Pardon me if this is now day two of occupying at least a portion of this space with a discussion of Colby Lewis, the Rangers pitcher who thinks that an opponent bunting with two outs, with a two-run lead, in the fifth inning, to beat a shift and to get on base somehow cheapens the game or goes against baseball’s magical “unwritten rules.”
Lewis taking exception to Colby Rasmus doing just that the other day will no doubt remain one of the most ridiculous things in sports all year, and this is said with full knowledge that the Vikings have yet to play a single down in 2014.
But if there is any good that can come out of it, it is an examination, albeit rather brief, of the very concept of baseball’s unwritten rules.
A healthy society thrives not only on the mandates expressed by law for the common good — it is illegal to drive too fast or punch a stranger at a bar, and this helps protect us — but also on those ideas upon which most of us have implicitly agreed. It is not expressly illegal to clip your toenails in the middle of the Minneapolis skyway, but (I hope) the majority of us believe that not doing so is an unwritten rule for our benefit.
At the same time, though, these unwritten rules take us into uncomfortable gray areas where one person’s “perfectly fine” is another’s “not OK at all.” That brings us back to baseball, which is a society unto itself.
Baseball is full of so many unwritten rules that it would be impossible to write them all down — would writing an unwritten rule break an unwritten rule? — but here are some examples: don’t swing at a 3-0 pitch when your team has a big lead. Don’t bunt when you have a big lead. Don’t bunt in an attempt to break up a no-hitter. In fact, don’t even mention a no-hitter to a pitcher between innings because you might jinx him.
There are more, of course, some of them dealing with the proper way to protect a teammate either from physical damage (being hit by a pitch) or hurt feelings (watching a player admire a home run for an undefined amount of time that is simply “too long”).
I love baseball, but these unwritten rules ... a lot of times they’re just too much. You’re supposed to score runs, but not too many runs? You’re supposed to try to get hits, but not certain kinds of hits? You’re supposed to enjoy yourself, but not too much?
It’s fine to have decorum and sportsmanship, but not at the expense of common sense.