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Baseball’s Unwritten Rules Are Hurting the Game


The Twins have been wrapped up in a mess of a situation during their series with the White Sox and everything ties back to baseball’s unwritten rules. Unfortunately, these unwritten rules are hurting the game and multiple parties looked foolish at the end of the day.

How Did We Get Here?

On Monday night, the Twins were getting blown out by the White Sox in the ninth inning. So instead of wasting another bullpen arm, Rocco Baldelli turned to Willians Astudillo to finish out the game. This is the third time La Tortuga has been used as a pitcher and his second time so far in 2021. Fans that had stuck around until the end gave Astudillo a cheer as he headed to the bump.

Yermin Mercedes was one of the players to step in against Astudillo and this is where the unwritten rules come into play. After working the count to 3-0, Mercedes clocked a 47.1 mph pitch for a home run. The unwritten rule that seemed to be broken was the fact that Mercedes swung at a 3-0 pitch when his team was up by 11 runs.

Chicago’s manager Tony La Russa, a Hall of Famer with an old school mentality, was not too happy about Mercedes swinging away. The take sign had been put on by the third base coach and Mercedes decided to ignore it. La Russa told the press it was a “big mistake,” and he even took some steps out of the dugout so he could yell at his batter to take the pitch. La Russa went as far as to say that he or his third base coach will run out in front of the pitcher to stop this type of thing from happening again.

On Tuesday, things went a step further. In the seventh inning, Tyler Duffey threw behind Mercedes in the seventh inning and he was promptly thrown out of the game. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli quickly came to the defense of his player and he was ejected along with Duffey. And so, the saga continued…

What About the Unwritten Rules?

An old school mentality would say the Twins upheld the unwritten rules by throwing near the offending player in the next game. Duffey didn’t throw near his head or with an intent to injury Mercedes. Minnesota was trailing by two at the time and came back to win, so maybe the baseball gods were rewarding the team for upholding the unwritten rules. That being said, it seemed like a foolish thing for the Twins to lose one of their best relievers in a close game, especially with how poorly the team had been playing.

After the game, former Twin Lance Lynn had some interesting things to say about the baseball’s unwritten rules. "The more I play this game, the more those rules have gone away, and I understand it,” Lynn said. “The way I see it is, for position players on the mound, there are no rules. Let's get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there. Can't get mad when there's a position player on the field and a guy takes a swing."

Lynn went on to say, “You're damned if you do, damned if you don't, it seems like. But I think everybody should just play the game as hard as they can and do all that, and don't worry about anything else."

This seems like a mentality that both sides can agree with moving forward. Play the game hard and hopefully some of those unwritten rules will continue to go to the wayside.

What are your thoughts on the unwritten rules? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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I could not disagree more.

 

I love the fact there are norms and expected behavior in major league baseball. 

 

And BTW, the "unwritten rules" prevent way more conflict than they cause.

 

Every person on both teams knew exactly what was wrong with that 3-0 swing.

 

I only wish Duffey had buried a FB in the guy's ribs.

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I can barely say "unwritten rules" without shaking my head now,  Anyone that whines about people breaking these unwritten rules needs to get with the times.  After seeing what a baseball can do to someone's face (kirby puckett/kevin pillar) what are we even talking about.  The guy hit a homerun off of a 40+mph pitch off of Willians Astudillo!!!!!  If you have any thoughts of contending for anything, division title, playoffs, a world series, you better not be pitching Astudillo....EVER.  Trevor Bauer had it right.  If you don't like it, play better.  

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You know, I'm really not the type of person who's all about increasing the pace of play or anything like that (I don't see an issue with the length or cadence of games, personally), but the second a position player is considered for a pitching appearance, the game should just end. You're very clearly rolling over at that point and saving your bullpen for a better day, so why continue the game at all?

In short, we need to normalize forfeiting games when they're massive blowouts!

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All this talk about, "if you want to win the WS you won’t be using a position player", or "if you don’t want to get a HR hit off your position player, play better"  have absolutely nothing to do with the UR. The adherence to the UR has for years controlled the parts of the game that aren’t covered in the book. ALL sports have acceptable standards for behavior towards other players or teams that are on the short end of a blowout. And that’s what the UR are about. Treating your opponent with some respect, and I imagine sympathy when it’s not his day. Because in the future, some day won’t be yours. 
 

