The Unwritten Canon, Revealed

But what if, say, the third baseman is playing way back against a power hitter?

"There's a reason I'm playing 10 feet behind third -- because it's not within your skill set to do that, not even when the score is 2-0," Dobbs says. "So why do it when it's 8-0 in a no-hitter?"

Maddon says, "I understand the machismo that you have to earn that first hit. But I would probably encourage our guys not to bunt. If my guy had one going late with a big lead, I would take the bunt away. I would play the third baseman in. And if they did break it up with a bunt, I'd smirk or smile. I would not hit anyone. I would not say anything about it."

But McCarthy might.

"I wouldn't have a problem with it. But if a non-bunter broke up my no-hitter with a bunt single in the eighth inning of an 8-0 game, I would attach the F-word to the front of his name for the rest of his career," he says. "I would refer to him for the rest of his career as F---ing John Smith."

As a skinny rookie, Harold Reynolds took a big swing against veteran Nolan Ryan.

"I swung and missed," Reynolds says. "I didn't even hit it."

The next pitch, Reynolds got one under his chin. The count on the pitch at which he'd swung wasn't even 3-0, and he still got dusted.

So, if a hitter swings at a 3-0 pitch when his team is ahead 10-0?

"He is going to get killed tomorrow," Hunter says.

Not many guys are swinging 3-0 in blowouts these days. At some point, when the game appears to be over, players stop trying to swing as hard as they can at a 3-0 pitch -- much like, in the final seconds of an already-decided basketball game, players dribble out the clock rather than go for another dunk.

"It's acceptable to swing at a 3-0 pitch in a 0-0 game in the fourth inning, or the ninth, but you don't swing on a 3-0 pitch when it's 14-0," Baker says. "The easy way to determine the unwritten rule is this: If they're not holding runners on base anymore, you don't swing 3-0."

And if you do?

"That happened to me in the minor leagues, and I got drilled for it," McGehee says. "The guy before me did that, swung at 3-0 way ahead, and I got smoked. I went to him and said, 'Hey, if you do that again, you idiot, I will hit you. You did something stupid, and I'm paying for it.'"

Davis says, "If you swing 3-0 when you're up 10 -- if you do something stupid -- in our clubhouse, you're going to hear it from everyone. You're going to hear it for a long time. You have to be accountable. I expect retaliation. It's not showing who is boss. This is about respect. If you do that, I'm going to take you under the stands and throw a ball at you."

Wilson, a pitcher, says, "When someone swings at a 3-0 up eight runs in the eighth inning, I get really competitive then. Then I really, really, really, really want to strike him out."

Coke laughs and says, "Only Miggy [teammate Miguel Cabrera] can do that [swing 3-0 whenever he likes]. He loves the game. He sees the ball, hits the ball. He's a big old donkey who just loves to swing the bat."

And yet, there is another side to this question.

"Hey, in a blowout game, you're still seeing off-speed pitches on 3-2," Gomes says. "There are no gimmes in this game. As a hitter, you want to take strikes away from me? You want to take RBIs away from me? We're way ahead, so I am getting punished for that?"

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