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All That Jazz: Brian Dozier, Josh Donaldson and the Unwritten Rules of Baseball

Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

A week into the 2018 MLB season, and already, there are already vivid debates about baseball’s unwritten rules, that mystical code of conduct that is meant to bring balance to baseball. Or something.

The Minnesota Twins were handily beating the Baltimore Orioles. Up 7-0 in the ninth, Twins’ starter Jose Berrios was working on a one-hit shutout and rookie Orioles catcher Chance Sisco bunts for a base hit against the shift.

Chance Sisco (that is one hell of a great baseball name, by the way) breaks up the one-hitter, but the shutout is preserved. The Twins, despite the win, were huffy post-game.

Berrios told Washington Post:

“I don’t care if he’s bunting. I just know it’s not good for baseball in that situation. That’s it.”

Wait a minute.

It’s bad for baseball that Sisco is trying to get on base for the better bats of the Orioles’ lineup? It’s bad for baseball that Berrios doesn’t have a one-hitter, which is not a thing that is celebrated by anyone? It’s bad for baseball that Sisco is still trying to win?

Twins’ second baseman Brian Dozier to the Washington Post:

“I could’ve said something, but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there, with Chris Davis, Adam Jones and those guys. I’m sure they’ll address it and move forward.”

They’ll get right on that. How dare the rookie get on base? How dare he not give up completely, because never has a team ever scored eight runs in one inning? How dare he?

The impertinent rookie was unapologetic:

“They were playing the shift right there, so they kind of gave it to me,” said Sisco. “If they’re going to shift, I have to take it right there in that spot. We got bases loaded right after that. We’re a couple home runs away from tying the game — bases loaded, [Jones] or [Jonathan Schoop] hits a home run right there? We’re a couple runs away from being back in that game.”

On Monday, after a game versus the Pirates, Brian Dozier continued to add amendments and exceptions to various unwritten rules after he was asked why after Twins’ outfielder Ryan LaMarre reached on a pinch-hit single in the top of the ninth, he didn’t steal second after the Orioles didn’t hold him.

Dozier told the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

“When they didn’t hold our runner on, they conceded to the fact they didn’t want us to steal, so we didn’t steal. We could have very easily stolen and put up more runs, so therefore in return you don’t bunt. That’s what everybody is missing in this whole thing. …Everyone just thinks, ‘He’s whining because they bunted against the shift.’ That’s how baseball is played. That’s just how the game is played. That’s just how it is.”

That is some impressive word salad. Dozier should consider going into politics.

And why is there no unwritten rule about shifting while up sevens runs in the 9th? Has Brian Dozier just not come up with one yet?

The subject of unwritten rules came up again this week in the epic whistle battle between Josh Donaldson and Chicago White Sox’ first base coach Daryl Boston.

Josh Donaldson hit his first homer of the season on April 2nd and was seen blowing an imaginary whistle in the direction of the White Sox dugout.

When asked about it in the post-game, Donaldson explained.

“They have a particular coach over there who likes to blow an actual whistle when their team makes a good play or whatever. I was talking to a couple of former coaches I had in the minor leagues about it before the game. I guess (he deems it) to be appropriate, so I felt it would be appropriate if I blew it back at him when they didn’t make a play.”

Instead of outrage, Boston rolled with it.

Donaldson continued to troll by using Too Short’s Blow the Whistle as his walk-up music.

And the two men were seen interacting across the field.

Donaldson to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi

“It just got to the point where I felt like I would just do it back and the whole time I was doing it to him, (Boston) had the biggest smile and grin on his face.

“It was good. I’m glad that it didn’t lead (to a problem) ‘cause you always hear of these unwritten rules of baseball and all that jazz. Well, I think you’re starting to see some of that change in a positive manner. Not to where I’m trying to disrespect them or they’re trying to disrespect me. You know we’re out there just kind of having fun. And competing against each other.”

Change in a positive manner, respecting each other while trying to have fun. Or outrage when the opposing team is trying to get on base, a rookie “audaciously” bunting against the shift.

This debate about unwritten rules and who, exactly, is in charge of enforcing them will continue to float around baseball.

Robert Manfred might insist that baseball needs a shorter game to keep fans interested. What would actually help keep fans interested is to allow players to show their personality. To have the drama build from the excitement of trying to score runs and prevent runs and to celebrate the individuality of the people playing.

(Tom’s note: Joanna runs Hum and Chuck and is starting a weekly contribution here. Thanks Joanna.)