Piling on in any sport is frowned on by any respectable coach, manager, or player. The operative word in that sentence is "respectable". 

To those who say, "well if you don’t want to be embarrassed play better", I counter with: If you don’t want to get called out by your own coach, or hit in the ass the next day with a message FB, then don’t swing at a 3-0 bunny, don’t steal a base, or for that matter if you do square up a 3-2 floater and it goes out, don’t act like you just hit the winner in game 7! 
 

Kudos to the Sox LaRussa for trying to yell "take" before the pitch, and later calling out his hitter and letting the Twins know he wasn’t on board with that behavior. And the same for Duffy taking a stance properly, below the belt. 
 

As for those who think that it’s fine to kick a dog when it’s down, there really isn’t anything I can say that wouldn’t get me warning points! 😠

 

 

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19 minutes ago, Azviking101 said:

The twins looked like a bunch of whiny cry babies. I will always be a Twins fan, but this wasn’t a good look for any of them. 

These unwritten rules are ridiculous and the twins players and coaches showed they have very thin skin and are worrying about the wrong things in an awful season so far.

They have way bigger issues to worry about!

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unwritten rules should just go away. The board seems completely divided on this issue. However, if your manager says 'take', then you take. Under any scenario. If a team 'gives up' though and uses a position player to pitch...then let the chips fall where they may. There was no way Twins were going to come back so get the game over with.

I'll stand by my thinking that a hitter trying to get a hit anytime is different than a runner stealing a base in a blowout. Hitter has to hit. runner doesn't have to run. As for some of the other crap...'showing up' a pitcher by flipping the bat or admiring your blast; or a pitcher doing a dance if he gets a big strikeout...big whoop. Let there be some emotion in the achievement and don't have such thin skins.

But one 'unwritten rule' that should be written is you never ever throw at a guys head. Yes there are 'accidents' but usually you know when they happen. Head-hunting is way off limits. IMO

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Just going to drop a few quotes on the subject from far smarter people than I:

“If you don’t want us to score, then stop us.” -Bill Belichick

CC Sabthia: "If you don’t want them to swing 3-0, then throw strikes!”

Personally, I don't think unwritten rules are hurting the game, there are already a plethora of other issues doing that. 

Also, the idea that it is absolutely fine to try and hit a batter because they've wronged you is dangerous and should not be encouraged. Enforcing these backwards rules by potentially injuring a player is insanity. Punishing hitters for doing their job!

 

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28 minutes ago, Platoon said:

All this talk about, "if you want to win the WS you won’t be using a position player", or "if you don’t want to get a HR hit off your position player, play better"  have absolutely nothing to do with the UR. The adherence to the UR has for years controlled the parts of the game that aren’t covered in the book. ALL sports have acceptable standards for behavior towards other players or teams that are on the short end of a blowout. And that’s what the UR are about. Treating your opponent with some respect, and I imagine sympathy when it’s not his day. Because in the future, some day won’t be yours. 
 

Piling on in any sport is frowned on by any respectable coach, manager, or player. The operative word in that sentence is "respectable". 

To those who say, "well if you don’t want to be embarrassed play better", I counter with: If you don’t want to get called out by your own coach, or hit in the ass the next day with a message FB, then don’t swing at a 3-0 bunny, don’t steal a base, or for that matter if you do square up a 3-2 floater and it goes out, don’t act like you just hit the winner in game 7! 
 

Kudos to the Sox LaRussa for trying to yell "take" before the pitch, and later calling out his hitter and letting the Twins know he wasn’t on board with that behavior. And the same for Duffy taking a stance properly, below the belt. 
 

As for those who think that it’s fine to kick a dog when it’s down, there really isn’t anything I can say that wouldn’t get me warning points! 😠

 

 

The problem with your reference to other sports is that most other sports are timed, whereas baseball is not.  Unless you think in blowouts hitters should simply refuse to swing, no matter the count, hitters will have to swing in order for the game to end.  Why is swinging 3-0 and hitting a homer disrespectful, but waiting one more pitch, and swinging 3-1 and hitting a homer is fine?

 

If we are honestly worried about a mad rash of disrespectful behavior breaking out should unwritten rules be done away with, wouldn't it make more sense to simply codify the offending behaviors, and instruct the umpires to eject players who engage in said behaviors?

