More than a quarter-century ago, a writer approached Pat Combs, then a young Phillies pitcher, with a notepad and a question.
"You know, Pat," the writer started, "I've heard a lot about the unwritten rules of baseball and I was just wondering if you could write some of them down for me?"
That unwritten book of unwritten rules sure would have come in handy for Edubray Ramos on Monday night when he decided he had a score to settle with New York Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera with one out in the top of the eighth inning of a 2-2 game. The last time the fellow Venezuelans had faced each other was last September at Citi Field when Cabrera launched a game-winning home run into the New York night and celebrated with a two-handed bat flip before taking his celebratory trip around the bases.
Ramos lowered his head and quietly walked off the mound that night, but he undoubtedly saw the replays and apparently simmered all winter over Cabrera's display of emotion. The attempted retribution, despite Ramos' denials, came on his first pitch of 2017 to Cabrera. It was a fastball that sailed over the hitter's head. Never mind that it was so high it could not have hit Manute Bol. The message was sent by Ramos and followed up by a warning to both benches from home plate umpire Alan Porter.
The chain reaction of events that followed proved costly for the Phillies. Manager Pete Mackanin was ejected, Ramos walked Cabrera, and Jay Bruce hit a game-winning, two-run home run off Joely Rodriguez.
If the unwritten book of unwritten rules had ever been published, Ramos would have known that the eighth inning of a tie game is not the time or place to settle a personal grievance and he surely would have known that throwing at the head is always a no-no.
It was absurd to begin with that Ramos had a grievance with Cabrera, whose home run last season was huge for a team trying to clinch a playoff berth. Add in the fact that Ramos is teammates with serial bat-flipper Odubel Herrera and the entire scenario seemed preposterous.
Besides, bat flips are not new and they are here to stay, so anyone who is offended by them needs to get over it.
"Bat flips are normal to me," Herrera said through an interpreter. "It's just part of a celebration. They come naturally. I don't try to exaggerate anything or offend people. It just comes out."
Herrera is sincere. He flips his bat after walks and on fly-outs. He probably even flips his toothbrush when he's done brushing.
Mackanin admits to being old school and said the Phillies have talked to Herrera about his excessive bat-flipping.
"He's been spoken to many times," Mackanin said. "The one thing I will say: I don't like when players flip the bat on a home run, but how can you get mad at a guy that when he walks he flips the bat? He was drilled a half-dozen times last year. He is who he is and he's been spoken to about that . . . but once again you can only do so much."
Herrera said opposing players have told him they like his bat flip and he certainly admires others who have flipped their bats.
"Obviously Bautista," he said in reference to the colossal flip by Toronto's Jose Bautista after homering against Texas in the 2015 playoffs.
Mackanin had a one-on-one meeting with Ramos on Tuesday and let him know the unwritten reasons he should not have done what he did.
A commissioner such as the NFL's Roger Goodell would probably take a matter like this into his own overbearing hands and ban bat flips in order to prevent beanballs. Such a drastic measure is not necessary in a game that for years has had these sorts of confrontations.
Testosterone and machismo will ensure that it continues.
In 1993, Phillies pitcher Larry Andersen took exception when Barry Bonds admired a long home run off him at Candlestick Park. The two men exchanged words after Andersen exited the game. Andersen said they got each other's address for Christmas cards at the time.
The true story?
"I told him I don't appreciate you standing there and watching and disrespecting me," said Andersen, now a broadcaster for the team. "He said, 'I'll hit the way I want to hit.' I said, 'Well, next time I face you I don't think you will hit the way you want to hit.' That was the last time I ever faced him, but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have hit a home run the next time. Not where those pitches were going to be."
Andersen would have picked the right time and place to get even with Bonds because he understood the unwritten rules in the unwritten book. Ramos still needs to get a copy. He also needs to get over the bat flips because they are almost as common today as balls and strikes and that's not going to change.