The unwritten rules of baseball is like an unspoken code in the MLB that almost all players and managers have to follow. Almost all of the rules revolve around respect and gamesmanship to both your opponents and your teammates.
Violating some of these unwritten rules will result in getting plunked by a 95 mph fastball your next at-bat, or even a bench-clearing brawl. From not bunting to break up someone’s no-hitter, to not rubbing the spot you got hit by a pitch — it’s a world of unregulated regulation for baseball players.
Don’t Mention A No-Hitter
If a no-hitter is in progress, you do not talk about it. This even goes for broadcasters who are calling the game. Baseball is an incredibly superstitious sport and mentioning a pitcher’s no-hitter is said to jinx it.
This rule seems ridiculous, but it’s followed probably more than any other rule that you’ll see on this list in the MLB. It’s very interesting to listen to baseball games get called in the late innings when a pitcher has a no-hitter and the broadcasters have to avoid the elephant in the room with all their will.
Pitchers Have To Stay In The Dug Out
Getting pulled as a pitcher in the middle of an inning is tough on the emotions. To show support for their team, pitchers much stay until the end of the inning in which they got pulled.
If they leave with runners on base, they’re technically still responsible for them and would be “disrespectful” to head to the showers and make their teammates take care of their mistakes. After the inning is over they’re free to leave even though most of them don’t.
Don’t Steal If You’re Significantly Ahead
This unwritten rule revolves around stealing a base at an unnecessary time. For example, you don’t want to steal a base if your team is beating the lights out of the other team.
Teams don’t want to see you stealing an extra base. If it’s a blowout they want you to be going base to base. There’s also an unwritten rule that you don’t steal bases when you’re getting blown out but that’s less frowned upon.
Don’t Spend Time Admiring Your Home Run
Hitting a home run is a huge deal, but don’t you dare act like it when you actually crush one. There’s an unwritten rule that expects batters to “act like you’ve been there before” and not get too excited or admire their hit.
The underlying reason is so that you don’t potentially show up an opponent which, as you’ve been reading, is a huge no-no in the sport of baseball. Don’t you dare show natural emotions after doing a good thing for your team.
Don’t Show Up Your Fielders If They Commit An Error
Most of the unwritten rules in baseball are all centered around respect for your opponent and your teammates. When a fielder makes an error, this unwritten rule ensures that pitchers don’t make a scene on the mound by getting mad at their teammate.
Similarly, a fielder is expected not to throw their arms in the air after the pitcher makes a bad pitch that might get blasted over the fence. Mistakes are going to happen as frustrating as they may be.
Don’t Bunt To Break Up A No-Hitter
This is a controversial unwritten rule that sets off all lot of people. Apparently, bunting when a pitcher is no-hitting your team is an absolute NO.
Many people in baseball don’t see bunting as “earning your base” and therefore it seems cheap if a pitcher is throwing a perfect game. Rivals to this rule say that a player should do all that they can to help their team win, and bunting is a strategic play that should be utilized at any point.
Don’t Swing On 3-0 Counts
This is one of the most popular, and well-known unwritten rules. It’s not as out of respect to the pitcher as it is simply playing to the percentages.
Only specific players will ever be allowed to swing on a 3-0 pitch, and most of the time, they’ll have to get the green light from their coach to even begin to think about swinging. If you do swing, you better at least get a single because otherwise, you’ll look like a fool.
Don’t Rub The Spot That You Got Hit
This unwritten rule is all about player toughness. Players do not like letting fans, or more importantly, their opponents know that they’re hurt.
If they get hit by a pitch they can’t even rub the spot. No matter how painful it was! This is especially true if they know that the pitcher is aiming at them on purpose. They want to pretend that you’re not phased by the 95 mph pitch that just smacked them.
Don’t Walk In Front Of The Catcher Or Umpire On Way To The Batter’s Box
There’s an unwritten rule that you never step on home plate while you’re up to bat and you never walk in front of the catcher and the umpire on your way to the box.
You’ll see hitters approach the batter’s box from the back and then get into their box. You’ll never see someone come in at the front, even if it’s way more inconvenient for them to go behind. Another day, another weird tradition in baseball.
