The Tortured Logic of Unwritten Rules

Suppose you’re the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. You’re at home against the Chicago Cubs, and going into the bottom of the eighth inning, you’re up 5-0. So you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. On the other hand, your closer John Axford has been awfully shaky lately, and you’d probably love to scratch across an insurance run. With one out, Mark Kotsay walks, and you have Carlos Gomez on the bench. Would you let Gomez loose on the bases and see if he could make it around the bases with some old-fashioned National League speed?

Well, if you were Ron Roenicke on Saturday, April 9, that’s exactly what you’d do. Gomez came into the game and just abused Jeff Samardzija, stealing second base on the second pitch Samardzija threw to the next batter, Wil Nieves. When Nieves worked the count full, Gomez took off; it wound up being outside, and Gomez was standing on third and Nieves was on first. Samardzija managed to strike out the next batter, Jeremy Reed, but then he walked Rickie Weeks to load the bases, and walked Nyjer Morgan, which brought Gomez around to score. The Brewers won the game 6-0.

Now, we all know that there’s an unwritten rule that says that you don’t try to steal bases when you’re up by a lot of runs in late innings. But in this game, Roenicke clearly believed that a 5-0 lead was nowhere near a blowout, particularly with Geovany Soto, Carlos Pena, and Alfonso Soriano due up in the 9th, and he said as much after the game, though he sounded a bit defensive when justifying himself for having possibly broken the rule:

Up 5-0 in the eighth or ninth inning, I don’t worry about it one bit. Today’s game is not 20 years ago. You can get five runs in one inning. … People used to say you’re not supposed to run in the seventh, eighth or ninth when you’re up by more than a grand slam. That is completely out of this game today. It’s not even close. So, for me, it’s not even an issue. If that’s brought up, it’s from people that really don’t understand today’s game.

In other words, to translate Quade Roenicke: In today’s game, no five-run lead is truly safe, and therefore it’s stupid to say that you shouldn’t try to run. Now, them’s fighting words, and Cubs manager Mike Quade predictably took exception both to the sentiment and to the strategy. But Quade had to object to that steal while still acknowledging that a five-run lead isn’t unimaginably huge, and that unwritten rules have a lot of different interpretations, and that those interpretations can frequently seem illogical. So he took the passive-aggressive route, condemning Roenicke with his tone, but equivocating with his words:

Everybody has to make their own decision on that. There are unwritten rules, so I’d disgree with [Roenicke] on that. Since they’re unwritten, I guess the decision on what they are and when they apply are left to the individual. [Gomez] is just a really fast guy, and I guess he wanted to steal a couple bases. That’s their decision. I don’t think he got punched in — we walked a run in — so it wouldn’t have mattered anyway… A lot of situations, a lot of different things apply. I cut Colvin loose with a five- or six-run lead last year in the middle of a game with the bases loaded and 3-0 count, and had an umpire tell my young player that was not right, which was amazing. These unwritten rules — everybody has their own interpretation. Sometimes when interpretations differ, that’s when you run into trouble.

To translate Quade: Every situation’s different, and everyone has their own interpretation, and sometimes there’s nothing wrong with stealing basis when you have a lead, and sometimes people can sound really unprofessional when they condemn you for stealing bases with a lead, but on the other hand, this particular situation was beyond the pale. Actually, Quade’s memory is slightly off. I looked at every situation that the Cubs attempted to steal last year after Quade took over, and the situation he describes didn’t occur with Tyler Colvin, it occurred with Starlin Castro, and it was a 2-0 count: Starlin Castro was caught stealing second in the third inning of a game against Livan Hernandez and the Nationals, when the Cubs already had a 5-0 lead.

