The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about Major League Baseball’s “batty rule book”.  The official playbook of the MLB is 240 pages long, in part because of rules that are hard to believe actually are necessary.  Some examples:

> Rule 7.08i: You can’t steal first base.  Someone tried to go from second back to first (in an attempt to divert attention from a teammate’s steal of home).  It happened in 1911 and has been on the books to prevent a future occurrence ever since.

> Rule 4.03:  You have to have fielders except the catcher must be positioned in fair territory.  Again, this seems logical, but in 1870 infield grounders that were fair and rolled foul were still in play and MLB did not want fielders in the foul territory to make plays.

> Rule 3.13:  A home manager can make up his own ground rules if the visitor’s manager agrees.  This gem got on the books in 1903 when fans were allowed to occupy parts of the outfield and the teams had to agree on how to handle balls hit there.

Last year, MLB added three more rules; perhaps in a decade they will seem preposterous too.  Like many organizations, the focus is on adding rules — trying to codify something that should be common sense, but, in at least one instance, wasn’t.

What if the Wall Street Journal came to your organization and wrote a piece on your rule book?  Would someone be blogging about how crazy and out-of-date some of the regulations are?  Have you created such a monstrosity that no one even reads it to know what it contains?  

Think about the three-strikes-you’re-out way of expressing rules. There are some things that baseball did get right.

— beth triplett

Baseball’s Batty Rule Book by Brian Costa, Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2014, p. D6

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