What rules do baseball umpires ignore the most?

1. Rule 3.09
Players in uniform shall not address or mingle with spectators, nor sit in the stands before, during, or after a game. No manager, coach or player shall address any spectator before or during a game. Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform. The rule about spectators is there to prevent gamblers from having access to players at the ballpark, and also to protect personnel. But it is broken nearly every day, in fact every MLB team sponsors events that break the rule, such as “Autograph Day.” The other rule –against fraternization – is broken before every game in Major League Baseball every season. It’s a sign of the player movement that exists in the Free Agent era. Players often know more people on opposing teams than they do on their own.

2. Rule 4.07
When a manager, player, coach, or trainer is ejected from a game, he shall leave the field immediately and take no further part in that game. He shall remain in the club house or change to street clothes and either leave the park or take a seat in the grandstand well removed from the vicinity of his team’s bench or bullpen. If a manager, coach, or player is under suspension he may not be in the dugout or press box during the course of a game.

Umpires and opposing teams just wink at this rule, allowing ejected managers to call the shots from the clubhouse tunnel. In many cases, the acting manager talks to the ejected manager on the dugout phone, a fact that umpires are fully aware of.

3. Rule 6.02
(a) The batter shall take his position in the batter’s box promptly when it is his time at bat. (b) The batter shall not leave his position in the batter’s box after the pitcher comes to Set Position, or starts his windup. PENALTY: If the pitcher pitches, the umpire shall call “Ball” or “Strike,” as the case may be. The batter leaves the batter’s box at the risk of having a strike delivered and called unless he requests the umpire to call “Time.” The batter is not at liberty to step in and out of the batter’s box at will. Once a batter has taken his position in the batter’s box, he shall not be permitted to step out of the batter’s box in order to use the resin or the pine tar rag, unless there is a delay in the game action or, in the judgment of the umpires, weather conditions warrant an exception. Umpires will not call “Time” at the request of the batter or any member of his team once the pitcher has started his windup or has come to a set position even though the batter claims “dust in his eyes,” “steamed glasses,” “didn’t get the sign” or for any other cause.

Call this the Mike Hargrove Rule, routinely disregarded every day during the season. Major League batters have been asked to speed it up, but they still step out of the box after nearly every pitch, prolonging the already marathon games. In addition, several times each week I see a batter call time when the pitcher is in his delivery – which is clearly illegal according to this rule.

4. Rule 6.03
The batter’s legal position shall be with both feet within the batter’s box. APPROVED RULING: The lines defining the box are within the batter’s box.

The failure to enforce this rule clearly helps the hitter. Batters are able to set up far back behind the defined batters box (the leadoff hitters usually wipe out the batters box back line within seconds after the Ump calls “Play Ball,”) in order to wait an extra split-second on breaking pitchers or fastballs. Umpires watch the batters break the rules and don’t do a thing about it.

5. Rule 7.06
The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.

Many people in baseball are unaware of this rule. Players and announcers talk about the “great play” made by a catcher when he blocks the plate and makes the tag. Roughly 75% of the time the catcher is positioned in the base path waiting for the ball to arrive. Clearly illegal.

6. Rule 8.04
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 20 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.” The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. An obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

What’s ironic about this rule is that the pitcher’s who stall on the mound are usually the one’s getting shelled. Recently MLB tried to enforce this rule more stringently, but that didn’t last too long.

7. Rule 8.05
It is possible, with runners on first and third, for the pitcher to step toward third and not throw, merely to bluff the runner back to third; then seeing the runner on first start for second, turn and step toward and throw to first base. This is legal. However, if, with runners on first and third, the pitcher, while in contact with the rubber, steps toward third and then immediately and in practically the same motion “wheels” and throws to first base, it is obviously an attempt to deceive the runner at first base, and in such a move it is practically impossible to step directly toward first base before the throw to first base, and such a move shall be called a balk.

You hear about this one quite a bit. The “trick pick-off play” that everyone says never works. But it does occasionally catch a runner, and under the definition, it is illegal. I have no idea why MLB umps ignore the clear ruling on this one.

8. Rule 10.09
CAUGHT STEALING (h) A runner shall be charged as “Caught Stealing” if he is put out, or would have been put out by errorless play when he (1) Tries to steal. (2) Is picked off a base and tries to advance (any move toward the next base shall be considered an attempt to advance). (3) Overslides while stealing. NOTE: In those instances where a pitched ball eludes the catcher and the runner is put out trying to advance, no caught stealing shall be charged. No caught stealing should be charged when a runner is awarded a base due to obstruction.

This one is ignored by Official Scorers. A move was made in the late 1980’s to have more accurate caught stealing stats, essentially to ensure that a caught stealing was recorded only when a runner actually was trying to swipe a base. But the rules don’t support that effort. Often a runner is picked off and it is announced that no caught stealing was recorded. Obviously, the rule spells out that if the runner makes ANY advance toward the next base in a rundown, he MUST be penalized with a caught steal.

9. Rule 1.11
(a) (1) All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players uniforms shall include minimal six inch numbers on their backs. (2) Any part of an undershirt exposed to view shall be of a uniform solid color for all players on a team. Any player other than the pitcher may have numbers, letters, insignia attached to the sleeve of the undershirt. (3) No player whose uniform does not conform to that of his teammates shall be permitted to participate in a game. (b) A league may provide that (1) each team shall wear a distinctive uniform at all times, or (2) that each team shall have two sets of uniforms, white for home games and a different color for road games. (c) (1) Sleeve lengths may vary for individual players, but the sleeves of each individual player shall be approximately the same length. (2) No player shall wear ragged, frayed or slit sleeves. (d) No player shall attach to his uniform tape or other material of a different color from his uniform. (e) No part of the uniform shall include a pattern that imitates or suggests the shape of a baseball. (f) Glass buttons and polished metal shall not be used on a uniform. (g) No player shall attach anything to the heel or toe of his shoe other than the ordinary shoe plate or toe plate. Shoes with pointed spikes similar to golf or track shoes shall not be worn. (h) No part of the uniform shall include patches or designs relating to commercial advertisements. (i) A league may provide that the uniforms of its member teams include the names of its players on their backs. Any name other than the last name of the player must be approved by the League President. If adopted, all uniforms for a team must have the names of its players.

MLB doesn’t really enforce the uniform code. Pitchers are not supposed to be able to have patches or other insignia on undershirts, but logos are on turtleneck collars and undershirts are often not the same color as other teammates (John Franco breaks this one every time he enters a game).

10. Rule 2.00
The STRIKE ZONE is the area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hallow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

You really thought the new directive for 2001 would result in higher strikes? As the season wears on, the zone will tighten back up. Not covered in the rule book is the fact that the strike zone should be the same for EVERY player – not larger for star pitchers or smaller for big-time sluggers.

11. Rule 2.00
A TAG is the action of a fielder in touching a base with his body while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove; or touching a runner with the ball, or with his hand or glove holding the ball, while holding the ball securely and firmly in his hand or glove.

This one has to do with the old “ball beat the runner to the base” play and the “phantom force.” Why aren’t double play pivot men required to actually TOUCH the base for the force at second? The “ball beat the runner” has gotten worse in recent seasons. It’s just lazy umpiring.