In fairness, that game situation wasn’t really comparable to Saturday’s game. However, there was a much more comparable situation, a last-at bat steal with a multiple-run lead, in the top of the ninth in San Diego on September 28. With the Cubs up 5-2, Starlin Castro singled, got singled to second, and he then got caught stealing third. While it’s an aggressive, probably foolish play, calling for a steal in the ninth inning with a three-run lead doesn’t make Quade a hypocrite — but it does explain why he had such a hard time verbally condemning Roenicke’s actions, even though he clearly disapproved. The difference between a three-run lead and a five-run lead in your team’s last at-bat is not all that great, and if you want an insurance run to go from a three-run lead to a four-run lead, you would probably want an insurance run to go from a five-run lead to a six-run lead. After all, John Axford gave up four runs on Opening Day.

I emailed Delino Deshields, a celebrated basestealer who is now a manager with the Cincinnati Reds’ Class A affiliate, the Dayton Dragons, for his take. His response was as conflicted as Quade’s:

Every situation is different… From a strategy perspective, I don’t have a problem with it if that is what the manager felt he needed to do to win. I am not a big fan of the so called unwritten rules. There is a reason they are unwritten. Yes, you do need to respect the game, but a five run lead is not a completely safe lead. I would not have taken the base in that situation, but as far as strategy, I don’t have a problem with it.

When I asked why he wouldn’t have taken the base, the Dragons’ director of media relations responded for him: “He said he would not do it due to the likelihood of someone getting hit.” To translate Deshields: Strategically, it’s hard to argue with Roenicke, but unwritten rules are slippery and other people might disagree, so he wouldn’t do it for fear of reprisal.

I have gone into far more detail than is necessary to unpack a brief sequence in the eighth inning of a 6-0 victory. But that’s because I’m less concerned with stolen bases than with the tortured, unreasonable logic of baseball codes that attempt to govern what one should or shouldn’t do on the field. Ultimately, stolen bases are less a matter of strategy and more a matter of principle — Gomez’s two stolen bases in that inning had a combined WPA of .002. Roenicke’s decision to send Gomez had a negligible effect on the game, but Samardzija is a tall right-handed pitcher and Gomez is a burner and there is no mercy rule in baseball, especially not with just a five-run lead in one of the better homer parks in baseball. (Miller Park was in the top 10 in ESPN’s home run park factor in three of the past four seasons.) I have no patience with rules that state that a team should voluntarily try less hard to win the game out of “respect” for the other team.

I’d prefer that the unwritten rule against stolen bases in late innings would be done away with altogether. But at the very least, I’d like for baseball people to be willing to acknowledge that these unwritten rules get ridiculous. As Quade said, “These unwritten rules — everybody has their own interpretation. Sometimes when interpretations differ, that’s when you run into trouble.” Maybe that’s a good reason for us to take them less seriously.




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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.

77 Responses to “The Tortured Logic of Unwritten Rules”

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  1. TP says:

    Quade is probably talking about letting Colvin swing on a 3-0 count, not steal.

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  2. Zack Greinke says:

    This was a well written post. Kudos

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  3. shamus says:

    In the paragraph between the first two quotes you wrote “Quade” where you meant “Roenicke”.

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  4. Rob says:

    You missed the part where Castro was hurt in the steal of 2nd by Gomez and the Cubs left him in the game. So a 5-0 deficit wasn’t big enough to remove your star short stop even with him taking a ball to the chin.

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  5. Brad says:

    I like the unwritten rules even with their fuzzy interpretations. Wanting to win is not incommensurable with playing the game in a dignified manner. There is no reason to try either hurt or embarrass the other team which the unwritten rules are aimed at. This likely puts me in the minority, but I would rather my team lose with dignity than win without out (I’m obviously not a Yankees fan :-) Just kidding everyone.).

    I think Quade was wrong here, but he can moan about it all he likes. The unwritten rules exist to police the game and thus they adapt and change with time. Once a five run lead in the ninth was safe, but I think Roenicke is correct to point out that they old standards no longer apply. And we will truly see if Quade agrees if they plunk Gomez the next time they see him. My guess is that Quade won’t which would mean that he agrees that he was incorrect about his interpretation of the rules. If there is retaliation, then this will be managed again by the unwritten rules. There is no cost to the unwritten rules unless they get out of hand and even the Nyjer Morgan situation did not get out of hand last year (he did, but the unwritten rules were in tact and correctly enforced). So, yes they are illogical and fuzzy, but they also keep the game in check and insure ongoing peace. I do not watch a lot of hockey, but I interpret the increased violence as due to a disregard of the traditional norms against good behavior by a number of players and teams, but I could be wrong.

