that actually what happened? Some people are skeptical.
But the immediate rush to the 'unwritten' rule book is yet another reason why baseball is losing popularity across the country.
If guys want to celebrate a big moment, let 'em. If you're a pitcher and you don't like it, here's an idea: get 'em out next time. That will shut 'em up!
If you're a hitter and don't like a pitcher fist pumping when he strikes you out, get a hit next time.
Can you imagine players in the NFL (which IS the most popular game in the land these days) not celebrating a fumble recovery, sack, interception, touchdown run/catch, or field goal?
Baseball players need to grow up and realize that celebrating an accomplishment is not meant as a sign of disrespect to another player.
What's next? Asking fans not to cheer a three-run homer because it might hurt a pitcher's feelings?
Last year, I read a great book, 'The Baseball Codes - Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America's Pastime' by Jason Turbow with Michael Duca, that goes in depth on the culture of the game and the sometimes silly incidents that still happen today because of these archaic codes. It's a great read for anyone who considers themselves to be a baseball fanatic.
So just how silly are we talking here? Here are 10 of baseball's more obscure unwritten rules:
1. Don't swing at the first pitch after back-to-back home runs
2. Don't work count when your team is up or down by a lot
3. When hit by a pitch, don't rub the mark.
4. Don't stand on the dirt cutout at home plate while a pitcher is warming up
5. Don't walk in front of a catcher or umpire when getting into batter's box
6. Don't help the opposition make a play (bracing them from falling into the dugout, etc.)
7. Relievers take it easy when facing other relievers
8. Follow the umpire's Code when addressing them on the field
9. Pitchers stay in the dugout at least until the end of the inning in which they get pulled
10. Pitchers never show up their fielders
And that is a very, very partial list.
I know baseball will be working very hard this off season at improving the game by speeding up play, but someone needs to go much deeper than than and change the culture that creates these 'unwritten' rules.
That's something I would cheer for, and I don't care whose feelings I hurt!