Former Orioles closer Gregg Olson—the 1989 American League Rookie of the Year, who saved 217 games over a 14-year career—recently gave an interesting response to somebody who Tweeted the following at him in the wake of the Twins’ annoyance that somebody bunted against their shift in the ninth inning: “Bunting down 7 = bad. Utilizing the shift up 7 = okay. Clear as mud. These ‘unwritten rules’ are so lame.”
Olson has, over the ensuing two weeks, backed up his position by listing 14 unwritten rules, all of them presented here with annotations. All are valid, though some have faded a bit since Olson’s time.
The quibble I have here is that there’s a far more prominent exception to this rule than the shift: If the score is close and a player can reach base via a bunt, all is kosher at any time. Victories trump Code, always.
Superstition will never be defeated.
Outmoded these days. While still sometimes in play, it was once unequivocally true.
Yes! When Alex Rodriguez did this to Dallas Braden back in 2010, the general response was bewilderment about why Braden was so upset. Had people spoken to more pitchers, they would have heard more responses like Olson’s.
This is true, but in my book it’s more about baseball strategy than moral standards.
This one cuts to the heart of many of the issues facing the modern game. As the Code fades and new generations of players come up with scant understanding about it, we will see increasingly more situations governed by inflamed emotions rather than reasoned responses. I’ve been discussing this with a reader over at The Baseball Codes Facebook page over the past few days, as pertains to Nolan Arenado’s recent mound charge:
Scott Ledbetter: This is MLB players taking exception to every little thing. My opinion, this is what happens when players embrace too much emotion. I agree the pitch on Margot, while injury producing, was not deliberate. I’ve seen plenty of batters get injured by a HBP that didn’t garner any retaliation, why did this one? Did anyone retaliate when Randy Johnson delivered an inside fastball to JT Snows face? Did anyone retaliate when Giancarlo Stanton took an errant pitch to his face?
The Baseball Codes: One thing worth exploring is the idea about WHY players are more sensitive now. The dissolution of the Code — the slipping grip it has over the way the game is played – – no doubt plays a part. The less clearly that players understand the scope that defines what is happening, the more likely they’ll react to it emotionally.
Scott Ledbetter: I think that’s a sign of the times… younger generations seems to be more sensitive in general, and that can carry over into all sports, not just baseball.
The Baseball Codes: I agree, but I’m talking about something different — a disconnection with the meaning behind certain established behavior, which leaves them with nothing but emotion (or, as you say, sensitivity) to govern their response.
Scott Ledbetter: I think I see what you mean. A lot of the younger players don’t seem to understand that some of the unwritten rules were responses to actual intent to harm other players, and it was the intent that determined how one responded. Nowadays, it’s seems like players feel the response is second nature because they forgot to understand the intent.
The Baseball Codes: Exactly!
Boy howdy does everyone have a different threshold. Once, a four-run lead after six was considered significant. Now, some managers consider a six-run lead in the eighth as still within striking distance.
This rule came into play with the aforementioned bunting-into-the-shift imbroglio, wherein the Twins expected Baltimore to transition into blowout mode (identified above by Olson as halting all stolen bases, but also including bunts, hit-and-runs, etc.) when they weren’t doing so themselves, defensively.
Absolutely correct, with the addendum that if you ARE caught, knock it off for a little while.
I will never question a pitcher about this one.
This rule can make it very difficult for friendly neighborhood reporters to do their job. I hate Rule #10.
This one is steadily changing—what’s considered to be showing up another team today is far less stringent than it was during Olson’s time. Only yesterday we talked about this as pertains to Javy Baez.
This makes sense. But if a pitcher gives up a hefty enough blast, he has far more important things to worry about than the fact that his outfielder made no effort to reach a ball that ended up in the third deck.
I just covered this one in March, in my Rusty Staub memorial post.
I haven’t heard too much about this one, save for the instances when substance abuse is impacting a player’s performance. Gregg, if you end up reading this, I’d love to hear a story about the response to somebody bringing a sandwich or etc. into the dugout during a game.
Seeing as his last post came only yesterday, give Olson a follow. One never knows when #15 might drop.
Update, 5-17-18: Olson’s been busy listing more rules.
2 thoughts on “A Treatise On The Unwritten Rules in 14 Tweets”
The bit about emotion taking over in place of reason is really interesting. But is it an ‘unwritten rule’ if it was scrawled in a religious text 1900 years ago?
If your point is that baseball should be treated like a religion, well … you might be on to something.