Don’t Throw A Curveball To A Fellow Pitcher
Rarely do relief pitchers ever get to step up to the batter’s box and hit, so, when they do it’s a pretty special moment for them. For the most part, hitting is uncharted territory and they’re more likely to get pinch-hit for when they step up to the plate.
Because of this, other relief pitchers understand to not make their opposing colleague look too foolish when they’re up to bat. Rarely will you ever see them throw a curveball or an off-speed pitch; they’ll see exclusively fastballs.
Always Let The Center Fielder Call The Ball
There are some absolutely brutal collisions that happen in the outfield when two players forget to call the ball. The understood rule is that the center fielder is the “captain of the outfield” and always gets the right-of-way.
If he calls it, you let him have it. This is in an attempt to give hierarchy on close plays that multiple fielders can make take on. The center fielder is usually the best player defensively, which gives them the leadership role.
Don’t Show Up A Hitter After A Strikeout
Just as it’s not respectful to celebrate when you hit a home run, it’s also not good to show up the batter when you strike them out.
Baseball is a game of emotions, but for some reason, over time the baseball purists decided that everyone must harness their emotions to not make anyone feel bad. If a pitcher strikes someone out, they’re expected to remain even-keel and do a fist pump at most. Again, R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
If A Pitcher Hits A Teammate, Hit One Of Theirs
You know that saying, “an eye for an eye,” well it really translates seamlessly to this next unwritten rule. If an opposing pitcher intentionally (or so you think) hits one of your players, it’s unwritten that your pitcher is going to do the same to them.
It’s the mutually assured destruction that is supposed halt pitchers from hitting players, knowing that one of their own is going to get hit as well. If you get hurt, they get hurt.
Don’t Stand Near The Dirt When A Pitcher Is Warming Up
It’s a cardinal sin to stand near the batter’s box when a new pitcher is warming up to come into the game. It’s completely fine to watch him from a distance, but standing anywhere near where he’s throwing is considered to be disrespectful.
In the pitcher’s eyes, you’re doing it to intimidate him and make him more nervous. There’s no reason to do it, and you probably won’t see anyone in the majors breaking this unwritten rule.
Don’t Step On The Pitcher’s Mound
If you’re a pitcher, you have to step on the mound, but if you’re another player don’t even think about it. As soon as an inning ends it’s all players need to head back to the dugout, leaving the mound alone.
During one famous incident, Alex Rodriguez stepped on the mound when opposing pitcher Dallas Braden was pitching lights out. A screaming match ensued and Braden was furious that A-Rod would break that unwritten rule for no reason.
Everyone Must Be Involved In An On-Field Fight
Baseball is the only sports that has constant bench-clearing brawls. If one person gets into a fight with the other team, it’s an unwritten rule that everyone has to storm onto the field.
As the fight intensifies, you’ll even see the two bullpens empty out to give support to their battling troops. Baseball by far has the most full-team brawls out of any of the major sports, which adds some excitement to the sometimes slow baseball game.
Play For a Win On The Road, A Tie At Home
This isn’t an unwritten rule that’s exclusively for baseball, but we thought that we should add it regardless. While every situation and every game is different, the understood mentality in close games is that you should go for the win if you’re on the road, and go for the tie if you’re at home.
The reasoning is that you like your chances in extra innings if you’re at home, so getting the tie in regulation is nothing to panic about.
Don’t Talk To Opposing Fielders Trying To Catch A Ball
There’s another unwritten rule that says the opposing teams players can’t talk to the player trying to make a play. During one play in Toronto, A-Rod said “I got it” as a Blue Jays player was trying to make a play.
The Jays’ player moved out of the way of the ball because he thought he was getting called off of the ball when really it was just A-Rod. It caused some serious controversy and reinforced why it was an unwritten rule in the first place.
MLB Is Trying To End The Unwritten Rules
Major League Baseball began a marketing campaign in 2018 called “Let The Kids Play,” which basically criticizes the unwritten rules concerning bat flips and player celebrations. The league has now begun embracing player’s celebrating their home runs and catches on social media.
The league knows that it’s not sustainable to have all these unwritten rules about celebrating in their rulebook when it makes the game less exciting. They’re looking to bring more appeal to baseball by showing off player personalities more than they have before.
