Baseball's 25 Biggest Unwritten Rules
We all know the main rules of baseball, as well as any other sport that we follow. Even the more advanced rules are generally common knowledge, at least to those that follow the game.
In baseball, however, there is an entire subculture of unwritten rules. The rules have been passed down through generations of players, and they range from the obvious to the respectful in nature.
Here are 25 of baseball's biggest unwritten rules.
Don't Talk About a No-Hitter in Progress
The first rule of Fight Club is that you don't talk about Fight Club. Likewise, the first rule about no-hitters is that you don't talk about no-hitters.
When a pitcher is five-plus innings into a no-hitter or perfect game, then it's common courtesy not to mention it. If you do, it'll end up jinxing it especially if you're a teammate. Announcers and fans tend to do this anyway, but the rule is for the players themselves more than anything.
Don't Steal Bases When Greatly Ahead
The art of stealing a base is a tricky one. Sure, if you're Rickey Henderson it's easy, but for the typical baserunner there are many unwritten rules to remember. The first is not to steal a base when your team is crushing the other.
A 10-2 lead is tough enough on the other team, and if you're on first, trying to steal second just looks disrespectful. Besides, if a struggling pitcher is still in you're probably going to advance anyway.
Don't Steal Bases When Greatly Behind
Conversely, if a team is down 11-0 and the man on first tries to steal second base, it just looks bad. It's really disrespectful more to your own team than the opponent, since it doesn't help much; that extra base is not going to be the difference maker.
Don't Steal Third with Two Outs
This unwritten rule is more for practicality than respect. If you have the opportunity to steal third base, then it means you're already in scoring position, and with two outs you'll be charging to home plate if there's a line drive anyway.
Trying to steal third base is difficult enough to begin with, so trying with two outs and potentially ending the inning is just a stupid move.
If a Pitcher Hits a Teammate, Hit One of Theirs
This unwritten rule gets teams into trouble big time, since it leads to ejections, and potentially fines and suspensions depending on the severity of the incident. Still, it makes sense why the rule is done.
Take the Indians-Royals game a couple days back. Jonathan Sanchez plunked Shin-Soo Choo after being the one to knock him out last year as well. Of course Jeanmar Gomez is going to retaliate against Mike Moustakas even though I'm sure everyone knew he would be thrown out.
Don't Admire a Home Run
This is another one that is brought about more out of respect than anything. When you hit a home run, you're supposed to act like you've hit one before, especially since that's almost always the case anyway.
If it's a slight stare and you're Albert Pujols, generally it can slide. If you're watching it without even running the bases, it's not only disrespectful but stupid, since you don't really know if the ball's going to leave the park.
Don't Step on the Pitcher's Mound
The pitcher's mound is a special place to a pitcher. Everything has to be just right with it, and that isn't going to be the case when people are walking on it between innings.
Infielders should be going around it rather than walking over it. Alex Rodriguez did that in an Oakland Athletics game, and Dallas Braden had harsh words in response, causing a feud to develop between the two a couple years back.
Don't Step in the Batter's Box While the Pitcher Is Warming Up
Like stepping on the mound, this is a symbol of respect. A pitcher's just trying to get himself ready for the game on the mound, and the hitters have the on-deck circle to practice their swing.
By stepping in early before the pitcher's done, it just looks bad and could cause some bad blood, or potentially a beaning if it's a chronic offender.
Hit the Ball Where It's Pitched
This is another common-sense rule, but it's surprising how often hitters don't seem to get this. If a pitch is a bit high and outside, go for the bloop single rather than trying to overextend yourself. Likewise, if it's low try and hit it through the gaps.
Of course, major leaguers know where they're good at hitting the ball and where they struggle, so this rule isn't a big deal at the major league level compared to others.
Play for the Win on the Road, a Tie at Home
This is one that, according to Baseball-Reference, is absolutely still done today, but the main question to ask in that instance is why is that the case?
It's tough to put my finger on practical reasoning why, but I believe it has to do with momentum. If you take a risk at home, they'll stand behind you, but if you take a risk with a sacrifice hit on the road, the fanbase can cancel out any momentum.
Don't Bunt to Break Up a No-Hitter
This unwritten rule seems pretty obvious, as having the nerve to bunt to break up a no-hitter seems disrespectful, and makes the batter look like a wimp. If you want to break up a no-hitter, be a man about it and crush one into the outfield.
