Unwritten Rules

There has been a lot of talk recently about the “unwritten rules” of baseball. ESPN has spent many hours in the last week discussing the topic and rising the question of whether those “rules” should still apply to the modern athlete. This discussion hits close to home for us because many of the people coaching softball have a baseball background and I believe also hold some reverence for the same “unwritten rules”.

What are the “unwritten rules”? Just as the name implies, there’s a lot of room for interpretation as to what the rules really are.

I believe the “unwritten rules” revolve around a couple ideas:

  1. Don’t showboat when you do something good.
  2. Don’t run up the score when you are “comfortably” ahead.
  3. Don’t take cheap shots on the bases.
  4. Be respectful of your opponent or the game itself.

So are you still confused? yes, I think you probably are. Well, lets take a look:

Showboating. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what showboating is to each person leaves a lot to interpretation. Bat flip, admiring a long home run, too slow of a home run trot, making eye contact with the pitcher after getting a big hit off of them and on and on the list goes. What offends the heck out of you might not bother me at all.

Running up the score. What is a “comfortable” lead? I’m not comfortable until we have our post game meeting after we win a game. I don’t believe it’s the team with the lead’s best interest to take their foot off the accelerator until the game is over. I have coached a team that scored 7 runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win a game and lost game where we went into the seventh inning with a 5 run lead, so please don’t tell me it’s unsportsmanlike to keep playing to win.

Cheap shot? I agree that you should never play to intentionally hurt an opponent. Lowering your shoulder to blow up a defensive player or purposely sliding with your spikes up attempting to spike someone are clearly fighting actions. But breaking up the double play with a good clean slide, placing a clear and hard tag on a base runner when you are making a play or at least before obstruction was always called blocking the plate to make a runner avoid the tag are all part of the game in my opinion.

Respectful of your opponent. If you can define this one for me, you are a much smarter person than I am. We shake hands at the start of the game, we play as hard as we can, do everything we can without cheating to win the game and shake hands after it is over. I think we demonstrate our respect by playing hard in an attempt to win against a quality opponent.

So why is this important? I grew up playing baseball and even though I have been coaching softball for over 40 years now, I remember being told about the unwritten rules of the game.

As a young coach I used to worry about how it looked when we would run rule an opponent because didn’t want to violate those rules. Then a wise old coaching friend told me that my job as a coach was to win the game and to do it with dignity. If you accomplished those things you were doing all you could.

So if we want rules, write them down!