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Sunday, June 27, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Larry Stone / Baseball reporter
Ten rules plucked from "The Book"

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1. Play for a win on the road and a tie at home. Most managers still adhere to this edict, because of the huge advantage belonging to the team with the final at-bat.

2. Don't swing when the count is three balls, no strikes. This one has pretty much gone the way of the pepper game. Few sluggers now even know what the take sign is.

3. Never put the go-ahead run on base with an intentional walk. An asterisk should be applied: except when Barry Bonds is at the plate. Then putting the potential winning run on is not only acceptable, it is virtually mandatory.

4. Don't play the infield up in the early innings of a tight game. The thinking is still valid: Trying to cut off one run leads to more runs because of the increased opportunity of the hitter to shoot one past the drawn-in infield. Late in a one-run game, however, playing the infield in with a man on third is strictly by The Book.

5. Don't bring in your closer until the ninth inning. Herman Franks was credited by Bill James with being the first to isolate his closer, when he had Bruce Sutter with the Cubs. But Sutter was usually used for two or more innings. It was Tony La Russa's handling of Dennis Eckersley in the late 1980s — and the left-right-left-right relay leading up to him — that changed The Book.

6. Don't bunt or steal a base with a big lead. This remains a controversial element of baseball etiquette, particularly now in an era where watered-down pitching, hitter-friendly ballparks and perhaps performance-enhancing drugs have led to rampant offense. Back in the 1970s, Pirates manager Chuck Tanner was berated by Franks for having Omar Moreno bunt with a six-run lead. "I said, 'Herman, I'll tell you what, next time you're leading by 10 at Wrigley Field, you tell all your big guns to strike out, and I'll tell my guys to stop stealing,' " recalled Tanner.

7. Never make the first out or third out at third base. Perhaps more than any other tenet, this has stood the test of time. The logic is unassailable: A runner on second base is already in scoring position, so the urgency to get to third base with two outs is not strong. And with no outs, the runner can be advanced to third on a bunt or ground out and still score on a sacrifice fly.

8. Guard the lines late in games with a one-run lead. Managers used to move over their first and third basemen as a matter of course, until the smart ones realized they were giving up more base hits to the hole than they were preventing doubles down the line.

9. Don't spend excessive time watching or celebrating your home runs. This is another etiquette issue that has changed some in a day and age when NFL players pull out cellphones and Sharpies after scoring TDs. "I can understand some style points," former manager Phil Garner said. "What I don't like is the minute-and-a-half trot around the bases. All right, you hit a home run, now get your butt off the field."

10. If you headhunt one of our players, we headhunt one of yours. La Russa is a particularly ardent believer in the "eye for an eye" school of retribution, telling George Will in "Men at Work": "You try to match, as best you can. If they take a shot at your big producer, then you take a shot at their big producer. ... If someone takes a shot at (then-rookie) Walter Weiss, then you look for their promising rookie or their second-year player who is a big star."
Larry Stone

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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