MLB

The Strange MLB Rule No One Ever Follows

Baseball is a game of many rules. Some are unwritten. Others are documented and enforced by umpires. Some of those rules change as the years go by. Others are often overlooked or forgotten, sometimes popping up in controversial fashion. 

Here are a few strange MLB rules no one ever follows. (All rules are courtesy of baseball’s rule book available on MLB.com, highlighted in a piece on Bleacher Report).

No friendliness on the field

Some old school baseball people aren’t fans of players from opposing teams talking jovially on the field (commonly known as fraternization). For example, Royals manager Ned Yost banned it on the basepaths. Legendary Boston sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy also spoke out against it

If those points of view sound a bit outdated, you may be surprised to hear that not only does MLB frown upon on-field fraternization, they actually have a rule against it: 

Rule 3.09: “…Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform”

This seems like an easy rule to enforce, but it never is. Players who have reached base talk with the defense in almost every game without repercussion. 

The infield fly bunt

Many baseball fans may not understand the exact specifications of the infield fly rule, but they have a vague idea of what it is and that it exists. Here’s the MLB rule: 

Rule 2.00: “…An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out.”

A lesser-known component of the rule is that it cannot be called on a bunt. In the rare event that a player was to pop a bunt directly into the air in a situation where the infield fly rule is in play, the rule is nullified. 

The reason this part of the rule is never followed? Because bunts are rarely popped up in fair territory. Most popped up bunts end up in foul territory without much of a trajectory. 

No throwing your equipment at the ball

One of the most exciting parts of a baseball game is seeing a great defensive play. Seeing a player put his body at risk to make a diving stop or catch is truly breathtaking to watch. 

Watching players giving up their bodies is one thing. Seeing them give up their equipment? That’s actually against MLB rules.

Rule 7.05b: “Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance three bases if a fielder deliberately touches a fair ball with his cap, mask or any part or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person.” 

This is a rarely enforced rule for the reason that it rarely happens. You don’t see many players throwing their cap at a ball that got away from them. 

No starting the game in foul territory

In this day and age, it’s popular for infielders to employ shifts. For example, against a left-handed hitter, defenses may move the entire infield closer to first base leaving third base unoccupied. 

One shift no one has tried yet? Moving a player into foul territory. That’s a good thing because apparently there’s a rule that prohibits it. 

Rule 4.03: “When the ball is put in play at the start of, or during a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory.”

It’s unclear why a player would want to start the game in foul territory for any reason, but in case they feel the urge this rule prevents it from happening.