Baseball Etiquette: The Book of Unwritten Rules

Every sport has their own set of unwritten rules the majority of players abide by, rules that fans are seemingly always at a crossroads with when it comes to understanding and accepting them as sports consumers. From padding stats in virtually decided basketball game, to rookie hazing football, and things such as “turtling” in hockey… something Red Wings fans are all too familiar with.

But when it comes to baseball, they take the cake with unwritten rules. With baseball players arguably being the most superstitious among all sports athletes, the rules become that much more heightened. Here are just a few extremely lesser known ones.

1. When a pitcher is warming up, don’t step in the batter’s box. For that matter, just go back to the on-deck circle.
2. When a batter gets hit by a pitch, don’t rub it. Don’t show the pitcher he’s tougher. As they say, “Wear it, kid.”
3. When a pitcher is pulled, whether at the end of an inning or during an inning, stay in the dugout. It’s a sign of respect towards your teammates, even if you did just get teed off on.
4. When a pitcher has an 0-2 count, don’t throw a strike for the next one or two pitches. This is really more common sense, because a pitcher has set himself up beautifully, he can paint the corners.

Here are some of the best and most evident unwritten rules in baseball. These are truly the coup de grâce if you will.

RETALIATION IS ENCOURAGED

Here is a rule that is not followed as much these days, but definitely was in the past and should be today.

Did the pitch slip out of his hands? Did he intentionally throw inside and try to plunk him? Doesn’t matter. When a batter is hit by an opposing pitcher, expect some sort of retaliation. It really is all about setting an even playing field. You never want to intentionally injure players obviously, but you have to send a message.

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This unwritten rule is often displayed more often during rivalries, when tempers flare throughout a series, or when big name, polarizing figures are showcased. Here is a game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, where former Yankees shortstop great Derek Jeter is plunked by a pitched, tempers flare a little bit, and New York retaliates in the following half of the inning, prompting the benches to clear.

NO STEALING WITH A BIG LEAD

We’ve all seen those games. Your team is up 10-0 and you can go ahead and chalk it up as a win. Conversely, you’ve seen your team on the losing side of that score and the only thing that comes to mind is, “Well, we’ll just throw that game out.”

Take this example between the Rays and the Red Sox. Yunel Escobar for Tampa steals third base with a five-run lead, uncontested without a throw. Thus it is ruled defensive indifference. Escobar then starts hearing it from the Red Sox dugout, most notably catcher David Ross. Things escalate quickly and the benches empty.

To Boston, Escobar is merely trying to pad his own stats and comes off as selfish. For the stealing party like Escobar, he’s still just giving it his all, knowing anything can happen and the game is not over until it is truly over.

You be the judge.

TALKING NO-NO’S IS A NO-NO

This unwritten rule is a strongly superstitious based one that can make the guilty party look real bad if they mess it up. That is talking about a no-hitter when one is going on.

We’ve all seen it, pitchers are cruising through an entire game. So much so, they are practically……well, unhittable. This doesn’t apply just to the players, but the coaches, the fans in the stands, and even the announcers on TV and radio. Never, ever, talk about a possible no-hitter when a pitcher has not given up a hit.

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Usually, once a game hits the 5th inning, if a pitcher has not given up a base hit yet, that is a safe time to zip it and keep playing. The pitchers know the drill too because the further the game goes on, the more “alone” they become. Less and less of their teammates accompany them on the bench because they don’t want to break the pitcher’s vibe or distract him and have him mess it up. Some pitchers who have thrown no-nos or come close to throwing one have actually come out and said they’d prefer if their teammates didn’t give them the silent treatment because it can make the entire situation more awkward. Guess it depends on the pitcher, but the rule still applies!

ACT LIKE YOU’VE BEEN IN THE SHOW

There’s a certain traditional way of carrying yourself in baseball, or really any sport for that matter. They say when you finally make it to the highest level in any sport to act like you have been a ten-year veteran. It’s often debated on whether or not this is a truly accepted rule, or it takes away from the fun and emotion of sports.

Take these two situations for example, oddly enough both involving the Braves. Two players – Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez and late Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez hit rather majestic tank shots out of the yard, and may or may not have taken an extra second to appreciate their power. Now here’s where the debate comes in.

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One constant for certain is that the home run hitters are admiring their shots. Opposing pitchers and teams think it goes up an extra notch and that they are showing up the pitcher they just teed off on. It’s indeed a fine line to walk, and unfortunately, it can end in the manner like these two occurrences did.

BUNTING DURING A NO-HITTER

Here is one that can be more scrutinized depending on how far into the game it is.

It is incredibly frowned upon to have the first hit for any team deep into the game be a bunt. It is often viewed as a cop out. The further along the game is, the worse the situation can become.

Here is an example from Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown. In a game on the road against the Padres, Brown was up to bat in the 5th inning vs. Padres starter Andrew Cashner, who had not given up a hit yet. The Padres infield put on a defensive shift on Brown, hoping he would pull the ball. Instead, the speedy Brown took advantage and decided to bunt the ball 100 ft. down the 3rd baseline for probably the easiest single of his career. To say that Cashner and the Padres faithful were upset would be an understatement.

MORE HONORABLE MENTIONS

-Power hitters shouldn’t bunt
-No stepping in front of umpire/catcher when coming to bat
-Center fielder gets priority over his corner outfield mates
-Pitchers: Don’t show up defense if they make mistakes
-Umpire’s Code: Complain about the ump’s calls, not the ump himself

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