By Ken Reed
Recently, there have been a couple fights in Major League baseball games due to somebody breaking a childish unwritten rule of baseball (sometimes known as “The Code”).
Let’s start with the case of Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly.
Mattingly and the Marlins are off to a horrendous start. Thus, Mattingly might be feeling a little more stressedu than usual. At any rate, in a game against the Dodgers, the Marlins trailed 5-0 in the bottom of the seventh. At that point, the Dodgers’ Corey Seager broke an unwritten baseball rule — in the mind of Mattingly anyway. Here’s what Seager had the gall to do: He swung at a 3-0 pitch!
That ticked off Mattingly. So, in the eighth inning, the Marlins pitcher A.J. Ramos plunked the Dodgers’ Brett Eibner. Well, that led to the Dodgers following another unwritten baseball rule: If you’re batter gets plunked you must plunk a batter on the opposing team. So, the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling proceeded to fire a pitch at Marlins’ star Giancarlo Stanton. However, his aim was bad and it sailed behind Stanton’s back. Benches cleared and a lot of pushing and shoving took place.
When talking about the incident after the game, Mattingly brought up Seager’s swing on 3-0 in the seventh inning four times.
How dare Seager commit such a crime!
One of the many problems with baseball’s unwritten rules is that not everyone knows them all. Also, the perception of what is permissible and what isn’t under the unwritten rules is in the eyes of the beholder. For example, in the Mattingly case, who knew swinging on a 3-0 count in the seventh inning with a 5-0 lead was against the unwritten rules. My guess is Seager was just trying to do his best to get a hit and help his team and didn’t realize he had broken a sacred “rule.”
Let’s look at another recent game. In this one, San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland fired a 98mph fastball into the side of Washington Nationals star slugger Bryce Harper. The reason? Harper hit two home runs off Strickland during the 2014 NLDS playoff series between the two teams and Strickland didn’t like the way Harper looked at him after one of the home runs. That wasn’t a misprint. It was a 2014 playoff game, nearly three years ago.
Are you kidding me? Sometimes these Major League Baseball players — and managers — act like they are emotionally 12-years-old.
Harper decided to charge the mound and threw some wild punches at Strickland. Strickland did the same. Both benches emptied and a melee broke out. Fortunately, it appears that nobody got hurt to any significant degree. Strickland and Harper both received suspensions, hurting their teams’ chances in the race for the National League pennant.
These unwritten baseball rules have been around the game — in one form or another — for 100 years or more. That doesn’t mean they’re right or should be part of the game moving forward.
Unfortunately, a great game is being tainted by players and managers doing stupid things in the name of a stupid code.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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