Unwritten Laws In Baseball

There are lots of “unwritten laws” in major league baseball. ''The batter does not look back to see what kind of pitch the catcher is calling for." “When your team is way ahead in the late innings, you do not try to steal a base.” “You don’t overly celebrate when running the bases after hitting a homerun.” (Although some players today seem to violate the spirit of that law by watching the ball go over the fence before they start running.) “You don’t speak to a pitcher about a no-hitter he is throwing.” Yesterday I heard a broadcaster refer to one I had never heard before: “The on-deck batter can not practice his swings against the pitches the pitcher is throwing to the batter at the plate.” This made me wonder: Are there any other “unwritten baseball laws” of which I am unaware?

I’ve seen the last one broken. But that begs the question, because I don’t think it’s really an unwritten rule.

You shouldn’t swing on 3-0 counts when your team is far ahead. I have seen managers signal each other to ask for and give permission to violate this rule. I believe it was Yankees far ahead, 3-0 on batter, Yankee manager looks to Tiger manager and makes swinging motion, Tiger manager nods and returns swinging motion.

Apparently, A-Rod broke an unwritten rule by calling “I got it” while a baserunner, which distracted the fielders who didn’t catch the ball. I didn’t realize it was an unwritten rule, but lots of critics made that argument.

We discussed recently about attempting to bunt late in the game against a pitcher with a no-hitter going. Generally speaking, if it’s a close game where a single baserunner can make a difference and the defense is giving up a bunt (corners playing deep), then that would be alright. However, if it is like Buckholtz recent no-hitter (10 run lead), it would be deeply, deeply frowned upon. My comment was that a batter that tried to break a blow-out no hitter like that should fear getting thrown at by his own pitchers.

A-Rod calling “I got it”, or whatever he said, was exploiting a rookie. As these rules are unwritten, there hasn’t been a real consensus. Personally, I rate it with the hidden ball trick and consider it a real cheesy play especially from someone with Rodriguez’ skill. It reflected poorly on him, but I don’t think it was against an unwritten rule.

Never heard about the on-deck batter. The idea behind the home runs is that a batter shouldn’t overly show-up a pitcher.

As for swinging on 3-0, there are few times where one would want to do that at any point, so unless it was Wil Nieves trying to get his first ML hit, I don’t know why Torre would even consider it.

Another one is that all players must leave the bench and bullpen when a fight breaks out. They don’t necessarily have to do anything, but they’d better not stay on the bench.

There was an incident where a minor league or perhaps college pitcher threw at an on-deck batter for timing his swings. The batter was badly hurt. I don’t remember the names.

Personally, I feel that if it isn’t written down, it’s not a rule.

The bat boy must be pranked.

The newest bullpen player (whether pitcher or catcher) shall carry the gear to the pen.

Neither did I. I was under the impression that interference was in the rulebook.

Some unwritten baseball rules.

This is a good list, but it is really a different set of “laws” from what I had in mind. Most of them pertain to how to manage a team and play a game to win. The sort of laws I was originally asking about deal more with informal player relations, eg. don’t humiliate the pitcher by being smug about hitting a home run.

Ben Christensen. Probably the worst baseball incident that I’ve heard.

Don’t try to catch a ball dropped from an airplane. (Witness the tragic tale of Joe Sprinz.)

Forgive my ignorance, but what does “timing his swings” mean, and why is it bad? (I read the article but didn’t understand it.)

It refers to an on deck batter swinging as though the pitch was to him. It gives the batter an advantage, because if the pitcher throws the same pitches to the next batter he faces, a real possibility since some may only have three pitches, the hitter has him “timed” that is he knows when the pitch will cross the strike zone.

SSG Schwartz

Thanks. It sounds like the point (for the batter) is to work up a little short-term muscle memory – otherwise it seems a major league player in an on-deck circle (or the dugout) could do the same thing just by using his eyes. Am I on the right track?

I think you got it. The average speed of a pitcher is fairly constant. Batters use their eyes, but if the on deck batter is watching the pitches he is not swinging. In the dugout, you don’t have a clear view of the plate. So, if you swing on the pitch, you can accurately time your swings to the pitcher and see when the ball would cross the plate.

SSG Schwartz

A friend of mine who is more knowledgeable than I claims that it is quite standard for the swingman in a double play to pull his foot off the bag before catching the ball and throwing to first, and the umpires allow it because it cuts down on injury. But this might actually be a written rule…

He might not even touch the bag at all. It’s sort of an “in the vicinity” deal. Of course, you can’t be too obvious about it, and you have to have had at least a reasonable chance at making the pivot had you actually had your foot on the bag.

It is, and the call was missed.