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  6. MikeS says:

    If the Cubs were still trying to score as many runs as possible, why shouldn’t the Brewers? Nobody would have complained that Nieves had homered on the first pitch.

    After watching the White Sox bullpen the last week I get upset when Guillen only plays for one with a three run lead late in the game. Roenicke is right. No lead is safe. If you don’t like runners stealing on you, keep them off the bases.

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    • Jason B says:

      Totally, totally agree. It’s not like Auburn is rolling over a hapless D-II opponent in football, where the teams are clearly mismatched. I do take issue with a HS team winning a game 102-7 or some such, but ML baseball, where the worst team can beat the best team on any given day? I’ve got no such qualms.

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  7. MrKnowNothing says:

    When you’re up by 5 in the 9th, everyone knows the polite thing to do is let the other team win. That way, while they get the official W and are that much closer to winning a World Series, you still have the MORAL VICTORY, thus allowing for a perfect Win-Win!

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  8. CircleChange11 says:

    I don;t think this situation applies to the scenario of having an “insurmountable lead”.

    Had the score been 8 or 9 to zip, it would have likely been a bigger issue … or more likely a non-issue because the PR would not have been brought in and given the steal sign.

    MIL has already lost one game this year with a decent lead, late.

    Most unwritten rules deal with not deliberately trying to show up your opponents. Trying to extend a medium sized lead isn’t really in the same realm.

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    • joser says:

      MIL has already lost one game this year with a decent lead, late.

      Yeah, if anyone has a right to complain, it’s Axford and the rest of the MIL bullpen who might be upset by the “lack of confidence” in them their manager is displaying. (Of course, given their recent track record, just about any sane manager would be trying to pile up as much of a margin for error as possible)

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      • Jason B says:

        To be fair, the skipper wouldn’t have an [alleged] “lack of confidence” if they hadn’t pitched so poorly early.

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  9. RushToGalt says:

    On a secondary note, but one that has perhaps greater implications, what in hell is an UMPIRE doing telling a player that what he is doing is not right? Is Bob Davidson in the house? Will Davidson (and his ilk) start enforcing “unwritten’ rules? Quade calls it “amazing”, I think he should also call it “infuriating.” Since when are umpires moral arbiters whose task is to undermine the authority of the manager?

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    • Jason B says:

      ^^This. Well said.

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    • Yes, exactly. I didn’t dwell on that in the piece, but if the umpire truly reproached the manager for cutting Colvin loose on a 3-0 count, that is shockingly unprofessional.

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    • Steve says:

      It looks like the game Alex mentioned was August 23, 2010 and for what it’s worth Davidson was the 2nd base umpire. I think we can all agree that he should be fired.

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    • Dixon says:

      If you’ve ever played baseball that happens all the time….umpires have personalities and they like to show them, and they will tell you their opinions if they want to…….whether it’s about the pitcher on the mound, the other teams manager, the girl in the stands, whatever……its not unprofessional unless he let his opinion of whether the kid was right or wrong affect his call which im sure he didn’t.

      I know when you watch on tv from your sofa you dont hear the dialogue on the field, but it’s there, it’s part of the game, it’s fun, and saying he should be fired is dumb.

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  10. jordan says:

    Those of you who support a ‘don’t steal bases up by more than 4 in the 7th or later’ rule, I wonder how you’d feel about a ‘don’t steal bases DOWN by more than 4 in the 7th or later’ rule. As the manager of a team that’s in the lead, I’m not calling off the dogs until the opposing manager does. And if you’re not OK with a team down by 4 late in a game quitting, then you shouldn’t be OK with a team up by 4 late in a game quitting either.