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I'd be pretty interested in seeing a poll by age about this unwritten rules scenario. My guess is that older fans tend to value these norms more than younger fans do. To me, the idea that Mercedes was in the wrong for swinging is so weird that it might as well have come from another planet.

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I think it's pretty lame to hit a homerun off a position player on a 3-0 count when you're up by 10 runs.

However, when a position player is pitching, batters need to be up there swinging so they can put the ball in play and get the game over with. No one is striking out. We can't be telling batters to just give up.

On the flip side of this, the Twins still have an at bat. There's no running out the clock in baseball. Obviously incredibly unlikely, but it's not like a team hasn't scored 10 runs in an inning before. We can't be asking the White Sox batters to give up and not ask the Twins batters to do the same.

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Beer ball pitch, meet beer ball swing. Mercedes did not break an honor rule. In the Astudillo case, the Twins put a guy in that decide to throw sugar donuts. Most "emergency" pitchers at least throw the ball hard, which is more in line with "unwritten rules." If Torts throws an eephus to embarrass the Sox hitters, it is their option to smash it into the upper deck, if they can. 

Now, if the guy laid down a bunt, that would be breaking a rule. See the difference?

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4 hours ago, JensenGregory said:

You know, I'm really not the type of person who's all about increasing the pace of play or anything like that (I don't see an issue with the length or cadence of games, personally), but the second a position player is considered for a pitching appearance, the game should just end. You're very clearly rolling over at that point and saving your bullpen for a better day, so why continue the game at all?

In short, we need to normalize forfeiting games when they're massive blowouts!

Absolutely no forfeits or mercy rules. Why should you get the benefit (slight as it is, but still) of saving your bullpen when you're getting blown out? I would outlaw position players from pitching. The Astudillo clownshow performance was far more of an embarrassment to the game than anything the Sox did batting. You're losing by 12? Find a mop up pitcher who's actually a pitcher to close out the game, and if that's not working, burn out your bullpen until someone can. No forfeits, you put yourself in that spot, eat your a** and suffer the consequences of a burned out bullpen if you continue to eat your a**.  

The position player pitching has entered more "unwritten rules" into the game. The unwritten rule is to swing the bat when facing a position player pitching, and Mercedes taking a walk would have "violated" that unwritten rule. Which means that batters have to sacrifice taking a good at-bat in those situations and negatively affecting their stats. It's not fair to the other team, who's ahead by a dozen runs, to have to play wiffleball rules for an inning or two, especially since the team down by a dozen isn't approaching at-bats against real pitchers the same way in the late innings.  Outlaw position players pitching and you get rid of this additional set of silly unwritten rules.

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Yeah, I’m old and really like unwritten rules in sports—what would  hockey be without traditions?  But I also think it’s fine to swing on 3 and 0 in any case.  And surely one wants to move the game along in this kind of blowout.  But ignoring your coach’s sign or manager’s verbal instruction?  There really is nothing “unwritten” about that; it’s considered wrong in any line of work or play.  

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20 minutes ago, Longdistancetwins said:

Yeah, I’m old and really like unwritten rules in sports—what would  hockey be without traditions?  But I also think it’s fine to swing on 3 and 0 in any case.  And surely one wants to move the game along in this kind of blowout.  But ignoring your coach’s sign or manager’s verbal instruction?  There really is nothing “unwritten” about that; it’s considered wrong in any line of work or play.  

Correct, that's what a lot of people are misinterpreting about this. La Russa is getting dragged hard for this, and while I don't agree with all of what La Russa said, this became more than an "unwritten rule" issue when a player openly disregards his manager's instruction. Same with the Tatis thing last year, and I'm also a Padres fan. You can say that not hitting a 3-0 pitch in a blowout is a dumb unwritten rule, but when a player defies a clear instruction like that it transcends the discussion from one strictly about unwritten rules. Particularly when it's a rookie defying a literal Hall-of-Fame manager, I understand La Russa's reaction a lot more. 

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The next night it was remarked on the broadcast that in the past 20 years,(over 500 instances) when a team was up by 10+ and a batter had a 3-0 count, Mercedes is the ONLY one who had swung. Classless. 

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Just now, Reptevia said:

The next night it was remarked on the broadcast that in the past 20 years,(over 500 instances) when a team was up by 10+ and a batter had a 3-0 count, Mercedes is the ONLY one who had swung. Classless. 