Follow the Umpire's Code
This is one that is really for the fans and media personalities just as much as the players and coaches. It's fine to disagree and complain to umpires, but they have their own code of conduct and batch of unwritten rules.
You can complain all you want about a bad call, just don't call him a bad umpire, as we have seen the difference between the two in action. Working within an umpire's unwritten rules can certainly pay off for teams as well.
Take a Strike When Behind
If you're down by a few runs heading into the seventh or eighth, the worst thing to do would be to simply swing at the first pitch you see. This rules is more practical than anything; clearly they're in control of the game, so the first pitch is probably not going to be one the batter will want to hit anyway.
Don't Rub the Mark After a Hit by Pitch
If a pitcher hits a batter, then either it's revenge for an earlier action, or it was a pitch that got away from him. Either way, as a batter you don't rub the spot. You can't show weakness as it just makes the pitcher that much tougher now that he's seen that he can affect the other team.
Pitchers Pulled from Game Must Stay in Dugout
More accurately, they at least need to stay through the inning in which they were removed. If a pitcher just gave up eight earned runs in two innings, of course they'll be frustrated, and they'll want to retreat to the locker room.
That's not fair to the rest of the team, though. It's a display of respect to them to stay on the bench at least through then.
Don't Show Up Your Fielders
I call this one the "Gaylord Perry Law." The reason for that is simple; Gaylord Perry always had a habit of putting his hands on his hips and doing other acts of frustration whenever the team was struggling on the field.
Fielders don't glare at pitchers when they give up a home run, so why should pitchers be allowed to do whatever they want? They already get a safe zone in the pitcher's mound, after all.
Don't Help Opposition Make a Play
On the surface this sounds like a no-brainer. When you look at it more closely, however...it's still a no-brainer. If someone's trying to grab a foul ball and running into your dugout, don't let him hop the fence or take control of the dugout, keep him from getting the ball.
Let the Center Fielder Get the Ball
One of the toughest things to watch on the diamond is when two outfielders run into each other trying to get a ball, as well as the opposite when both stop before it.
When such a case happens, the center fielder gets priority. They tend to be faster and have more room to cover anyway, so they're the guy to grab that fly ball.
Paint the Corners on an 0-2 Count
The unwritten rule is typically seen as "never give up a home run on an 0-2 count," but that's common sense as you would never want to give up a home run as a pitcher.
The real meaning behind the rule is what I tried to make clear with my title. Don't throw the ball in the center of the strike zone. Throw it around the edges, and it doesn't even have to be pinpoint accurate since you have a couple balls to work with.
Relievers Go Easy on Relievers
This is another situation where common courtesy is involved. With how specialized relief pitchers are, if one is actually batting in the National League then there's other factors in play.
Limiting said reliever to just fastballs would be entirely fine. The exception would be players like Micah Owings who can actually hit the ball pretty well.
Don't Play the Infield in Early in Games
When the infield shifts inward, it's generally done late in games to prevent a key run from being scored, and it makes it easier to throw the ball to home plate if need be.
However, opponents' batting averages are much higher with this shift, so if you're trying it early on in a game, then it will backfire. Baseball games are nine innings long, and pulling a shift change like that would make it a long nine innings.
Don't Step in Front of Umpire or Catcher on Way to Batter's Box
This is another unwritten rule that is simply about respect for the diamond, just like the pitcher's mound and warm-up rules.
If you're leaving the dugout and it's a direct line to the catcher or umpire, head into the box from behind them. It's a simple rule, yet there are those that break them, as well as those that get revenge.
Don't Have a Power Hitter Bunt
Typically, but not always, the guys who hit for great power are the slower guys on the team. Having them bunt to try and make something happen is just a bad idea on all fronts.
Not only that, but that power hitter is more likely to get runners to score with a nice outfield shot rather than any sort of bunt.
Don't Go Against the Percentages
This one has some wiggle room in it, but for managers, if a player is hitting 15-for-20 career against a pitcher, that pitcher shouldn't be throwing in that situation. Conversely, if a player is 1-for-12 lifetime, then maybe a pinch-hitter is the best bet.
If You Play for One Run, That's All You Get
It sounds like common sense, but if you're playing against a tough pitcher or tough defensive players, it may be tempting to think that you just need to try and get one run just to get things going.
If you think like that, the game's already over since you're clearly not ready to go on a hitting spree mentally.