Does the “Code” need a revision?
A few days ago, Cleveland Indian catcher Victor Martinez took exception to the Tampa Bay Rays base theft B J Upton stealing third base with his team up 9-0 at the time. He sighted that it was against the “Unwritten Rules of Baseball” to condone or attempt such an action. After the Sunday afternoon game against the same two squads Rays Manager Joe Maddon thought the “Unwritten Rules” needed to be revised since the game is faster and more powerful then the older version. We sometimes forget that baseball is a game built on the traditions and aspects set forth over 150 years ago.
Everyone has heard about the “Code” or “Unwritten Rules” of baseball. They might have been passed down to you by a coach, a parent , or maybe another player if you played ball beyond the High School ranks. While the code has been around for a long, long time, it is still a taboo subject to some in the game. In fact, some players are pretty uneasy to even chat about them “on the record” to reporters or even bloggers. For if they even talked about a set of parameters or even rules of conduct within the scope of baseball, they admit there is a set of rules. This might be the real Pandora’s box we read about as kids.
The code seems to be built more on the game within the game concept. It can be viewed as a system of intimidation, retaliation and retribution between the hitters and the pitchers mostly. It goals is to keep the game on an even playing field, with no see-sawing of emotions or action within the scope of the contest. Some say that the “rules” have their true basis is the fact of fear, or the fear of pain upon a transgressor of the rules. I have to admit, when I was in college and a 95 mph fastball would come in close on my shoulder or near my knees, it took everything I had in me to stand tall and not bail out most nights. So for me, the fear of injury or pain is a basis of the penalty for abusing the code and trying to circumvent the unwritten rules.
But who is really right here? Who out of these two defenders of the game was in the right here? Well, actually, they both seemed to have great cause for their opinions to be the supreme guidance that day. The unwritten bible that stood the test of time in early baseball until probably 1950 was envisioned because of the low scoring contests and a more gentlemanly aspect of the game. Just as in life, baseball at that time seemed to be based on the puritan aspect of the game, and not the aggressive natures of some players to make an offensive explosion of the contest.
In a sense, Maddon is also correct here. Some of the rules put in place long ago have to be revised or drooped because of the offensive nature of the game today. We are not taught to “never give up” or to ” fight until the last out.” With that outlook on the game, some of the rule seem a bit too tight and have no wiggle room for interpretation at all. It might seem odd now for Martinez to scream about an older rule that was based more in the era of 5-6 run total scoring games compared to recent blasts of over 21 runs a game. Maddon make a good point that some of the games “Unwritten Rules” do need a bit of revision or tweaking.
So here we are in a duel between the physical player and the situational manager. Who is right, or are they both wrong in their assessments of the current rule system? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they are both right to a point. Martinez is using the older rules to basically foster up a sense of entitlement over his actions during the weekend series against the Rays. While Maddon is trying to instill a new aggressive set of parameters for his own team that currently go against the grain of some of the older rules. So where do we draw the line? Where is it that we can make the changes or even attempt to even bring to light some of the outdated and antiquated rule that beg for a makeover. Well, first let take a gander at some of these older established “unwritten rules” and you be your own judge, jury and executioner on them ( I am not putting the rules in any order, just going to throw out a few for your viewing pleasure).
Do not steal a base late in a game that isn’t competitive.
This might be the rule that Martinez was referring to when he accosted Upton about his stealing of both second and third in the sixth inning of a 9-0 game. But what is really the basis of this rule is the “winning squad” doesn’t partake in additional embarrassment, not the team trying to get some runs and make the game competitive. If your team is winning by a lot of runs, so many that it looks like the game is pretty much over then stealing a base is just rubbing it in. Unfortunately since it’s an unwritten rule nobody is clear of the rules. How big of a lead is too big? How late in the game is too late is established by the beholder. In this case, I think Martinez was grasping for straws and should have just let it go, but bitterness can be a bitter pill to swallow.
Always back up your teammates in a fight.
