Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Heads Up - Officiating Baseball's Unwritten Rules

After Padres batter Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a grand slam in Texas, Rangers Manager Chris Woodward—and even San Diego skipper Jayce Tingler—bemoaned a violation of one of baseball's so-called unwritten rules. As an umpire, what mindset should we take into the next game, given Texas' stated animosity in response to Tatis' actions?

Said Woodward after the game, "There's a lot of unwritten rules that are constantly being challenged in today's game. I didn't like it, personally. You're up by seven in the eighth inning; it's typically not a good time to swing 3–0. It's kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis, so—just because I don't like it doesn't mean it's not right."

Tingler described it as, "a learning opportunity and that's it. He'll grow from it."

If it's not in OBR, don't call it.
For the record, Texas pitcher Ian Gibaut (having substituted into the game for the grand slam-surrendering Juan Nicasio) threw his first pitch to subsequent batter Manny Machado behind Machado's back, drawing the attention of HP Umpire Nestor Ceja—working his first-ever MLB regular season plate job—who convened chief Alfonso Marquez's crew to determine whether or not to issue warnings pursuant to OBR 6.02(c)(9) [Intentionally Pitch at Batter].

No further incidents transpired as the Padres cruised to a 14-4 victory.

Heads Up: Now that Texas has had a night to think about it, what should scheduled home plate umpire Cory Blaser pregame prior to Tuesday's SD-TEX matchup: what is an umpire to do?

Gil's Call: Whether one likes the so-called unwritten rules or not, an umpire's job is to call the written rules.

If you're of the mindset that the unwritten rules are foolish, this next sentence is likely superfluous information. But if the unwritten rules hold a dear place in your heart, remember that as an umpire, until the player's conduct violates a written restriction in the Official Baseball Rules, it should not be penalized.

That said, it would similarly be shortsighted for an umpire to ignore the existence of baseball's unwritten rules precisely because a team's perceived violation of such an unwritten rule might give way for retaliation which is a violation of the written rulebook.

A Perfect Example of this would be pitcher Gibaut's first pitch to subsequent batter Machado. In it, we have all the ingredients of a pitch intentionally thrown at the batter: blowout game, perceived disrespect by the opposition for swinging at a 3-0 pitch, grand slam home run, etc.

This is a situation we'd like to clamp down on right away, knowing that in a lopsided game, especially when the score differential approaches double digits, we might be looking at a losing player accruing frustration and looking for a target for abuse—be it the winning team or an umpire.

*UPDATE*: As if to confirm our diagnosis, MLB suspended Woodward and Gibaut for throwing at Machado.

That said, let's briefly discuss the unwritten rules—not to take any action when the occur—but in order to prepare for potential retaliation which will violate one of the written rules and necessitate disciplinary action.

In addition to swinging at a 3-0 pitch while up by several runs, unwritten rules include:
> Bunting to break up a no-hitter;
> Flipping a bat after a home run or loitering at home plate to admire the hit;
> Stealing bases in a blowout game which a team is winning;
> Walking in front of the catcher on the way to the batter's box;
> Walking/running across the mound after being retired;
> Standing in the pitcher's line of sight, out of the circle, while on deck.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Heads Up - Umpire's Unwritten Rules Role (CCS)


Post a Comment