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  11. WilsonC says:

    I don’t even think there should be fuzziness in this particular case. The written rule that a player must give his best efforts toward winning trumps any unwritten rule. If a game is really out of hand, then teams shift into blowout mode – getting their bench guys some playing time and giving their starters some rest, avoiding overly aggressive play to avoid injury, etc. – but if there’s any uncertainty at all about the outcome, the team has a duty to play to remove that uncertainty.

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    • Jason B says:

      “The written rule that a player must give his best efforts”

      I understand your point and agree with the sentiment, but is this really a written rule?

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      • WilsonC says:

        Yes – it’s a part of Rule 21:

        “(a) MISCONDUCT IN PLAYING BASEBALL. Any player or person connected with a club who shall promise or agree to lose, or to attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which he is or may be in any way concerned; or who shall intentionally fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any such baseballgame, or who shall solicit or attempt to induce any player or person connected with a club to lose, or attempt to lose, or to fail to give his best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game with which such other player or person is or may be in any way connected; or who, beingsolicited by any person, shall fail to inform his Major League President and the Commissioner.”

        The rule’s obviously intended to combat players throwing games as opposed obeying implied mercy rules, but players or teams are technically breaking the same rule that got Rose and Shoeless Joe banned when they take it easy on the opposition.

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      • Jason B says:

        Man if they strictly followed that, how many players wouldn’t have been fined or disciplined at some point for not giving “best efforts” all the time, on every play? Like, 2%? Everyone but Eckstein?

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  12. Paul Thomas says:

    In my opinion, you surrender the right to get “respect” from the other team when you sign a pro contract. I think it’s a fundamentally different situation from running up the score in an amateur event. Most people’s experiences are in Little League or high school ball, and there I DO have a problem with running up the score.

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    • Barkey Walker says:

      I agree with this completely. If you are a pro then dignity comes from playing as best as you can, not the other team half-assing it. If you disagree with this, I’d rather see you walk off the field right now than play for my team.

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  13. db says:

    I am going to play devil’s advocate. It is poor form to show up or embarass another team when a game is in hand and probably not such a good idea because of potential retaliation. I don’t think hard and fast rules, like up by more than 4 with 2 or few innings are appropriate, but I don’t want my players swinging for the fences when its 3-0 up by 7 in the ninth.

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    • Dave M says:

      This is Brewers-Cubs here. Ask any Brewers or Brewers fans, and showing up the Cubs is almost required. As a Brewers fan, I want the Cubs demolished and demoralized at every opportunity, and if that means running up the score late in a shutout, so be it.

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  14. Anthony says:

    I hate the unwritten blowout rules. Throwing at guys, running guys over when there’s no reason, I get that. However, if you’re getting paid anywhere from 10-500 times the salary of the average american, I really don’t care if your feelings get hurt. If I’m a manager at a restaurant and we get one table all night, and the restaurant across the street is packed and has to stay late just to take care of all the reservations, should I bitch and say “hey, be a good sport and send me some of those customers.”

    It’s silly, any pro athlete who whines about the other team running up the score needs to man up and do a better job so that doesn’t happen.

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  15. zenguerrilla says:

    I am not a fan of unwritten rules in professional sports. Play the game and quit whining. People in general like to point the finger when they lose at anyone but themselves.

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  16. shthar says:

    Has anyone who ever won a game said anything about unwritten rules?

    Without being asked, I mean.

    I can’t remember it happening without someone asking.

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  17. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    Isn’t it a tad funny that managers are starting to defy these rules after the Steroid era. You would think a 5 run lead is safer this year or last than it was in 2001. Nonetheless, I totally agree those rules are dumb.

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  18. Breadbaker says:

    August 5, 2001, Cleveland 15, Seattle 14
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE200108050.shtml
    You can take your unwritten rules and shove them up the nearest dark orifice. Unless there’s an unwritten rule that when one team has taken out its stars the other team has to do the same and put in some outfielder to pitch, no lead is safe, and no one shouldn’t have to play to win. There’s a difference between playing to win and playing just to rub it into someone, but there’s no “more than a grand slam we have to wait until you come back and lose opportunities to score more” rule.

