Unwritten rules of baseball


This is an odd story. Anyone else know any “unwritten rules” of sports?

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Baseball is probably the worst for its unwritten rules. Don’t swing on 3-0 with a big lead. Don’t pump your fist after a big home run or the pitcher might throw at your head next time. Don’t showboat after striking someone out. Don’t steal catchers’ or coaches’ signs. There is actually a WRITTEN rule about banned foreign substances like pine tar, but the unwritten part is that you actually CAN use foreign substances because everybody does it and nobody calls anyone out for it, kinda like steroids in the 90’s. But baseball certainly isn’t alone in that regard.

Hockey has its unwritten rules mostly centring around fighting and dirty hits. Take out one of our guys, we get to take out one of yours. The hit doesn’t even have to be dirty for the unwritten rule to apply — look no further than the Jonathon Tavares hit from last week (and his teammates’ reaction) for proof of this.

Basketball has its unwritten rules as well such as not shooting 3’s or running up the score in the final minute of a blowout, but I think it’s more defensible than baseball in that regard. Not taking a shot doesn’t penalize a player statistically. However a baseball player choosing to take pitches late in the game because of the score does affect their stats — baseball players can’t choose not to have an AB like basketball players can choose not to shoot.

Football is tougher to come up with examples of unwritten rules because the league has done everything in its power to make everything a rule, hence why 80% of every NFL broadcast is spent on booth reviews and rules interpretation. But I think similar rules apply about not taking cheap shots or running up the score late in the game. For football this comes down to self-preservation as much as anything else because guys’ careers are so short to begin with.

There’s a really excellent book on baseball’s unwritten rules called “The Baseball Codes” which does a great job of explaining how and why all these things evolved, from a perspective that seems as much ecological as cultural.

But yeah, the whole La Russa thing is a disgrace. Thought we went through this last year with Tatis and the eventual verdict being “this is outdated bullshit bordering on the superstitious”, but now we have to relitigate it again thanks to Jerry Reinsdorf’s nepotism. TLR throwing Mercedes under the bus in the media and to other teams is a far more egregious violation of baseball’s unwritten rules than anything else that’s happened this season.

I’d be interested in a sort of sociological comparison of traditional sports’ unwritten rules and wrestling’s. The reasons why wrestling’s weird traditions came to be are generally well known (kayfabe, 90% of the time), but are they changing at the same rate for the same cultural/generational factors? And most importantly, are you still supposed to give the worker’s handshake?