This rule also can into effect during the Rays vs. Indians series. But what is more concerning is the fact that before the benches did clear, that Martinez was verbally accosting Maddon with profanity and comments that do not ever get voiced to a manager. That is also a section of the “Unwritten Rules” that coaches, umpires and team officials also have their own section of codes and rules for the players to follow accordingly. Martinez failed in this attempt. Some say baseball teams are like gangs. When a fight starts t
hey all run out and each take a side and face-off.
Unfortunately the posturing is suppose to be the effect here, not the actual throwing of punches or gang-tackling that some brawls evolve into in baseball.
Pat Burrell running to look for baseball pants and a jersey to wear on Sunday is a classic example of this rule. He was on the training table getting treatment and came out onto the field in his B P jersey since he could not find his game jersey at the time.
Never bunt to break up a no-hitter.
If an opposing pitcher just has your number that day and can even get to a point of a level of perfection against your team, you should honor that event, not try and throw it under the bus to establish your own agenda. I’ve never understood this unwritten rule. What if there is not a no-hitter and the score is 3 – 2 in the ninth and the losing team tries to bunt. If that isn’t considered a cheap way to try and win the game then why is bunting a cheap way to end a no-hitter?
But I do see the respect and the aspect of preserving the integrity of the pitching duel, so I would also consider it a disgrace to try and bunt to end a no-hitter by another pitcher.
Unwritten Rule :
Do not show up the pitcher after hitting a home run.
I think that this rule is going to get more and more intense in the next few years. As relievers and pitcher also adjust to emotional outbursts on the mound, the actions of the hitter have to stay consistent and not provoke a bean ball or an intentional pitch high and inside at a hitter. This unwritten rule could also be known as the don’t do what Sammy Sosa used to do after a dinger rule.
When a batter hits a home run it is considered rude to jump up and down and celebrate or to watch and admire your homer. I can understand this rule in the course of a game, but if it is a game-winner, I think I could take a bit of a breather knowing it is a classic event and let the batter slide a bit on it as long as it is not a long linger and a comment or look towards the mound after the ball clears the wall.
If the opposing pitcher hits one of your batters then you must retaliate and hit one of their batters.
Sometimes there is a reason for a pitcher to take offense to a hitter at the plate. Plucking a hitter is a part of the game, and most hitters know it is going to happen to them in their career no matter if they are respectful or not, it is a part of the respect factor. Most of the time, a hitter knows it is coming, but sometimes pitchers can take an incident from far leftfield and run it into a personal vendetta. The other team has insulted us now we’ll show them!
Pitchers are so accurate, to within millimeters, that they can place the ball with pinpoint precision exactly where they want it. If a player gets hit in a certain spot, and the situation is ripe for payback, then there is no doubt as to whether or not a bean ball is just that, versus a mis-thrown wild pitch. That’s the ballplayer’s intuition, or sixth sense, taking over. And here is another thing: If a batter gets nailed with a 95 mph fastball on the fleshy part of his thigh, he had better not act like a baby and start rubbing it. No way. He should suck it up and be a man by simply “walking it off” on his way to first base. Period. A batter can never let a pitcher know that he hurt him with a pitch, that would be a psychological advantage and a clear sign of weakness. The code forbids it unless he is knocked unconscious or bleeding bad enough to warrant some medical attention.
So here we have listed a few of the “Unwritten Rules” that most of the fans might already know. There are really tons of pages of antiquated and outdated rules that do need to be readdressed and maybe modernized to support the current and future of the game. But it is not my place to sport the revolution of the rules . That has to be done within the confines of the sport itself. By the members of the teams, managers, umpires and even the guys who line and grade the turf and clay. But isn’t it a grand notion to know that a set of rules or a code is in place to keep the respect and the admiration of the game within guideline for all of us to enjoy.
So the next time you and a friend are in the stands remember, it is against the “unwritten rules” to discuss a no-hitter. You can cheer and want to see this great spectacle happen on your home turf, but to mention it is considered a curse, and also a bad omen not only for your pitcher, but for the sport itself. But if I had to put a quick summary of the code, it would be a simple fact of respect. Respect for the players, the history of the game and the respect of the opposition. In a true one sentence line, it is the players’ sacrificing personal glory for the good of the team.