The media rarely expresses fascination with baseball’s unwritten rules with quite the same fervor as it does shortly following a Code-based incident. Thus, 41,600 results for a Google search of “Nyjer Morgan” and “unwritten rules.”
Some, however, even manage to look beyond the momentary fireworks to examine the bigger picture.
Such was the case with ESPN’s Patrick Hruby, who last week discussed the unwritten rules for baseball fights. For a 500-word summary, he pretty much nailed it.
The main Code tenets upon which he touches:
Key statement: “Unless you’re playing clubhouse cards with Bobby Bonilla and Rickey Henderson, on-field attendance is mandatory.”
Key thesis: “More people means more grabbing, pulling, pushing and holding each other back in a big, harmless sea of sunflower seed-spitting humanity; by contrast, nobody leaving the dugout would mean hitter versus pitcher, unrestrained, exchanging dangerous blow after dangerous blow. In essence, a hockey fight.”
Baseball Codes tie-in: Chapter 22: Everybody Joins a Fight
Key statement: “True pros know that the safe dissipation of bad baseball blood is a lot like an ancient scapegoat rite. Ya gotta honor appearances.”
Key thesis: Hruby brings up a moment that was also touched upon in The Baseball Codes, involving Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. From TBC: “Derek Jeter once took heat from teammate Chad Curtis for laughing with Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez as the ﬁeld cleared after a ﬁght between the Yankees and the Mariners in 1999. The pair’s main mistake wasn’t joking around instead of ﬁghting—it was failing to look more serious as they did so.”
Hruby also touches on some tenets that have been raised in recent baseball fights. From the Reds-Cardinals fight in which Johnny Cueto donned his kickboxing cleats:
Keep it clean
Key statement: “Baseball players have bats. They also wear spikes. Two things you almost never see in basebrawls? Stickwork and stomping.”
And from the Nyjer Morgan-Florida Marlins fight:
Coaches fight at their peril
Key statement: “For every Pat Listach, the Nationals third base coach who pinned Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad in the brawl Tuesday night, there’s a Don Zimmer.”