Unwritten Rules


Trevor Greenaway-Clissold

It’s the story that won’t go away in baseball -- or at least in my world as a Blue Jays fan.

I finished my last blog referring to ‘that’ bat-flip by Jose Bautista (which just shows how long it’s taken me to write a follow-up piece), and that was followed late last season by ‘that’ punch from Rougned Odor.  It appears that karma felt a third instalment was needed in this bad soap opera.

During the elimination game on 13 March between Venezuela and Italy at the World Baseball Classic (you know -- the tournament the world should be watching but, well, can’t, at least in this country) Odor apparently forgot about his dislike for emotion-fuelled bat-flips as he tossed his bat in celebration at an apparent go-ahead homer.  But karma has a better memory than that and kept the ball in the park as Odor sheepishly shuffled to first base for probably the longest single in quite some time (my own selective memory will choose to forget that he eventually scored from first for what would prove to be the insurance run in a 4-3 victory)!

All of this is my longwinded and tenuous way of linking to my actual topic, that of Unwritten Rules. 

Baseball is full of them, possibly more than any other sport, from the distaste for ‘pimping’ home runs to, well, some of those listed below.  I haven’t just confined this to baseball and the list below is in no particular order, just an unsorted selection of some of my favourites that will hopefully provide some colourful discussion on social media as you tell me some of yours (note to self: absolutely don’t post this with the tagline “…you won’t believe what’s at #1…”!).

Anyway, here goes…

1. Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter
This is where I love the respectful side of baseball.  The whole object of pro sports is to win.  It doesn’t matter if you do it pretty or ugly, and, in most sports, you do it at all costs.  So in a game where you’re not only being kept off the scoreboard but you’re not even getting on base, it seems strange that you wouldn’t lay down a bunt to try to get things going.  But such is the sanctity of the no-hitter and the respect for the pitcher that no coach will call it nor player lay it down.

Iwakuma no hitter

2. Kick the ball out for an injured player
I must admit that I find this one harder to swallow these days when simply being in the general vicinity of a footballer will send them crashing to the turf clutching their face and screaming like they’ve been pole-axed.  But even though it’s technically the ref’s call now to stop the game, most players will still put the ball into touch if an opponent is on the ground, and it’s equally accepted that the opposition will duly give the ball back when play re-starts.  There’s no rule requiring this to happen no matter how badly injured a player may be, but the unwritten rule is so respected that Arsenal replayed a game they won against Sheffield United after, rather than giving the ball back, they broke away with it to score the winning goal.  Thankfully, for once, the fusspots at the FA saw sense and allowed the replay rather that insisting that the result should stand.

Arsenal Sheffield United Replayed Game

3. Don’t touch the Stanley Cup if you want to win it!
Ok, this probably belongs in the realms of superstition and stretches the definition of even an unwritten rule -- but it’s accepted in the world of ice hockey that you only touch the Stanley Cup once you’ve earned it.  I don’t have (and I doubt anyone has) any kind of record of how many players have touched the trophy and gone on to win it, but still, you keep your hands in your pockets if you’re lucky enough to get close to it lest you’re cursed to never raise it above your head.  Just ask the Staal brothers!

Eric Staal Stanley Cup

4. Don’t attack a fallen opponent
Obviously, I’m not referring to literally attacking them, and, perhaps even more strangely, this act of sportsmanship (Is sportspersonship in the lexicon yet? Spellchecker doesn’t seem to think so) is from the world of cycling where it seems that everyone who wins has done so by ‘underhand’ methods (and I apologise for lazily tarring all the clean cyclists with the same brush).  In cycling, it’s accepted that if one of your competitors is down you don’t make a run for it.  Here are two contrasting examples: Alberto Contador being booed whilst pulling on the Yellow Jersey for racing away after nearest-rival Max Schleck’s chain snapped, and Lance Armstrong (whilst he was still an All-American hero) actually living up to that moniker by not only slowing down himself but telling every other cyclist to do the same after his biggest challenger in the Tour de France, Jan Ulrich, crashed, in order to let him catch up and get back in the race.  Ulrich would return the favour two years later when an errant carrier bag of all things brought Armstrong crashing down.

Max Schleck Alberto Contador

5. Don’t hit the little guy
Heading back to the ice, the old adage used to be that “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”.  Yet despite the physical nature of hockey you just don’t lay a hit on a smaller player and definitely not on the team’s star, no matter how clean that hit may be.  In fact, although a slowly dying breed now, teams will have an ‘enforcer’ whose main responsibility is often to keep the game clean, usually by scaring opponents out of trying any cheap shots.  I highly recommend anyone to check out the documentary Ice Guardians for more on that subject and the post-playing days’ trauma caused to some of those players.

Ice Guardians

6. You hit our guy, we’re going to hit yours
Based on a similar thought process to the point above, this is baseball’s own way of meting out justice.  It’s almost predictable, after seeing one guy get hit by a pitch, that in the next half inning someone’s going to take one to the numbers (regardless of any involvement they’d previously had).  The league may be trying to prevent this with whole-team warnings, but that’s not stopping pitchers standing up for their teammates.

Andrew McCutcheon Hit By Pitch

That pretty much brings me back full circle.  These are just six of my best -- but leave us comments on Facebook and Twitter with some of your own favourites.

tagged under: baseball, mlb, nfl, rules, football, cycling, nhl

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About Trevor Greenaway-Clissold

Trevor Greenaway-Clissold

Trevor joined BSUK in January 2012 and is currently the Marketing, Communications & Events Officer, having also worked with the GB Baseball National Team as Media Director, Assistant GM and GM. Trevor lives in Kent and is a long-suffering Toronto Blue Jays fan since the mid-90s.

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