Everything you wanted to know about baseball’s unwritten rules. And lots of stuff you don’t.

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ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian has an epic-length treatment of baseball’s unwritten rules. Unlike a lot of treatments of the topic, however, he doesn’t just list them and explain them as if they just are. He gets tons of players on record about them, and it makes for a wildly entertaining read.

The thing I find the most fascinating is that even though there is nearly unwavering acceptance of most rules — at least the ones of on-field decorum, as opposed to just dumb hazing of rookies and such — most of the players Kurkjian talks to sort of realize that they’re, well, silly and often contradictory. Or that they can be. It’s one of the more striking examples of simultaneously holding conflicting thoughts: “this is just, well, something we do for some reason” and “OF COURSE we adhere to it.”

As a person who doesn’t do particularly well in the conformity department — and as someone who has encountered some amount of trouble in his life because of it — I hold two simultaneously conflicting thoughts too: of totally not understanding how guys put up with all of this silliness while also rather admiring them for having a code, however convoluted, and sticking to it. I say in all honesty and zero snark that it’s admirable in a way, even if I couldn’t adhere to it myself.

Of course my admiration of it only goes so far. I don’t much care for belligerent enforcement of the unwritten rules a la Brian McCann and Gerrit Cole. And while even a Carlos Gomez/Yasiel Puig-lover like me will admit that hot dogging can go too far, I feel like most hot dogging is hilarious rather than offensive. Take this hypothetical example Kurkjian gives a few players about some bad on-field behavior and their uniform reaction to how it would be accepted:

Several years ago, Joe Horn, a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, scored a touchdown, pulled out a cell phone that he had taped inside the goal post, and made a call, or at least pretended to.

“And no one in football cared!” Baker says. “If that had happened in baseball … if someone had hit a home run, reached home plate, took a cell phone out of his stirrup and called someone, he wouldn’t finish the phone call. There would be balls flying into both dugouts. It would be like a Cuban winter-ball game, with guys running around with bats in their hands. Oh my God, the world would stop spinning on its axis. The ice caps would melt.”

McCarthy laughs and says, “Oh my God, he would never get to home plate. Bats would be tomahawking out of both dugouts. Where would a player hide a cell phone, under a base?”

McGehee says, “The game would never get to the next hitter. It would be so ugly.”

Says the Tigers’ Torii Hunter, “That would start the greatest brawl in major league history. I would drop my glove, chase the guy down, and beat the s— out of him. And I’d do the same thing if he was on my team. The camera shot would be of his entire team, piled on top of him, pummeling him. I hope that never happens in baseball.”

Personally, I’d laugh my friggin’ head off and have myself a new favorite player. But like I said: I have some trouble with this stuff.

 

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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