Yeah, I heard that, too.  I was pretty shocked they actually had that as a statistic!

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6 hours ago, Tibs said:

I think it's pretty lame to hit a homerun off a position player on a 3-0 count when you're up by 10 runs.

However, when a position player is pitching, batters need to be up there swinging so they can put the ball in play and get the game over with. No one is striking out. We can't be telling batters to just give up.

On the flip side of this, the Twins still have an at bat. There's no running out the clock in baseball. Obviously incredibly unlikely, but it's not like a team hasn't scored 10 runs in an inning before. We can't be asking the White Sox batters to give up and not ask the Twins batters to do the same.

What is lame?  Should he not get the best out of his bat?  If a batter is just supposed to go out - end the game!

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I hate the unwritten rules.  I like a batter who does his best no matter the score or who is pitching.  I like a pitcher who throws his best pitch and not a screwy message pitch.  Play the game with the written rules.  

Should a players batting average, OPS, or any other measurement be unaffected once a certain score is reached?  Should they just walk up and stand there?  

I have been watching this game for about 70 years and the unwritten rules remain dumb - maybe even dumber than when I started watched.  

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3 hours ago, jimbo92107 said:

Beer ball pitch, meet beer ball swing. Mercedes did not break an honor rule. In the Astudillo case, the Twins put a guy in that decide to throw sugar donuts. Most "emergency" pitchers at least throw the ball hard, which is more in line with "unwritten rules." If Torts throws an eephus to embarrass the Sox hitters, it is their option to smash it into the upper deck, if they can. 

Now, if the guy laid down a bunt, that would be breaking a rule. See the difference?

Bingo. IMO it was more disrespectful that Astudillo is out there throwing slower pitches than middle school players to other professional hitters. The last guy to crush a 3-0 lob pitch was in the MVP conversation in 2020 and the cover of the sports’ primary video game 🤷🏼‍♂️
 

We’re getting so in depth with analytics, so here’s a compromise... Let’s differentiate the PA when a batter is supposed to try, and not supposed to try. 

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In my frustration with unwritten rules and the reactions to on written rules I have come to an understanding of my own weakness in this arena. I believe that the only good response to an unwritten rule isn't on written response and therefore I am going to save myself from frustration and ulcers and just let the silliness continue with no further words. Maybe.

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I am not so sure we have a right to an opinion here.  The players should have the right to determine if it's necessary to show respect for each other.  In the history of the game, no other player has ever swung at a 3-0 pitch when up by 10 or more runs.  Heard this on MLB radio.  So, it seems quite clear players feel this is disrespectful and piling on.  They should have the right in my opinion to expect a certain amount of respect for other players / teams and the game.  This was a rookie who decided he was above this expectation and even above following his managers instructions.  

The Twins should not have put someone on the mound that could not perform in a reasonable manner but Mercedes should have followed his manager's direction.  He should have also respected the cultural norms players have adopted.  Every society, group, etc has unwritten rules that promote civility in some form.  It's hardly a bad thing.  Of course, there are always those who don't feel the need to follow rules.  What I find really sad is that respect for the game and each other is considered old school and out of date thinking. 

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A few things stand out to me:

1. The first affront to the game of baseball was putting Austidillo on the mound.  I can't think of a more "defiling" act towards professional baseball than some catcher throwing 40 mph "heaters" in a professional game.  Hockey teams don't put their wings in at goalie.  Football teams don't play their third QB at safety.  Basketball teams don't play their equipment guy at center. It seems odd to me that we're aghast that a professional hitter took a professional swing in a professional game and not what the Twins did on the mound.  This kind of mind-numbing logic is the root of unwritten rules.

2.  What do you want hitters facing guys like Austidillo to do?  Stand there and get walked?  Stand there and take strikes?  I'm sure that will help the ol' pace of play.

3.  I'm going to let Lisa Simpson handle the "but it stopz so much stuffz from happening" argument.

4.  I've never understood why "old school" and "integrity" and other words are so tightly associated with a vague, randomly enforced set of rules designed to cover a bunch of butthurt cry baby professionals who complain mostly because they're getting beat.  If you don't like things happening......stop them.   What's more old school than that?  

