Tuck: Baseball’s Unwritten Rules

John McClain once said, “Assumption is the mother of all #$%&-ups.”  Who would have thought Bruce Willis and Die Hard would ever produce such wisdom?

The key to any good relationship in my opinion is communication.  Feelings, thoughts, ideas, opinions, rules, whatever.  If they aren’t discussed, then there is a chance of some kind of negative fall-out.  Ironically, the reason these things aren’t discussed is usually because of a fear of negative fall-out.

That brings me to baseball, and their bi or sometimes tri-annual unwritten rules discussion.

Philly’s Cole Hamels beaned rookie outfielder Bryce Harper last night in the first inning.  Normally, not a huge deal, but Hamels admitted after the game that he did it on purpose.  He said, “I was trying to hit him.  I’m not going to deny it.  It’s something I grew up watching. That’s what happened.  I’m just trying to continue the old baseball.  Some people get away from it.”

Some people are outraged.  For example, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo.

“He thinks he’s sending a message to us of being a tough guy,” Rizzo told the Washington Post on Monday morning.  “He’s sending the polar opposite message.  He says he’s being honest, well, I’m being honest.  It was a gutless chicken [bleep] [bleeping] act.  That was a fake-tough act.  No one has ever accused Cole Hamels of being old school.”

Some people say bean balls are part of the game and it’s okay.  Of course, when and how and why have to be considered.

Today on Colin Cowherd’s radio show Curt Schilling says he hit people on purpose, but didn’t think being a rookie was a reason to hit somebody.

Apparently someone needs to brush up on their unwritten rules book.  Three completely different takes.  And I am sure if I looked hard enough I could find many more opinions differing in one way or another.

That is the problem though, isn’t it?  There is no unwritten rules book.  (There is however a book about baseball codes.)  What is taught in little league is different than high school is different than college is different than minor leagues is different than major leagues.  And what is taught in each is different from country to country, state to state, city to city, and team to team.

We will never agree if what happened is “part of the game” or is “bush-league.”

In many ways, as sports fans, we wouldn’t have it any other way.  It gives us something to argue over and debate.  Sometimes even the written rules are broken by players or teams just to set a tone in a game or series.  For example, take a roughing the quarterback penalty early to intimidate the QB and make him jittery in the pocket.

Many coaches would encourage that.  A small penalty for a potential big gain?  Heck, even fans would sign up for some rule breaking like that if it served a greater good, a bigger purpose.

So how on earth are we to sort out what is right and wrong on an unwritten rule?

I personally don’t support a hitter taunting a pitcher after hitting a home run off him.  But what is taunting?  It’s defined differently person to person.  Flipping a bat?  Staring it down?  Too slow of a trot?

Depending how it is done could be considered unsportsmanlike.  I also don’t think it’s cool just to bean the hitter next time up because you are mad over the home run or the “celebration.”

I was taught two wrongs don’t make a right.  But in baseball, most often times that is always the solution.  Fire back.  They hit our guy, we hit their guy.

Sportsmanship too often is an ideal, not a reality in professional sports.  For kids it really is, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

When rules are unwritten, we can convince ourselves that anything is fair.