The Unwritten Canon, Revealed

McCarthy says, "If a reliever comes into a blowout game and throws a breaking ball on 0-2, and they scream at him from the dugout to throw fastballs ... Why? What, do you want me to go to Triple-A right now? No one should stop playing and start cruising after seven innings."

ORIOLES MANAGER BUCK Showalter says the unwritten rules of the game "are being passed along by old farts like me. A lot of our young guys in the game have no idea what they mean."

The unwritten rules have been quietly and privately administered for over 100 years, but they are ambiguous. There are so many gray areas, and the game has changed. So, is it time to clarify them? Is it time to get rid of some of them? Most of them? All of them?

Or do they remain essential to the game? Is the game today too public to try to exact revenge in private?

"Now, everything is a humongous deal," Baker says. "There is so much more coverage now. There's 'Baseball Tonight.' The game is much more transparent now on how players act."

But, McCarthy says, it's because the game is more transparent that it's OK for players to become more transparent, too -- to be more personalized, to add a little more flavor to the game. He mentions Arizona teammate Gerardo Parra, who had 17 outfield assists last season, and is as skilled as anyone at throwing out runners. Sometimes, when Parra guns a guy out at the plate, he will walk back to his position and subtly wag his left index finger as if to say, Don't run on me, much like Dikembe Mutombo used to wag his finger after blocking a shot (and is still wagging his finger in a current Geico commercial).

"When Gerardo wags his finger, that is my favorite thing in the game," McCarthy says. "It's his way of saying, 'I did everything right on that play. That was a perfect play.' I love it!"

In the contradictory nature of the unwritten rules of baseball, not everyone agrees. But that's what makes the unwritten rules so interesting. How demonstrative should a player be after making a great throw? How slow is too slow to trot around the bases? When should a pitcher retaliate against a hitter, and how? What should the score be when you stop trying to steal a base, or stop swinging on a 3-0 count? When can you bunt in a no-hitter?

Even well after more than 100 years of baseball, there are no definitive answers to these questions; and there likely won't be over the next 100 years, either. But Dunn, a 13-year veteran, has had enough with the ambiguity of the unwritten rules, which he says are dead and gone. He says it is time for change.

And he has a solution.

"To me," Dunn says, "it should be mandatory: You can drill one guy per game, and you can have one charge of the mound per game. Fair is fair."

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