The unwritten rules of baseball are lame.
Let’s start there.
Almost always, the mention of said unwritten rules is a case of older men unhappy that young men are changing the game, not playing the ‘right way,’ breaking the mold, et cetera. It’s gatekeeping at its finest, and by that, I mean it’s terrible and bad for baseball.
This week, the San Diego Padres got upset that the San Francisco Giants broke one of these unwritten rules. On Tuesday, the Giants put up 10 runs in the first two innings against them, and by the sixth inning, the Padres had only managed to score twice when Giants shortstop Mauricio Dubón decided – or rather, was instructed by his coaching staff – to bunt.
He laid down a successful bunt single, and the Padres were not pleased. Eric Hosmer says he told Dubón “to be a little bit smarter,” while their new manager Bob Melvin made his dislike of the play clear from the dugout.
Essentially, the Padres were unhappy that the Giants were still trying to score more runs when they already had a sizeable lead. But anyone who’s watched a sporting event knows that it’s not over until it’s over. Just ask the Atlanta Falcons about that Super Bowl.
Look, you lost, and you lost bad. It sucks, but on to the next. There are 155 games left in the regular season.
More importantly, it’s absurdly hypocritical of the Padres to whine about unwritten rules being broken when they’ve come out so strongly against those rules in the past for very similar reasons. In 2020, Fernando Tatis Jr.’s first career grand slam became a hugely controversial topic because he swung at it on a 3-0 fastball, missing a sign from the third-base coach to take the pitch and draw a walk. At the time, the Padres were already up seven runs on the Texas Rangers, and their manager, Chris Woodward, said it “challenged the unwritten rules” to tack on more runs.
Tatis broke another one of the old-school unwritten rules later that week when he stole third base while the Padres already had a 6-0 lead on the Rangers. Again, something frowned upon when your team has a sizeable lead.
Of course, the Rangers put up four runs of their own moments later.
This brings us back to the present, and the Padres complaining about the Giants cleaning their clocks and breaking unwritten rules to do so. Essentially, they wanted the Giants to stop trying to score while they attempted to chip away at their lead, which is as ridiculous as it sounds.
Understandably, Giants manager Gabe Kapler pushed back:
"“Our goal is not exclusively to win one game in a series. It’s to try to win the entire series. Sometimes, that means trying to get a little deeper into the opposition’s ‘pen. I understand that many teams don’t love that strategy. And I get why. It’s something that we talked about as a club before the season and that we were comfortable going forward with that strategy. It’s not to be disrespectful in any way. It’s because we feel very cool and strategic. It’s the best way to win a series. When I say cool, I mean calm. We’re not emotional about it. We’re not trying to hurt anybody."
The Padres shouldn’t be complaining about the same unwritten rules given their history with Fernando Tatis Jr.
The Giants’ strategy was smart, the Padres got outsmarted and didn’t like it. But you can’t complain about unwritten rules being broken when you’re losing and then call for their erasure when it serves you.
Well, you can, but it’s cry-baby behavior.
MLB needs to break its unwritten rules if it wants to survive and grow. The average baseball fan is 57 years old, the oldest of the four major male pro sports leagues in North America. New generations of baseball fans are growing up in a different world, one with memes and TikTok dances. If baseball wants to appeal to these fans, they need to evolve and embrace flair and fun.
Otherwise, it can cling to its unwritten rules as it slowly fades into the history books.