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MLB: The Unwritten Rules

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Major League Baseball is widely known for its traditions, customs, and superstitions. This extends from the players, all the way to the fans. From wearing the same socks that you wore during your last victory, to eating the same meal before each outing, there are many crazy things that baseball players believe in. Of all the traditions in the game, there are none more important than the unwritten rules. That’s right folks. MLB has an entire list of rules and regulations that are to be followed, and they aren’t written down anywhere. These unwritten rules aren’t found in any player handbook or league memo. They can’t be found in the Major League Baseball Players Association documents, or in any clubhouse locker room.

These rules are taught from other players, learned by experience or witnessed from others’ mistakes. While they aren’t written down anywhere, the punishment for violating these rules can be severe. Players could find themselves being hit by a 90+ MPH fastball or face to face with an opposing team player who is ready to get rough with you. Breaking these unwritten rules have caused countless arguments, fights and all out bench clearing brawls on the baseball diamond.

There are many of these rules, widely accepted by Major League Baseball players. You can find some of the more popular unwritten rules, or more severe I should say, here in this article (in no particular order of importance). I would encourage you to learn more about these particular rules by watching as much baseball as you can. When you see players getting upset over what looks like nothing obvious, you can almost always see that an unwritten rule was broken. Once you start to notice a few here and there, you’ll start to pick up on them much more frequently.

1. Don’t Watch Your Homerun

It’s plain and simple. If you’re at the plate, and you hit a no-doubter, go ahead and start rounding the bases. It’s considered rude, and pretty angering, if you hang out at home plate and watch the ball go over the wall. If you’re that sure, it’s gone right off the bat. The chances are that everyone else knows it too. It may be pretty, it may go deeper than you’ve ever had one go, but don’t stand there and watch it. It comes off as cocky and arrogant. It’s a little extra slap in the pitcher’s face and a good way to get a pitcher or his personal bodyguard (the catcher) in your face when you finally reach home plate.

Gerardo Parra of the Arizona Diamondbacks got a mouthful when he admired his game-tying homerun against the Dodgers, back in 2013.

2. Don’t Talk About A No-Hitter, While It’s Happening

This is one of the most superstitious rules out there. If you’re ace pitcher has just finished the fifth inning, and that hit column still shows a goose egg, keep your mouth shut. While announcers mention it, fans talk about how awesome it’s going to be and your baseball news update app lets you know it’s happening, no player in the dugout should ever even utter the word “no-hitter” to anyone. You act like it’s not even happening. You ignore it. You don’t jinx what could possibly be the greatest day in that pitcher’s career. You just don’t do it.

3. If You Hit One Of Our Players, We Hit One Of Yours

This is possibly one of the most dangerous unwritten rules in the game. It can lead to injury, ejections and a whole lot of angry ball players. This rule has incited many heated exchanges that turned into all out brawls. When does the madness end? It can lead to a vicious cycle of hit by pitch after hit by pitch. Someone is going to get hurt. And why? Because it’s a rule. One best left unbroken by anyone who fears for their safety, and the safety of their teammates.

4. The Pitcher’s Mound Belongs To The Pitcher

This rule may sound silly, but it almost got one of the most famous baseball players in the 21st Century in serious trouble. In April of 2010, the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics were facing off. Dallas Braden was on the hill for the A’s, and Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez was on base at first. The player up at bat grounded into a double play, and as A-Rod walked away from second base, he walked over the pitcher’s mound on his way to the dugout. Braden became enraged. He was caught by TV cameras shouting at Rodriguez, and “that’s my mound” could be seen mouthed by Braden.

The incident was popular for days in the baseball news cycle at the time. Player opinions swayed back and forth on a hitter’s/runner’s ability to cross over the pitching mound. The widely accepted thought afterwards was simple: stay away from the pitcher. Maybe Braden was just being territorial at the time, or just trying to assert his dominance in some kid of mental head-game. Either way, players tend to avoid the mound these days, whether that be out of respect or fear of getting intentionally beaned at their next plate appearance.

5. Don’t Bunt To Breakup A No-No

This one is about character. If you’re facing a pitcher who has just happened to find the best groove of his career, don’t be a baby about it. No one should ever bunt to break up a no-hitter. Unfortunately, it still happens to this day. If you can’t get an honest to goodness hit like a real ball player, you don’t deserve it that day. While bunting is an incredibly crucial part of the game, and one of the most strategic plays that can be made, there is a time and place. If it’s the 7th or 8th, and you have that goose egg in the hits column, then so be it. Don’t try to squeeze one in, just for the sole purpose of ruining a pitcher’s day. That’s the kind of thing that gets you a fastball to the upper arm. See Rule 3 above.

Major League Baseball has a vast number of unwritten rules. These rules govern the game just as much as those found in any handbook. It’s wise to follow them the same way. Every sport has a way of governing themselves during play, and no one wants to be on the receiving end of any punishment that could involve a bat or a ball.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com