Saunders: Baseball’s unwritten rules; one bad, one good, one ridiculous

Baseball is rich with legends, traditions, superstitions and unwritten rules. Sometimes they all get mixed together.

And sometimes they get people all hot and bothered.

Last Monday, budding San Diego Padres superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a grand slam, swinging at a 3-0 pitch, with Padres leading Texas 10-3 in the eighth inning. He said later that he missed the take sign.

“He’s young, a free spirit,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler told reporters after the game. “It’s a learning opportunity, and that’s it. He’ll grow from it.”

Tatis, who’s one of the game’s most exciting young players, said he didn’t know he’d violated some kind of code.

“I know a lot of unwritten rules,” he said. “I was kind of lost on this. Probably next time, I’ll take a pitch.”

The incident got baseball fans talking about the game’s unwritten rules and the players’ honor code. Here’s my take on three of the unwritten rules, one good, one bad and one ridiculous:

No swinging on a 3-0 count with your team far ahead

Maybe I’ve seen too many crazy comebacks inside Coors Field to believe no lead is safe, but this rule is bad. Tatis did absolutely nothing wrong.

“Keep swinging 3-0 if you want to, no matter what the game situation is,” Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer wrote on Twitter. “The only thing you did wrong was apologize. Stop that.”

“If you don’t like giving up 3-0 grand slams, pitch better,” tweeted Tampa Bay pitcher Colin Poche.

No exaggerated bat flips after hitting a home run

This is a good rule because it goes to the heart of sportsmanship, a quality that seems to be disappearing from contemporary sports. There is a difference between celebrating and showing up your opponent.

Rockies star shortstop Trevor Story flips the bat perfectly. Story knows when he’s hit one out and he celebrates with a quick, but forceful, bat flip and then chugs around the bases. He doesn’t try to show anybody up.

Not so with José Bautista in Game 5 of the 2015 American League division series between the Jays and Rangers. After Bautista hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off Rangers reliever, Andrew Keh of The New York Times described Bautista’s actions as “the most ostentatious bat flip in MLB history.”

Actually, it wasn’t a flip at all. It was a showboating, in-the-Rangers-face, stand-and-hurl-the-bat moment.

To me, it’s akin to end zone celebrations in football. Be as creative as you want, just don’t spike the football in your opponent’s face.

Don’t mention a no-hitter when a pitcher’s pitching a no-no

If a Rockies pitcher goes beyond the fifth inning with a no-hitter, I will tweet out the fact that he is, indeed, throwing a no-no. Inevitably and immediately I will get shouted down on Twitter with fans accusing me of jinxing the no-no. It’s ridiculous.

I understand why the players in the dugout don’t mention the no-hitter and essentially ignore the pitcher who’s working on his magic game. But the players are part of the team, I’m not. And unless I have powers of which I’m unaware, I have no influence on the game’s outcome.

When the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw no-hit the Rockies in 2014, legendary broadcaster Vin Scully repeatedly mentioned that Kershaw was working on a no-hitter.

“It’s insulting the listeners to make them think they’re silly and superstitious enough to believe my telling them that a no-hitter is going will affect the game,” Scully told the Los Angeles Times way back in 1960.

Case closed.

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