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  19. DJG says:

    If a team that is badly losing wants to concede the game and play the rest of it for fun, then that’s one thing. If they are going to keep playing and try to come back, then they shouldn’t bitch about running up the score or anything of that like.

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  20. pft says:

    If they were up 8 runs I would understand being upset at the steals, but not 5 runs.

    The only time a 5 run lead is safe is if a team has an elite closer, and even then things can go wrong (not often, but it happens)

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    • Barkey Walker says:

      Another part of the rules is that you signal it is okay to steal by covering the guy. Was he covered? If so, then they basically told him he could go.

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    • JR says:

      The win expectancy, up 5-0 in the bottom of the 8th, is 99.5%.

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      • David Carter says:

        So, one game in 200, the team loses. In a division when one win/loss can mean making the playoffs or not, you need to play for the win. Not to save face for the opposition.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        There’s two ways of looking at that ….

        [1] The game was already essentially over.
        [2] You BETTER win that game.

        My guess is that the win expectancy being up 2-0 in the bottom of 8th is close to 99% or greater. No one would say that game is “in the bag”.

        I tend to agree with others that have basically said “10-run rule” type of things end with the signing of a pro contract. That’s not what the unwritten rules are intended to prevent.

        ———————————-

        There’s some sentiment here that seemingly interprets unwritten rules as protecting the big boys from getting blown out or having their feelings hurt. That’s not quite accurate.

        The NFL has unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness penalties for similar things … behaviors that are highly likely to lead to retaliation. In other words turning small things into big things.

        There will be games where teams get blown out. It happens. That’s NOT the issue. The issue are when one team essentially does things that the other team interprets as intentionally disrespectful. That the actions are not intended to “win the game”, but to “humiliate” the opponent above and beyond what the scoreboard is already doing.

        The option for the unwritten rules is for the players to handle it themselves. In baseball that generally means that the pitcher has to drill someone and then the teams have to have a bench-clearing brawl, which leads to more retaliation, etc.

        The simplest way is to have unwritten rules, or codes of conduct. We have them in all aspects of life. I do, after a while, get tired of hearing non baseball players complain and whine about the existence of unwritten rules. They are not intended for you. Again, we have these unwritten rules and codes of conduct everywhere.

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      • Jason B says:

        “My guess is that the win expectancy being up 2-0 in the bottom of 8th is close to 99% or greater.”

        I don’t think it’s anywhere near that high. I would guess around 90ish. (Smarter people than I know where to access this win expectancy data.)

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      • Raff says:

        Thanks, JR: that’s useful stuff.

        How teams — and owners — react to a 5-run lead blown in the 9th matters. Get a reputation for choking or for failing to close the deal, and a manager can find himself out of a job. However, losing by 6 runs instead of losing by 5 runs won’t affect the other manager.

        I would think that managers themselves would appreciate getting rid of this particular unwritten rule for that very reason.

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  21. Jon says:

    Alex Remington, you should know better than to write about the unwritten rules. They teach you that on the first day of little writing league. Next time you settle in at that laptop, expect a little chin music.

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  22. mork17 says:

    Just to add another perspective; I played rugby for a few years and every once in a while you’ll have a lopsided score where a team is getting run over and is down by sixty. When I was new I asked why teams didn’t rest their starters and give the other team a break in that situation. I was told that in rugby its more embarrassing for the other team if you stop trying (and essentially treat them like your little sister) than it is to go all out and beat them badly. I kind of tend to a agree.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I agree with this.

      Again, though, the idea isn;t that one team is trying to win the game … it’s that one team with the game already in hand is going above and beyond the “normal course” to add runs when they are unnecessary.

      In football, you don’t run trick plays when you’re up 7 scores in the 4th quarter. For example. If you keep scoring TDs because the other team simply can’t stop the RB, then that would be considered the normal course of the game.

