By Ken Reed
Baseball’s Unwritten Rules Book reared it’s ugly head again last week, when the Chicago White Sox’ Yermin Mercedes had the audacity to actually swing at a 3-0 pitch from a utility player during a blowout victory over the Minnesota Twins last week.
Mercedes hit that ninth inning lob ball from Twins position player Willians Astudillo over the fence for a home run and all hell broke loose. The Twins were fired up in anger. How dare that rookie punk do such a thing?
My thought is if you don’t want Mercedes hitting a home run in that situation stop making a mockery of the game by putting a utility player on the mound to toss a 47 MPH “fast” ball to Mercedes. Mercedes’ job is to hit and if that’s all the Twins could offer up on the mound that’s their problem, not Mercedes’ problem.
Well, the Twins saw it differently. They chose to retaliate by throwing a pitch behind Mercedes’ back the next day. How mature.
Mercedes’ own manager, old-schooler Tony LaRussa, told the media that he too thought Mercedes’ was out of line by swinging at that 3-0 pitch. After the Twins fired a fastball behind Mercedes’ back the next day, LaRussa said, “I don’t have a problem with how the Twins handled that.” What an enlightened skipper!
The San Francisco Giants pitcher Alex Wood had an appropriate response regarding this incident in a tweet: “If there’s a position player pitching in a big league game, all ‘rules’ are out the window.”
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer was similarly right on target with his tweet: “Dear hitters, if you hit a 3-0 homer off me, I will not consider it a crime.”
In many ways, baseball remains stuck in the ‘50s. Hanging on to these archaic unwritten rules will do nothing to help them regain popularity among sports fans who have gravitated more towards football and basketball in recent decades.
There are so many unwritten rules in baseball it’s hard to keep up with them all. No bunting in the late innings when the opposing pitcher is trying to throw a no-hitter (even if the opposing team puts on a shift leaving one side of the infield wide open); don’t attempt a steal if your team has a big lead; if a hitter hits a couple home runs off a pitcher it’s okay for that pitcher to fire a fastball in his ribs the next time he comes up; if a hitter flips his bat after a home run — or a pitcher points his finger at a hitter after striking him out — retaliation is okay. And on it goes with these Stone Age norms.
These unwritten baseball rules have been around the game — in one form or another — for more than 100 years. That doesn’t mean they’re right or should be part of the game moving forward. These “rules,” which allow retaliation for a laundry list of “offenses” need to be scrapped. Modern Major League Baseball needs to grow up.
Unfortunately, a great game is being tainted by players and managers doing stupid things in the name of a stupid Code.
Here’s a novel idea: Play the game as hard as you can, as fair as you can, all the way to the end.
Now there’s an unwritten rule I can get behind.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
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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