Baseball’s unwritten rules, when tradition overstays its welcome.

Cultural Relativism is the theory that beliefs, customs, and morality exist in relation to the culture from which they originate and are not absolute – in other words, what is moral in one society or culture, may not be moral in another.

Did you know in Japan its considered rude to tip your waiter or waitress? That’s right! What is considered a kind and favourable on act these UK shores, is in fact a degrading insult nearly 6,000 miles away.

Whilst this potentially could cause an embarrassing moment for an unsuspecting tourist, this social mandate which is so distinctly different to our own is something we are still able to understand. Despite the very of act of tipping being helpful and polite over here, we are still able to wrap our heads around the fact that a waiter or waitress in Japan may not want to receive a tip for their service. We may not agree with it, but we understand.

For a Brit like me, the same applies to the unwritten rules of baseball.

I can’t recall the first game I watched. If I had to guess it would be sometime around four years ago, watching two teams I didn’t know playing a sport I did not know the rules to.

The first game I remember however, that game is permanently etched into my memory.

Game five of the 2015 ALDS had everything I looked for in sport, tension, excitement and drama. Both managers of the Blue Jays and the Rangers were the playing the series like two Grandmaster chess wizards, cleverly utilising shifts, pinch runners, pinch hitters and relievers.

The score was tied 3-3 as the game entered the bottom half of the seventh inning. By the second out Toronto had men on first and third, with their enigmatic slugger Jose Bautista stepping up to the plate, looking to get his second hit of the day and punch home the leading run.

On a 1-1 count Bautista smoked the ball to the upper deck of left field, the second it left his bat, everyone watching knew it was gone. A euphoric moment, an overflow of joy and elation.

But it was not this feat of athletic and psychological excellence which would be the games main talking point. In fact, most of the post-game talk would be dominated Bautista’s ungodly decision to defy the ancient code which is the unwritten rules of baseball.

As the ball sailed towards the upper deck of Rogers Centre, the cameras picked up Bautista not only admiring his own feat of sporting brilliance by staring at his home run, but also producing a monster bat flip to put every other bat flip in the history of bat flips to shame.

I didn’t know it then, but Bautista had just committed a cardinal sin of the sport, enough to cause any baseball traditionalist to spit out their sunflower seeds in rage.

I thought it then, and I still think it know – what’s the big deal? How dare a player celebrate a home run says the baseball traditionalist, whilst accepting the fact that a pitcher can over-zealously punch the air in joy after an important strikeout. How dare a player act excitedly towards their act of athletic brilliance, they say whilst complaining that today’s baseball lacks the passion of era’s gone by.

I have found that with baseball’s rules there is an outdated sense of justice that is tied to it. For some reason the punishment for a bat flip, over exuberant celebration or just looking a little too long at a home run is a baseball to the rib. This is simply not just. I’m sure the pain of being hit by a pitch is not equal to the hurt feelings of a pitcher, so why does baseball insist on upholding this outdated moral code?

I would urge any baseball traditionalist who advocates the games unwritten rules to take off their pine tar tinted glasses for a second and consider that exchanging a bat flip for a fastball to the head is hardly and eye for an eye, but more like an eye for a lung.

Sure enough, the next time the Blue Jays faced the Texans, Bautista not only received a fastball to the rib, but later in the year would also receive a punch in the face courtesy of Texans second baseman Rougned Odor.

The next home run Bautista scored after that haymaker he did not celebrate. Almost bashfully, he placed down his bat and circled the bases, like a guilty puppy who had been yelled at for going through the rubbish one too many times, Bautista had eventually learned his lesson. The unwritten rules of baseball had won, and I for one, don’t think that’s a good thing.

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