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      • I understand the point you’re making. But stolen bases are a much more regularized tactic than trick plays in football — I mean, they’re listed in the box score. No one lists gadget plays in football box scores. Baseball’s trick plays are things like the hidden ball trick, not stolen bases.

        But even still, once you have to separate tactics into boxes of “regular” and “unusual,” you’re applying a pretty seriously arbitrary standard to something that has nothing to do with winning the game.

        I don’t believe in showing up the opponent — I don’t think people should stand and admire their home runs or do victory celebrations or anything like that. But I think they should do absolutely everything they can on the field to win the game.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        In terms of the unwritten rules, the major issue has always been “when is the game out of hand”. Sometimes it’s not always clear.

        I don;t think non-athletes understand the amount of behavior on the field that could be described as “respect testing” … in other words, things done to see how the opponent will react to gauge whether they deserve respect or not. It’s continual.

        Stolen bases are a part of the game. The point is that when you’re leading 9+ to nothing, taking the extra base really doesn’t improve your chances of winning, but does add insult to injury.

        At 5-0 in the 8th, given the Brewers closer situation, I think it is perfectly fine.

        I have never understood the “don’t swing at 3-0″ with a big lead thing (even as a former pitcher) … as a batter I’d just say “I was clearing the bases for you, so you wouldn’t walk in three runs.”

        In youth baseball, with a neophyte pitcher and an excellent hitter, I would have an issue … but not overly so.

        In the major leagues, stealing bases with a huge lead on the scoreboard usually says more about the player than it does the teams. I recall barry Bonds stealing second with a huge lead, late in the game against Philly, when he was chasing 400-400. But, that’s Bonds … his numbers are more important to him than the game, the score, etc.

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  23. theperfectgame says:

    Tell you what, Quade, when a game has reached “mercy rule” status in your mind, I’m fine telling my guys to take a foot the gas pedal. You can signal to me that your “mercy rule” score has been reached by yanking your best hitters and bringing in your mop-up guy. Until you give me that signal, I’ll assume the game’s still being contested.

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  24. Llewdor says:

    I deny the existence of unwritten rules. If they were real rules, they’d be written down.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Denying does result in eliminating.

      You can stand on a train track and deny that a train is coming if you want.

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    • SOB in TO says:

      All you people are breaking the most cherished of the unwritten rules: Do not write down the unwritten rules!!

      Uh-oh….

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  25. CircleChange11 says:

    This topic is one that interests me from this standpoint …

    No one talks more about the absurdity of unwritten rules than those that are not “governed” by them. The players don;t think they’re stupid, trivial, outdated, or easily ignored. They’re the ones that follow them.

    Nothing annoys white people more than things that non-white people do … even though it doesn’t affect them in any real meaningful way.

    The one group that cannot avoid a religious debate are the non-religious.

    The one group that’s seemingly truly bothered by unwritten rules are the non-athletes that are not affected by them in any meaningful way.

    Interesting, n’est pas?

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    • Oscar says:

      Not really!

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    • SOB in TO says:

      Nothing annoys annoyed people more than people being annoyed by other people who are annoyed by other people….

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    • TomG says:

      Completely disagree. Tickets are expensive, and baseball is entertainment. I fully expect to see the game played at the highest possible level until it’s over. I shouldn’t have to sit through two innings of watching one group of multi-millionaires going through the motions out of respect for the emotional fragility of another group of multi-millionaires. The fans are the ones affected in the most meaningful way.

      I’ve also always thought that it sucks for the players too. These guys negotiate their salaries based on the numbers they put up. Why not swing 3-0 if they have a bases loaded or swipe a bag late in a blowout game? That translates into dollars at the end of the year.

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  26. LionoftheSenate says:

    The best quote was when the media asked Roenicke “Is 5 runs too large of a lead to steal?, if not, what number?” Roenicke responded, “No. There is none.”

    Eff the Cubs.

