The Unwritten Canon, Revealed

"[Escobar] stole third base, five runs ahead, with two outs in in the seventh inning," Gomes says. "OK. I wouldn't do that, but I don 't care. But then he started screaming at our dugout, then he walked at our dugout, then he challenged our dugout. You don't do that. That's when I had a problem. I never said a word, from beginning to end. I just ran in and turned him around."

So, by how many runs must you be ahead, and how late in the game must you be, before you stop stealing?

"The unwritten rule is this: It is 'runs ahead' against how many outs you have left," Baker says. "If you are eight runs ahead, and there are seven outs to go, you don't steal. If you are five runs ahead with two outs left, you don't steal. But at Coors Field, a five-run lead is more like a two-run lead. In Philadelphia, a seven-run lead is a three-run lead. There has to be an adjustment for ballparks."

Gomes agrees, saying "Hey, Game 5 of the [2008] LCS at Fenway, we [the Rays, Gomes' team at the time] are up 7-0 in the seventh inning, and we lost the game."

Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon managed that game.

"I'm not big on unwritten rules," he says. "When you're beating us by 12 runs, that's not your fault. It's our fault. If you can add on two runs when you are up 12, you should. I never felt anyone was piling on. We have not played well enough. Period. Just play, baby, because at the end of the day, they didn't embarrass us. We embarrassed ourselves. It's all fluid. Some of these unwritten rules have existed since the dead ball era when it took 10 singles to score four runs. They were rooted in an entirely different game.

"It all depends on the venue now; but to call off the jam when you are up six runs in the eighth inning, in Fenway, with Manny [Ramirez] and David Ortiz coming to the plate, that is wrong. Why stop scoring?

"But when they are playing behind you, and you steal, well, that's not kosher."

And what happens if you steal when you're ahead 10-0?

"Somebody is going to get drilled. It should be you, and you will deserve it," Jones says. "But you don't have to be afraid of getting it. I've been hit on purpose lots of times. It's going to happen. As long as it is not in the head or face, you're OK. There are lots of places to hit a guy: ass, elbow, back. With padding and armor, it doesn't hurt as much. But you have to send the message."

Says Dunn, "Stealing when you're seven runs ahead in the ninth inning, you should get one right in the neck. It's stupid. It's selfish. I'm not mad at the pitcher. I am mad at you!"

Says Davis, "If you do, you will wear one the next at-bat, next game, next year. Or all three."

Says Wilson, "You don't have to steal third base when you're up 10 runs. There are lots of other ways to score. That's just a stupid chance. When you do that, you are doing something for yourself. When someone does that, the pitcher will glare at the runner. You might not get a chance to get back at them right then; you just file it away. There will be retribution."

Hunter agrees, saying "If one of our young guys did that, I would explain it was wrong. If he does it again, that would be like puking on the floor, then licking it up. It's your fault."

Yet some base stealers, some non-base stealers and even some pitchers object to not being allowed to run, no matter the score.

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