No bunting to bust up a no-hitter.
No admiration of long home runs from the batter's box.
No going for the pivot man, rather than the base, on double-play grounders.
No swinging from the heels at 3-and-0 pitches. But here's one problem: One would have to figure that "No stealing of signs" is also somewhere in that unwritten glossary. Yet the art of sign-stealing has long been an admired skill, with those particularly adept at it -- such as the late Gene Mauch -- earning legend status. When it is convenient, as in the latter example, "violations" are classified as "gamesmanship." "There are two sides to the coin," Colorado's Jason Giambi said. "It's like stealing signs. They'll say if you're stupid enough to have them that easy, then they should be stolen."
|"There's do's and don'ts that most players know. It's mostly respect for the game and respect for the guys playing the game."|
-- Indians catcher|
Teams are increasingly adopting orientation events for their young players, such as the Dodgers' Winter Development Program. At these gatherings, players are briefed on professional conduct, media relations and the ins-and-outs of big league cities.But are they taken to old-school? Is there a course on baseball etiquette? Is "The Code" passed down to them, like some secret family heirloom? Apparently not. "The Code" isn't handed off, generation to generation. Several younger players approached by MLB.com reporters were simply unaware of this Code culture. Veterans acknowledged the big laws (see above), but likewise knew little about any long list of unseen bylaws. "I didn't got my copy of the book that says you don't bunt when you are ahead or behind by five or six runs," said Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu. "What is the magic number? What inning can you do it?" The enduring parts of the unwritten rules are absorbed. And sometimes picked up in only one classroom: The school of hard knocks. Unwittingly cross a line, and there will be someone to let you know about it. Ignorance is not a blessing. "These are things that either happened to you coming up in the Minor Leagues or happened to someone on your team and somebody says, 'Hey, don't do that,'" said Arroyo, now in the Reds' rotation. "Like, don't lay down a bunt or steal a base when you're up eight in the seventh inning." "The one that stands out to me," said Mariners veteran Ken Griffey Jr., "is going out of the way to take a guy out at second on a double play. That can come back to haunt someone on your team." "Baseball, it's a funny game like that," said Mike Redmond, a veteran catcher now with the Indians. "There's do's and don'ts that most players know. It's mostly respect for the game and respect for the guys playing the game. That's just baseball. That's what makes the game so great." "You don't stand there and watch a home run if you hit it," said Houston's Lance Berkman. "The game has a way of policing itself. Problems get taken care of on the field." Not, however, in as stringent a manner as they were in an earlier era. Through free agency, the Major Leagues have become a giant mixer. There no longer are sides of the track, right and wrong. Gradually, everyone crosses on the same side. The best indication of that are the defunct no-fraternization rules. Not too many years ago, umpires spent pregame drills stationed in the stands to watch out for players who got too chummy, then reported violators. Now, batting practice often is a hug-fest among former teammates or offseason golf partners. Of course, when it comes to unknown unwritten rules, Rodriguez broke just about the most selective one. Basically, it is known only to pitchers -- old-time pitchers at that. "No, you don't do it. It's like stealing a base when you're ahead by nine runs in the eighth inning," said Hall of Fame right-hander Don Sutton. "It's just common sense and common courtesy. If Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale had been on the mound, it would've been over in 15 seconds." Chimed in another pitching legend, Tom Seaver: "You just don't do that. Let me ask [Rodriguez] this: 'Would you dare to do something like that on Don Drysdale, Nolan Ryan, [Bob] Gibson or me?' All of a sudden you remember protocol." "There are a lot of current players who wouldn't know that rule," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "I guarantee that young man [Braden] has studied baseball history." And apparently not just the chapter on territorial pitchers. Braden seems well-versed in all of "The Code." In an interview on Sacramento's KHTK radio, the 26-year-old southpaw enumerated, "You don't steal past the seventh inning when you are up 8-0. You don't hold runners on when you are getting beat 8-0 later in the game. There are just little things that are not done." So give Dallas his Ph.D., Doctorate of Baseball Protocol. Only, let him come pick up the diploma; don't step on the mound to present it to him.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.