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  27. Cass314 says:

    In a game where two separate teams once came back from double-digit deficits on the same day and teams not infrequently take the batting order all the way around, not only is a five run lead not necessarily safe, but a ten run lead is not necessarily safe. Not that I’m necessarily advocating stealing when you’re up ten runs in the ninth, just trying to point out what I see as the foolishness of this particular unwritten rule. If the steal will legitimately increase your team’s chances of winning (as so many of them do not), I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going for it with a five-run lead.

    Frankly, I’ve always thought that not pressing when you’re up could be taken as just as insulting as the opposite. It’s just as easy to construe not trying your hardest as denigrating the other team as being not good enough to be a threat as it is to construe trying your hardest as being unsportsmanlike.

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  28. David K says:

    My favorite reference to the “unwritten rules” was by Bob Brenly, former Dbacks manager, when he got all bent out of shape after the Padres catcher Ben Davis went against the unwritten rules by bunting in the 8th inning in a 2-0 game when his team was being no-hit. I’m a Dback fan, and would have loved to have seen Schilling pitch a no-hitter that day, but I couldn’t criticize Davis for trying to reach base when he would bring the tying run to the plate.

    I believe that Brenly was slammed by most people by invoking the “unwritten rule” in that case.

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    • Yes, Brenly’s position was patently idiotic. In a two-run game, the other team should try to do absolutely everything it can to win, including attempting to catch the defense napping. Brenly acted as though the Padres owed his pitcher a no-hitter. What an insult.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      To me, this is one of the more interesting situations.

      With 5 outs to go for a perfect game, Davis came into the game as a pinch hitter and bunted for a single to break up the perfect game.

      [1] How many bunt attempts for hits has Ben Davis EVER attempted?

      [2] Lots of guys view bunt hits for non-speedsters as being “for pussies” … even moreso when it breaks up a perfect game. Basically the thinking is “if you can’t get a hit like man, don’t get a hit like a uh, non-man.”

      A lot depends on whether bunting for a single is part of Davis’s normal playing style or if he pulled this turd out of his Who-Ha just to get a cheapy.

      In the Padres’ defense, they did use 2 pinch hitters following that to try and get the runners home, and the score was 2-0 … so the bunt brought the tying run to the plate.

      We can say what we want, but it’s not like this is a serious unwritten rule … as if bunt hits break up perfect games all the time.

      Depending on your perspective, this situation is either brilliant, shady, or somewhere in between.

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      • David K says:

        I don’t understand what difference it makes if it’s his normal hitting style or not. Is it such a big no-no to do something unusual to try to catch the other team napping? I think that’s just as much a part of the game as anything else. Whether it’s done in the first inning, or to break up a no-hitter in the 9th is irrelevant. You do what it takes, within the WRITTEN rules, to win.

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  29. OMG Many of these comments dont make sense?! Give the guy a break and prevent posting BS

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  30. Simmer Down says:

    I think it was Whitey Herzog who said “my team will stop stealing bases as soon as your team stops trying to hit homeruns.” Or something to that affect.

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  31. DodgersKings323 says:

    I would not do it, go ahead, just realize you will get beaned. If my team can’t win with a 5 run lead in the 9th then they didn’t deserve it in the first place, i’m not stealing.

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  32. quint says:

    Why do losing teams deserve respect? Why is it that if you are ahead you must stop what you are doing to protect the other team?

    I would have no problem in a pro game (earlier people are right, amateur is differnet, and again for kids it is to), but in the majors, I would have no problem stealing a base with a 20 run lead.

    Why not? Is it in the rules? yes, is it part of the game? yes, does it make the game more interesting for the thousands of fans at the park and potentially millions watching from home? yes – isn’t that what sports should be doing? providing entertainment since people are giving up their hard earned money.

    Can anyone really stand a blow out game when both teams are just going through the motions? Stealing shows intent to play the game right, that even though its essentially over, you are still doing everything possible to score runs, to be aggressive and to entertain the fans.

