From time to time, I’ll post cool things I notice about the rules here. Heads up: I am both a lawyer and a former English major, so these posts may get a little wonky. You have been warned.
5.03(b)(2) Base coaches shall be limited to two in number and shall…(2) remain within the coach’s box at all times.
This is an example of what I call a “quasi rule.” It’s really a rule in the rule book, but in the reality of the game as it’s actually played, the rule is broken all the fucking time. Watch any baseball game and you’ll notice that the base coaches are virtually never in the coach’s box. They’re wandering around along the base lines, hovering by the base to signal the runner, standing at the end of the coach’s box looking at their fingernails and flagrantly disobeying rule 5.03(b)(2).
And the umpires ignore it.
It turns out, we’re supposed to. The comment to rule 5.03 provides that, unless a manager complains, coaches are allowed to wander around outside the box. In fact, the comment provides that, as long as the coach doesn’t get too close to fair territory or home plate, he “shall not be considered out of the box” unless the manager complains.
Did you get that?
A coach that is clearly out of the box “shall not be considered out of the box” unless a manager complains. Note the passive voice without a stated object there: “Shall not be considered.” (1) By whom shall the base coach not be considered out of the box? By the umpire!
Another way of putting it is that the coach can move from “inside the box” to “outside the box” without moving at all. It is the complaint of the manager, not the physical location of the coach or the observation of the umpire, that determines whether the coach is out of the box! It’s Schrodinger’s Coach! (2)
This is some metaphysical shit, friends.
If you’re a lawyer, you’ve seen this before. It’s the old legal concept that conduct can modify an agreement, even if the agreement has an integration clause prohibiting that kind of modification. In this case, conduct has modified the rule, so that only a complaint will result in enforcement of the rule. This makes rule 5.03(b)(2) a bit of an outlier in the rules. In most cases, it is the umpire’s call as to whether the rule applies or not, but for rule 5.03(b)(2), the manager decides.