Some Notable Incidents
There have been a few notable incidents that are very interesting and show just how much players demand respect on the field. Stan Williams, a pitcher during the 1960s, wrote the names of the players he felt he had to retaliate against on the inside of his baseball cap.
In 1979, pitcher Ed Farmer allowed a home run to Wayne Gross, and Farmer felt Gross took too long rounding the bases. The next time they faced each other was four years later when they played for the same team. Farmer threw at Gross during batting practice to retaliate.
Never Make The First Out At Third
This rule is all about strategy. Think about it for one second and you’ll understand. If second base is a scoring position and you’re there with no outs, you don’t need to risk running to third.
If there are two outs and you’re at second, you can get home from a base hit. The unwritten rule is why risk rushing third in those situations? With 25 more ways to score from third than second, this rule seems a bit outlandish.
Hit Where It’s Pitched
This unwritten rule is mainly common sense, but having sense isn’t so common. When a pitch is a bit high, then hit for the single as opposed to trying to overextend yourself. The same applies if it’s a low pitch — hit it through the gaps.
This unwritten rule probably applies more to those not at the major league level. Professionals know where they’re good at hitting and where they might struggle, so they get a friendly pass sometimes.
Take That Strike When Behind
When you’re down heading into the seventh or eight inning, you’ve got to remember strategy. An unwritten rule is to not swing at the first pitch that gets tossed your way. It’s about practicality.
If your team is down, that means the other squad has control of the game. Hitters need to have the presence of mind to acknowledge this. That first pitch isn’t going to be the one a batter wants to swing at.
Don’t Help The Other Team
How obvious can an unwritten rule become? This might take the cake, but perhaps fans aren’t aware of this one. We’ll provide an example to make it more clear for you.
If a member of the other team attempts to catch a foul ball by running into your dugout, don’t let him. He can’t hop the fence, or taker control of the dugout. You must keep him from getting the ball at all costs in this situation.
Don’t Come In Too Early
When you see a team’s defense come inward, it’s usually later in games. They do this to prevent a pivotal score from happening because it becomes easier to throw the ball to home if they need it.
Something to consider is that batting averages are way higher when the outfielders shift in. That means, trying this tactic early might backfire on you. It could become a long nine innings if you try shifting in too early.
Don’t Give An Intentional Walk If First Base Is Occupied
Intentionally walking a hitter is all part of the strategy of the game. The defending team may be trying to set up a double play or they could walk a very good hitter if the hitter on deck is worse or is a better matchup for the pitcher.
That being said, a defending team wouldn’t want to walk a hitter if there is already a runner on first base. Doing so would be a stupid move since they’d be putting that player in a scoring position. If the player at bat hits even a single then the opposing team is more likely to score.
Don’t Steal If You’re Behind
While you don’t want to attempt stealing a base when your team is already ahead, you also don’t want to steal if your team is significantly behind on runs either. If a player on the losing team is on first and tries to steal second, it more or less just looks bad for him.
It can also be seen as disrespectful to his team, especially when everyone knows one extra run isn’t going to make much of a difference. He may be trying to help but he’s really just embarrassing himself.
You Shouldn’t Steal Third With Two Outs
This unwritten rule isn’t so much out of respect than it is for practicality. If a player has the opportunity to steal third, it means they’re already in a scoring position. If the player at bat hits a line drive, it’s more than likely that the person on second will make it to home plate anyway.
But if he tries to steal third and it doesn’t end up working out, then the player put himself through the difficulty of stealing third for nothing.
Don’t Walk A Right-Handed Hitter To Pitch To A Left-Handed Hitter
This rule really depends on the pitcher. For example, a right-handed pitcher shouldn’t walk a right-handed hitter just so he can pitch to a left-handed hitter. It’s typically an easier match-up for a right-handed pitcher to pitch to a left-handed batter and vice versa.
However, that doesn’t mean that a pitcher should walk a hitter to make it easier on himself. If anything, the pitcher has the advantage in a righty vs. righty situation since it’s easier for an opposite hitter to see the ball.
Don’t Make A Power Hitter Bunt
In many cases, the power hitters on teams happen to be the slowest guys as well. Only a few make the exception, so if you’re one of the guys who lack speed, then you need to stay away from bunting.
