Do breaches of sporting etiquette matter?
We’re not talking about pedestrian infractions of Emily Post protocol like admiring a home run off your bat for a couple of extra seconds, or taking too languorous a home run trot around the bases, or stealing a base with a big lead.
Alex Rodriguez miffed Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden, who yelled at the Yankees slugger when he took a short cut over the pitcher’s mound on his way back to first base after running on a foul ball.
Braden, who a few weeks later hurled the 19th perfect game ever in Major League Baseball, said he would not stand to be disrespected that way. Even his grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, chimed in. “Stick-it, A-Rod,” she told reporters.
A-Rod said he had no idea he had used bad baseball manners.
Of course, the slugging third baseman of the Yankees has shown a consistent unfamiliarity with diamond niceties — previously yelling out to distract a Toronto Blue Jays fielder from catching a pop-up and earning the enmity of Red Sox Nation for trying to knock a ball out from a Boston pitcher’s glove when he was being tagged out on the way to first base.
This month a young Mariners player anonymously told a Seattle beat reporter that venerable slugger Ken Griffey Jr. was napping in the Mariners’ clubhouse when the manager was looking to use him as a pinch-hitter late in a game.
Wouldn’t such snitching be a violation of the unwritten rule forbidding team mates from revealing locker room secrets to the media?
The report led to fans calling talk shows urging disciplinary action against Griffey, calls for retirement of the slumping Griffey and a call-out by teammate Mike Sweeney, who at a team meeting challenged whoever told the sports writer such a thing to fight him then and there.
This month, the Colorado Rockies were rocked by revelations that someone with the Philadelphia Phillies was using binocculars from the Coors Field bullpen in an apparent effort to steal signs given by the catcher to the pitcher calling for a particular pitch.
Sign stealing is as old as the game, and coaches on the field and in the dugout, or baserunners peering in as they take a lead from second base are praised for being able to swipe a sign and signal some help to a teammate.
Use of equipment other than the naked eye, however, is considered a no-no.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel shrugged off the hubbub, advising the Rockies to “keep crying”.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy reacted angrily to that, saying: “We don’t cry here.”
Tracy apparently is well-schooled in an unwritten rule of baseball famously voiced in the movie A League of Their Own.
“There’s no crying in baseball.”
Wondering if this sort of unwritten code or professional sports ‘etiquette’ is unique to the old U.S. pastime of baseball.
Curious to hear examples from other sports that come to mind.
PHOTO: Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden throws against the New York Yankees in the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Oakland, California, April 22, 2010. Reuters/Kim White