We all by now have heard about the Mexico-Canada brawl over breaches of ”Unwritten Rules” of the game. This brought back into play a post I wrote mostly in May of 2011 on the same topic.
Now, the WBC’s pool play requires Run Differential to be brought into play, so you can kind of understand the “bunting with a huge lead” breach that led to the brawl. But that fight was simmering all game as one small situation after another (mostly involving the Canadian catcher Chris Robinson, a career minor leaguer in the Baltimore organization) kept raising the level of irritation on the behalf of the Mexican team. It had all the classic signs of a brawl-to-be: the “better” team (Mexico) was losing while not trying as hard, and was getting more and more irritated with the scrappy team taking the game too seriously and playing too hard. Take out slides at 2nd base, bunting in non-bunt situations. Eventually a guy gets hit and a very serious fight takes place. You had a player in Robinson taking the game too seriously versus a bunch of MLBers for Mexico perhaps not taking the game as seriously.
What did I think of the bunt? I thought it was in bad form frankly. Yes the run differential counts … but I don’t believe Canada was in a situation where things would have come down to run differential. I think Robinson had been “over-playing” the whole game and wanted to get one last dig in.
Back to my original May 2011 article on the topic; ESPN has a feature called “Player X,” wherein an anonymous professional athlete in one of the major sports pens an article from time to time writes an article about topics that may not otherwise be written about. Because of his anonymity, he can name names and call out fellow professionals without the normal press-overreaction.
In May of 2011, a post was written about “Baseball’s Unwritten Rules” (it may be insider-only, I’m sorry). Being that this is a topic I’ve written about in the past (see this June 2009 post on my previous blog), I found it relatively interesting. I wrote the June 2009 post right after a very infamous “unwritten rule” was broken, specifically bunting to break up a no-hitter/perfect-game. In fact Player X recounts another such situation where Curt Schilling had a perfect game broken up by a bunt single.
Years ago, after a long back-and-forth email conversation related to this same topic with a friend of mine (who wasn’t necessarily a baseball aficionado but did have some thoughts on the issue) I came up with this list of “unwritten rules.”
Unwritten professional Etiquitte rules of baseball
- Don’t bunt to breakup a no-hitter or perfect game in the later innings
- Don’t ever peek at the catcher’s sign or position
- Don’t dive after an outside pitch when ahead by a sufficient amount
- Don’t steal catchers signs overtly from 2nd base.
- Don’t show up the pitcher after hitting a HR (standing there, bat twirl, etc)
- Don’t overly try to break up a double play in a regular season/non-pressure situation
- Don’t purposely turn a double into a single if you are close to a cycle.
- Don’t try to show up a slower player by attempting to throw him out at first on a sharp single to right.
With a comfortable lead (a sliding scale; 10 runs or more at anytime, perhaps 7 runs in the late innings, fewer runs in the Majors):
- Don’t bunt for a hit
- Don’t steal
- Don’t attempt to break up a double play
- Don’t advance on a passed ball
- Don’t take any extra bases that you can’t jog to.
- Don’t swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch
- Don’t swing for the fences generally
Most of these “unwritten rules” fall into two main categories:
- Don’t embarrass the other team if you already have a big lead.
- Don’t embarrass another professional at any point.
In the Canada-Mexico game, we saw several of these rules being broached. But would you classify a WBC game in the same manner as a playoff game? If so, then hard take out slides at 2nd and catcher-collisions at home ARE warranted. But I get the impression that these MLB-heavy teams are still struggling whether to treat WBC games as exhibitions (it is Spring Training after all) or as serious competitions. Certainly nobody wants to get hurt and cost themselves a roster spot or significant time off the season. Meanwhile for a team of lesser players/career minor leaguers, the WBC is their shot at the title, their chance to face Major leaguers for perhaps the first, last and only time. Guys for spain who have never pitched about AA suddenly are throwing to MVP-calibre stars. That has to be a rush … and leads to situations where more “unwritten rules” may be broached.
By the way, Baseball isn’t the only sport with “unwritten rules.” Think about an NBA player purposely trying to get a triple-double when his team is up by 20 late in a game. Or an NFL team going for two points in the fourth quarter with a 4 touch down lead. Or a soccer player trying a “Paneka” penalty while already leading by 3 goals. All of these are broaches of each sports’ etiquitte and may end up causing repercussions.
What do you think? About the Canada-Mexico situation, about unwritten rules in general? I know many people are flat out against them, others think they’re completely understandible. Did I miss any “rules” in my list above?