5.  I commend the NHL and NBA for their steps to stop player policing.  (The NFL is a sport that basically requires you to play people correctly or risk serious injury) They haven't fixed all their problems, but both their sports are better for it and continue to improve because of it.  Don't worry, baseball will dinosaur itself long before you have to worry about whether some team who puts their third string infield in at pitcher can whine about being down 16-0 rather than 15-0 cuz some evil scumbag *gasp* swung his bat!  

I know I can't wait until we get that sweet, sweet inning of Kyle Garlick on the mound just so we can salivate at the chance to stomp our feet and be angry someone tried to swing on him!  

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In most cases I am Old School and pretty traditional.  However, there are two things about Baseball that I've never been O.K. with.  

1.  Those that can't embrace the DH.  It's been great for the game.  Allowing a lot of older players to continue doing what they do best for a couple years longer...HIT.

2.  "Unwritten" Rules.  There's a reason these rules are "unwritten."  THEY'RE STUPID !  Just. Play. The. Game.  Mercedes is the batter.  He's not supposed to make an out on purpose.  He has a bat in his hand and he should do something with it.  The idea a team up 5-1 in the 8th shouldn't try to steal a base, all this crap, COME ON !  How many times has a team rallied to beat another team late in the game.  PLAY. THE. GAME.  Don't bunt when a guy has a no-hitter?  Even if it's a 1-0 game?

And yes, throwing a baseball at the batter when we've seen what can happen is not acceptable.  I pitched.  Sometimes one gets away from you.  But I never threw at anybody "intentionally."  That's just not right.

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12 hours ago, Yawn Gardenhose said:

Absolutely no forfeits or mercy rules. Why should you get the benefit (slight as it is, but still) of saving your bullpen when you're getting blown out? I would outlaw position players from pitching. The Astudillo clownshow performance was far more of an embarrassment to the game than anything the Sox did batting. You're losing by 12? Find a mop up pitcher who's actually a pitcher to close out the game, and if that's not working, burn out your bullpen until someone can. No forfeits, you put yourself in that spot, eat your a** and suffer the consequences of a burned out bullpen if you continue to eat your a**.  

The position player pitching has entered more "unwritten rules" into the game. The unwritten rule is to swing the bat when facing a position player pitching, and Mercedes taking a walk would have "violated" that unwritten rule. Which means that batters have to sacrifice taking a good at-bat in those situations and negatively affecting their stats. It's not fair to the other team, who's ahead by a dozen runs, to have to play wiffleball rules for an inning or two, especially since the team down by a dozen isn't approaching at-bats against real pitchers the same way in the late innings.  Outlaw position players pitching and you get rid of this additional set of silly unwritten rules.

Don't get me wrong — I'm not really an advocate for forfeits, mercy rules, etc., but I do understand that a large portion of the gripes and complaints people have had with baseball in recent years has revolved around the idea that games take too long and that the games are "boring." I vehemently disagree with that position, but if that's something MLB is still going to try and address (rather than just marketing their sport better), then forfeits and mercy rules sure seem like any easy update. I'd much rather that than them continuing to mess with the ball year after year.

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I fully agree the "unwritten" rules need to go.  I have been sick of them for years.  The no swing 3-0 when up big rule is dumb.  There is no auto ball on 0-2 when the hitting team is down big to give them a chance to come back.  Other "unwritten" rules that make me mad.  The no bunting late in game during no hitter.  Why does it matter when in the game?  If someone bunted for a hit in 1st inning and that was only hit of game would people be all upset that someone bunted early?  The hitters job is to get on base, and to me that means by any means necessary.  If that is by bunt late in game so be it.  If a bunt was a hit every time, everyone would do it.  It is only an attempt at a hit.  

How about too much celebrating after HR.  Who cares.  You do not want to seem them celebrate, do not give up the HR.  I see pitchers get pumped from big strike outs but almost never see that fist bump or scream was too much, he should expect to have someone charge him.  But if the hitter "shows" up the pitcher, he is free to throw at him or the next batter?  What sense does that make. 

Stop with the old, "unwritten" rules already.  If a hitter is to not swing 3-0 late in games with big lead, just put in a mercy rule to let the losing team not have to get anyone out anymore.  I mean that is basically what is being asked about.  You up big late, so it is expected you will not go out of your way to try and pile on runs, well just call the game then so not to hurt the feelings of the losing team.  Well people will say the game is not over the and losing team could come back.  Oh is that true, well then let the winning team add more runs to make that less likely. 

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