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  33. B N says:

    All I know is, Rickey would have stolen home too. And if they hit him next time, he’d take his base and then steal another 3 bases or get thrown out trying. Just saying. Different perspectives, I suppose…

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  34. jirish says:

    I say throw out the ‘unwritten’ rule book! There’s enough written rules to spend your time worrying about.

    If they ever decide to put time limits on baseball games, then I might worry about a lead being too big. Now, no. You should score as often as humanly possible. You know, there have been 5,6, even 10 run innings. When is a ‘safe lead’ truly safe?

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  35. CircleChange11 says:

    IMO, many of the unwritten rules have been replaced by written rules, or have just become phased out.

    One of the unwritten rules that was essentially an eye for an eye in regards to hit batsman has been replaced by warnings and ejections.

    Another unwritten rule of watching your home run and showing up the pitcher was single-handedly erased by Griffey Jr. Now everyone has a pose or bat flip. Well, except for Scott Rolen.

    Excessive take out slides at second base are rare.

    Even the unwritten rule of catchers plowing catchers is seemingly gone.

    Pitchers facing pitchers still seemingly have the “silent agreement” that as batters they won’t try too hard and the pitcher won’t “throw inside”.

    The unwritten rules are vanishing as quickly as sportsmanship. There used to be a time when you did not celebrate a HR or TD if your team was trailing by a good margin, but that’s no longer the case. At this point it’s probably just differences in the perspectives of generations.

    It used to be a big deal if a pitcher beaned the opposing catcher, where the other pitcher was basically required to hit the 1st batter in the next inning … and it occured without a brawl.

    I think the losing team complaining about unwritten rules takes more flack than the team/player that broke the “rule” does. Times change.

    Perhaps nowhere have unwritten rules vanished more than in hockey, where it used to be a sin to drill the other team’s star player.

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  36. TheGrandslamwich says:

    I suppose I’m a bit late to the conversation.

    I feel like people are forgetting the self-policing nature of the sport. Most of the unwritten rules stemmed from an attempt to actually create a more gentlemanly atmosphere in baseball, as well as to protect players. In this specific case, I agree, a 5 run lead when the other team has their starters in, do everything you can to score.

    But if I’m a manager and my team is getting blown out by say… 10+ runs, I would play some backups in order to keep my starters healthy. If the opposing manager puts in a pinch runner specifically to steal a base, I would have an issue with it. Guess what happens to that team’s best hitting the next time our teams face off? Definitely a good plunking.

    Where the exact line is, for me, would be situational. But there is definitely a point where embarrassing an opponent can lead to dangerous retaliation.

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    • The thing is, the self-policing nature of the sport has been on its way out since at least the 1860s, with the advent of professional players and umpires, transforming the game from a contest of wealthy gentlemen of leisure into a match between men paid to play baseball. There still is an vestigial notion of sportsmanship in baseball that is probably greater than in other sports, particularly soccer, but sportsmanship is fundamentally at odds with gamesmanship — and gamesmanship tends to win a lot more games than sportsmanship.

      When you’re paid to win, you’ll take any advantage you can, and tend to forgo unwritten rules which lessen your chances of winning. As indeed you ought.

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  37. varmintito says:

    As long as there is a credible chance of a comeback (and a five-run lead in the 8th sure is credible), then the losing team should STFU about the other guys trying to ice the win, and start worrying about how they’re going to tie the game.

    If I were a player. I would have much more of a problem with showboating (e.g., admiring the flight of your upper deck shot until it lands, and then taking 30+ seconds to round the bases, doing a stutter step at each base, tossing the helmet, and then doing the two-foot stomp on the plate), than I with the other team playing hard when the outcome was in any reasonable doubt.

    Sure, take the foot off the gas up 21-1 (the final score of a Yankees-Indians tilt I saw in person about 10 years ago), but 5-0 in the 8th? Gimme a break.

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  38. Metalmike says:

    If you don’t want the other team stealing, then teach your pitcher and catcher to hold him to the bag better. Better yet, get a catcher who can throw out baserunners. It is your own fault if a team takes advantage of your deficiencies, not theirs.

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