Baseball’s unwritten rules: dos and don’ts of running
Posted On June 30, 2021
Every year you’ll read or hear a Major League Baseball coach declare that his absolute first rule of thumb is that each of his players must run hard toward first base, all the time. Then inevitably throughout the season players will be penalized or reported for not obeying the first absolute rule of thumb. Frankly, it is terrible that such a basic principle of the game should be mentioned at the highest level of baseball; because it’s the easiest thing for a player to do during a game, and not doing it can be the difference between your team winning or losing.
For a very good reason, the name of the Game is Baseball. The goal of each player when entering the batter’s box is to get to all four bases safely, as the result will either be to score at the plate or to help their teammates to advance safely, so that they can score. The next logic is that each player should run as fast as he can to each base, each game, to minimize the defense’s ability to prevent them from scoring. When they score, it’s not called a touchdown, basket, goal, or point; it’s called Run! The symmetry is obvious; Each base runner must run as fast as he can to each base to increase his team’s chances of scoring runs. That is as simple as it sounds!
A common belief is that a player cannot steal first base. Is not true. Just as other bases can be stolen due to a bad shot, missed shot, or lack of urgency by a fielder, the same can be said for 1st base. To steal a base, every player knows he must run as fast as possible or be sent off. The fact that all defenders accept this reality creates the pressure that causes these mistakes. The race to 1st base is no exception.
Over the past four decades, the point guard race has eroded to the point that when a player runs hard to all bases, to all games, he has become the exception, not the norm. The old rule was that all players always ran hard to all bases and any player who did not run was either sitting, warming up the bench, or playing for another team. Because running hard was a given, not running hard was completely unacceptable, especially at 1st base, because a batter cannot safely get to any other base until they get safely to 1st base first. It is more a question of symmetry.
This is what some professionals said:
HOF Red Schoendienst, Monsignor: “… good players run to first base as fast as they can after hitting the ball.”
CHOF, Coach, Skip Bertman-LSU, 5X Champs: “A bad start from home plate can make the difference between being safe or out on a tight play at first base. Each player must give 100 percent when running to first base. You can never tell when an easy groundout will be kicked. Naturally, every player should be reminded not to look at the ball. The runner should keep his eyes on first base. No! Don’t jump on base. “
CHOF, Ron Fraser-UofM, 2X Champs: “The total sprint between the batter’s cage and first base begins immediately after the ball is hit. No time should be wasted looking at the ball. Even the time it takes to look in the direction of the ball can mean the difference between reaching safely and being out. “
HOF Satchel Paige, “Don’t look back. Something may be beating you.”
To be clear, reaching for the ball isn’t just about running to 1st, it’s also about looking at the catcher for a steal attempt. Additionally, many major leaguers make the mistake of continuing to stare at the ball when running to other bases. Sometimes, they will even miss or trip over a base, unable to advance to the next base when the opportunity was there to seize it.
If the batter hits a ball to right field, the play is in front of him and he makes the decision to try for 2nd base and decides if there may be a possibility of advancing to 3rd base as well. Once you decide to take a chance, you should stop looking at the play the outfielder is making, focus on making an aggressive turn around second base, and then watch the third base coach’s signal to stop at second or continue to third. . If the ball is hit to center or left field, the choice is made after an aggressive turn around 1st when the runner has the play in front of him again. If the coach calls home plate, then it is the responsibility of the batter on deck to direct the runner to slide or stand up across the plate. Once the runner turns second, it is his responsibility to run as fast as he can and accept the decisions of the coach and the batter on the platform, not trying to follow the ball.
If you look, you lose!
There is a very sensible unwritten rule that a runner should never make the first or third out of an inning at 3rd base. A runner who has reached 2nd base safely with no outs is already in position to score for a base hit and may possibly score without the benefit of a hit, by following two outs. The runner who reaches second with two outs is also in scoring position and will end the inning by making the third out on the third, eliminating the possibility of scoring. Making the first or second out at home plate falls into the same category.
The unwritten rule regarding starting from 2nd is, with fewer than two outs, unless forced by having a runner on 1st, do not immediately run a groundout to his right between the runner and 3rd base. If he is fielded by third baseman or shortstop, the result will likely be an easy out. A runner must immediately go to third position if the ball is rolled to his left, as it becomes a difficult shot for shortstop or second baseman, he very rarely attempts, and if the ball reaches the outfield, it may have a scoring opportunity. In all cases, especially with all the drastic changes in the infield today, the runner must look, before each throw, for the location of the infield players. Their positions can change with each pitch and affect the decision to break or not.
Opponents will love any team that violates these unwritten rules.