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Dodgers: Dave Roberts Thinks Baseball’s Unwritten Rules Need a Change



Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is a guy always willing to change his opinion based on experience and education. He changed his tune on kneeling during the anthem based on conversations and world events, and more is changing this week.

It all started when the Padres; Fernando Tatis Jr took a swing on a 3-0 count. Tatis hit a grand slam with his team already up big, sparking a debate in baseball. In the mind of the Rangers and manager Chris Woodward, Tatis had broken an unwritten rule. That rule is that you don’t swing 3-0 with your team up by a lot. But the Dodgers manager might not agree with that anymore. 

Roberts talked with Dodgers media ahead of the game on Tuesday afternoon. He was asked about the events that occurred during that game, given his connection to the Padres and Rangers’ manager Chris Woodward. Roberts felt that baseball was due for a change. 

I think the unwritten rules have changed, should change. And each passing day we’ve got to continue to break some of those rules, and that’s a good thing…Personally, I flipped a little bit more to just playing to win the game and keep playing.

There has definitely been a shift in baseball over the last ten years or so that would support Roberts’ thoughts. The game is shifting back towards being fun and passionate, and not the old school hard nose style of ball. Players are slowly being encouraged to be themselves and to be honest, it’s exactly what baseball needs. Let’s face it, baseball isn’t the preferred sport of the country anymore, it’s just not ‘cool’ enough for kids growing up. The Dodgers are one of the teams hoping to change that.

MLB average attendance has seen close to a 10 percent dip in since 2009. Obviously 2020 there is no attendance so this is going off of 2019 numbers. The old unwritten rules need to go, and it will be good for baseball in the long run. 

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. The point that is being missed is that Tatis supposedly had a take sign and disregarded it. He blew his manager off! That is the problem.
    The old school rules about not swinging 3-0 when you have a big lead or not bunting when you have a big lead were to not embarrass the other team. But times have changed.

    • Bunting is one thing but continuing to swing the bat there should be no problem with this isn’t little league. The managers call to have him take was based off of the unwritten rules

    • Baseball began losing popularity when MLB chose to eliminate local television stations from broadcasting games. They went for the money of tickets, in game purchases, memorabilia sales, gear sales, huge television broadcast contracts and etcetera. Urban, Suburban and Rural communities use to love baseball. Now they have moved to other sports and activities.

      • Absolutely correct. The move to pay-per-view type models have brought greater riches to the team owners, but kept far too many potential fans away from learning to love the sport. Happened to boxing, too. Pity all around.

        Still, Go Dodgers!

    • What about players that have incentives for home runs, RBI, etc.? Throw it in the dirt if you don’t want him to jack it out of the park. Better yet, don’t go down 3-0 if you’re the pitcher. Why should he stand there and watch two free perfect pitches across the middle of the plate so the pitcher gets a full count, before he’s allowed to swing. Swing while you have the advantage! What’s disrespectful about you meeting your incentives instead of allowing him to meet his strikeout incentive?

  2. Exactly which “unwritten rules” should be changed, or eliminated? Bunting for a base hit in the 9th inning when your team is up by 10 runs, and then stealing second and third base? Standing at home plate for 15 seconds admiring your home run? Exaggerated flipping the bat high after a home run? Taking 2 minutes to stroll around the bases after a home run? Pitchers jumping in the air with arms raised to celebrate an ordinary strikeout? Others?

    • It should be common sense. Bunting and stealing with large leads should remain an unwritten rule. Admiring homeruns can be “allowed” bat flips allowed within reason, there’s a way to do it without being disrespectful. Slow trots I say should remain an unwritten rule. Pitchers being pumped up should be reserved for getting out of a jam or closing out a big game. This seems like a lot to have to remember but it’s really just common sense and if they have it then it should be natural

  3. For context, tomorrow is the 30 year anniversary for when the Dodgers blew an 8 run lead in the 9th. It doesn’t make sense for one team to stop trying their best, while the other team is still fighting to win it to the end.

  4. I like unwritten rules. The reason they exist is because they are perceived to be common sense and so obvious that there is no need to put them in writing. They usually apply to the areas of sportsmanship and class. Not everything should be like professional wrestling, which is of course is a joke for everyone with an IQ above 60. I never liked end zone dances in football either. Celebrations with teammates after a touchdown are fine. You should be happy and acknowledge your teammates roles in getting you into the endzone. It’s supposed to be fun. But choreographed solo dance routines belong a TV game show.

    Tatis is a great ballplayer already. He is exciting to watch, precisely because he does things within the rules at an elite level, and with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Despite being a rookie, I think he will be in the HOF some day barring injury. His enthusiasm and skills are what lifts the game for viewers, not disregard for the game. He reminds me of Willie Mays, in terms of skills, and enthusiasm. He should try to emulate his class too.

    Here’s another unwritten rule. If you pile on a team you have already beaten, they will remember it, and do their best to return the favor. In baseball you could also become a target for opposing pitchers.

    Tatis was right to apologize. He generates plenty of excitement by just playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.

    • To me, this unwritten rule makes no logical sense at all. If a game is considered to be out of reach, why would you ever give a hitter a take sign regardless of the count? Trying to stretch out the game? Trying to eke out a walk? By logic then, should all the hitters just take all the pitches until the game is over?

  5. As old as I am I have seen Baseball change a lot. It’s gone from a fun game to let’s see who knocks the ball out of the park more often. It’s gone from strategy to brutal & mean. My whole Family use to want to see the Dodger ball games, now not so much. My wife and I are still loyal. As I mentioned before, use all the basics not just homer after homer because it doesn’t always work. Run & hit, hit & run, stealing bases, make the other team think about what your next move is. Mix it up and make it interesting.

  6. Hey Dave, you better bring home a world series ring or the one thing that will change is the holder of the manager job for the Dodgers.

  7. The “unwritten rules” are meant to not embarrass opponents by stealing or bunting with big leads, and not intend to injure opponents. so another of these rules is to never intentionally throw at a batter’s head; OK to hit one in the back, but not the head. spiking an opponent is no longer tolerated (sorry Ty Cobb), nor using a bat as a weapon (sorry Juan Marichal). these are all “common sense” rules.
    swinging at 3-0 pitches is not one of these, and should not be a big deal.

    • Only that swinging 3-0 when your manager gives you the take sign is willfully defiance. That’s my only problem, otherwise go for it!

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