This is a common sense rule again. Having a slow guy bunt to try and make something happen just isn’t a bright idea. Also, a power hitter is more likely to bring in some runs scored.
Don’t Play Against The Percentages
This rule applies to pretty much every sport, but applies mainly to managers for baseball. If across a player’s career he’s hitting 16-for-20 against a pitcher, that pitcher shouldn’t throw against him.
On the other hand, if a player is 1-for-15, then perhaps a pinch-hitter would be your best bet. This applies to sports like football and basketball. You wouldn’t want your quarterback throwing towards a defender who has a high percentage of disrupting the play or picking off the ball.
Playing For One Run Will Get You That
Teams can’t let a dominate player on the opposing team dictate their strategy. For instance, a tough pitcher or strong defensive players shouldn’t get into your head. Teams might tend to think that they just need to get one run to kick things off.
If their mindset is that the game ended before it even started, that blocks the mentality of going hard the whole game. It also makes a few players feel incompetent.
Giving Away A Ball
This unwritten rule is for the fans in the stands. Sometimes, a player or employee will toss a ball out to the stands and if you happen to catch it, then you’ve got to give it away to a nearby kid.
Chances are, they tossed it out there for a young fan, and you’re too excited to realize that. Take a moment, assess the environment, then give it to a kid that’s nearby. If there aren’t any, then you might’ve lucked out.
Keep The Ball If You Have A Kid At Home
The only way to keep the ball you’ve just caught is by having a child at home. However, you need to absolve yourself right away. Facetime your son or daughter and make a big deal that you’ve caught the ball.
You don’t want people thinking you’re keeping the ball for your selfish desires (or do you not care). If you have kid still in the oven who is expected soon, then you can take the ball home guilt-free.
Stay The Whole Game If You’re Behind The Plate
There is nothing worse than seeing a fan seated behind the plate chatting it up through six innings, only to leave before the game ends. Use baseball to escape the harsh realities of the world… don’t leave early to face them again.
If you’re privileged enough to gain front-row seats, then you need to stay. Not only is it polite to remain for the whole game, but it shows you’re self-aware. Enjoy the blowout as best as you can.
A Manager Should Be Detached From His Players
The manager is certainly there to look out for his team but in most situations, he needs to appear completely detached from his players. The manager is, after all, calling all the shots so he needs to focus on what’s going on in the game.
If something happens to one of his players, there’s no time to baby them or make it seem like there’s any favoritism going on. That being said, this doesn’t stop most managers from getting involved if a fight breaks out.
Players From Opposing Teams Shouldn’t Fraternize
This one isn’t so much an unwritten rule so much as it is an actual rule that exits within the MLB. Rule 3.09 from the MLB Official Rule Book states: “Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform.”
While this is a legitimate rule, hardly anyone who plays for the MLB now follows it. You will frequently see players make small talk on the basepaths between plays during the game. They also chat it up prior to games and during batting practice.
Don’t Use A Stopper In A Tie Game
A manager shouldn’t use his closing pitcher during a tie game. This is why MLB managers rarely use their closing pitchers while on the road because if they did use their closer, they’d still end up having to use a relief pitcher if the game does end up going into extra innings.
The only time it’d make sense to use a closer would be when you’re already ahead so that you could just end the game and you don’t risk having to use a reliever.
Use Your Closer In Late-Inning Situations
Similar to what was just explained, a manager only wants to utilize his closer later in the game. After all, you wouldn’t want to tire out one of your best pitchers too early. When the closer is already on the mound, the manager usually has his best reliever warming up just in case.
This wouldn’t be ideal if the closer was put in during the ninth and the game went into extra innings. A manager usually only calls in the closer when he knows that he can get a scoreless inning out of him.
All Fielders Need To Be On Fair Territory
This is something that should be second-nature to everyone in baseball and it is surprisingly written into the rule book. There isn’t any logical reason a fielder would position himself in foul territory while the pitch is still being thrown, even he does feel like the ball is going to end up there and he can catch it.
It’s a poor decision and is part of the actual rule that states: “When a ball is put in play at the start of, or during a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory.”