Take the eighth inning on Saturday between the Cubs and Brewers, for example. Milwaukee led 5-0 with one out, when Jeff Samardzija walked Mark Kotsay. Enter pinch-runner Carlos Gomez, who stole second and then third. Gomez eventually scored when Samardzija walked the bases loaded, then walked the run in.
One of the so-called unwritten rules is not to be stealing bases when you have a large lead late in the game. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke thought otherwise.
"Up 5-0 in the eighth or ninth inning, I don't worry about it one bit," Roenicke said Sunday. "Today's game is not 20 years ago. You can get five runs in one inning. ... People used to say you're not supposed to run in the seventh, eighth or ninth when you're up by more than a grand slam. That is completely out of this game today. It's not even close.
"So, for me, it's not even an issue," he said. "If that's brought up, it's from people that really don't understand today's game."
Roenicke didn't give Gomez the green light because he was trying to impress the sellout crowd of 42,478 at Miller Park.
"I can't imagine any manager thinking, 'Hey, I'm going to embarrass this other team. Let's score as many runs as we can because we're going to embrass them,'" Roenicke said. "If somebody has that mentality, then they shouldn't be in the game, and I just can't imagine a manager having that mentality."
And Cubs manager Mike Quade's take?
"Everybody has to make their own decision on that," Quade said. "There are unwritten rules, so I'd disgree with him on that. Since they're unwritten, I guess the decision on what they are and when they apply are left to the individual.
"[Gomez] is just a really fast guy, and I guess he wanted to steal a couple bases," Quade said. "That's their decision. I don't think he got punched in -- we walked a run in -- so it wouldn't have mattered anyway. We'll see how it plays out."
Does Quade file instances like that away for later series?
"I just watch games and make decisions," he said. "A lot of situations, a lot of different things apply. I cut [Tyler] Colvin loose with a five- or six-run lead last year in the middle of a game [against the Nationals] with the bases loaded and 3-0 count, and had an umpire tell my young player that was not right, which was amazing.
"These unwritten rules -- everybody has their own interpretation," Quade said. "Sometimes when interpretations differ, that's when you run into trouble."
Wait a minute -- an umpire said something?
"Everybody's got an opinion -- fans, umpires, everybody," Quade said. "The thing that was interesting is I had just taken over for Lou [Piniella], and there's a lot of things you're trying to establish in a short period of time. It's hard enough to deal with 25 guys and staff, and then to have to make corrections on what umpires say or don't say -- I think I'm as respectful as anybody in this game with do's and don't's."
Quade checked with Nationals manager Jim Riggleman the next day.
"To have to clear things up with an umpire talking strategy was a little bit strange," Quade said. "Maybe they should put those rules up on a big board and have them written. Are the unwritten rules the same in Colorado as they are in San Diego? We all have a different interpretation of that stuff."
Roenicke said his attitude is his team comes first.
"If my concern with my team is I need more runs to make sure we win this ballgame, or, more importantly, to make sure I don't have to use certain people in my bullpen, that's what it comes down to," the Brewers manager said.
"The other side, they don't know what's going on with us. Today we're playing [the Cubs], and [if] all of a sudden it's 7-0 in the eighth inning and he's running, my thoughts aren't, 'He's trying to show us up.' He may have two relievers down in his bullpen I know nothing about. Maybe they're sick, maybe they've got arm stiffness, and he can't afford in a 7-0 game to use his setup man or his closer. So if he's running, I think there's a good reason why he's running."
The Brewers were short-handed in the bullpen and without Takashi Saito, who has a sore hamstring, and did not want to use closer Kameron Loe.
So is there any cutoff point where stealing bases is unacceptable?
"No," Roenicke said, "there isn't."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less