Catching Up

Like a lot of folks, I took some time off this weekend. It was nice to recharge and refresh heading into tournament baseball. From an umpiring perspective, two stories have dominated.

The first was the ejection of Bryce Harper by umpire Marvin Hudson.

Here is the clip:

Couple of thoughts: while writers want to jump on the #umpshow bandwagon and decry Hudson for the act, Harper was certainly not blameless. As a matter of black letter law, you cannot argue balls and strikes which both Harper and Williams were certainly doing. Also, when asked to get in the box, sticking only a toe in was clearly showing the umpire up. He is smart enough to know how this would end.

As to Hudson, he does look like the aggressor in this situation after ripping his mask off. No matter what happened before or after, he was going to come off looking boorish. Umpires are taught to shut down sniping quickly, so I don’t blame him for his actions.

The thing that cracks me up is all the people out there saying umpires should “expect” the treatment and “knew what they were getting into”. Bologna. You can argue in a civil manner. Players know the line and the consequences. Harper choose to leave the game by his actions.

Harper actually learned early some of the things he cannot do to umpires.

I thought Rob Neyer’s article was the most reasoned look at the situation.

The other big story is the second ejection of a pitcher for using a rosin/sunscreen mixture to improve grip.

The rules say you cannot apply a foreign substance of any kind. Offenders face ejection and suspension. There is a groundswell to change this rule to allow a substance that improves grip without being able to effect how a ball moves. Either this or a new type of ball will probably be employed soon.

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Cheaters never win or stay in the game

To finish up my one day two part series on baseball cheating in honor of deflategate, let’s talk about the pitchers.

First the rule, 8.02(a) (2-5) and (b):

8.02 The pitcher shall not—

(2) expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove;
(3) rub the ball on his glove, person or clothing;
(4) apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball;
(5) deface the ball in any manner; or

(b) Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game. In addition, the pitcher shall be suspended automatically. In National Association Leagues, the automatic suspension shall be for 10 games.

Pretty simple right. There have been some great pitcher-caught-in-the-act moments over the years. Here is a sampling:

Michael Pineda was caught last year with pine tar on his neck. I love how non-nonchalantly the umpire kicks him out. Lip reading it looks like he just says “that’s pine tar” and boots him.

Joe Niekro had an emery board with him on the mound. He tried to slyly get rid of it, but the umpire saw him throw it to the side. Look at how the Twins manager is trying to keep the umpires away from his pocket at the beginning of the conference.

Heck you could even get ejected throwing a spit ball in a video game.

The only real difference between these guys and others…they got caught.

Illegal versus cheating

I figured with DeflateGate (or Ballghanzi) in full swing I would take the time to talk about some baseball cheating. First, my thoughts on DeflateGate…I don’t care. I don’t think it really had any effect on the game, I bet other players do it all the time, and I am just sick of how the 24 hour news media blows these stories up. If Brady gets a suspension I think that is pretty silly (and I am a Colts fan).

I will say this though – Brady sure is not handling it well. How about you say this Tom, “yes, I like the balls to be on the lighter side, I have told my equipment people this, but I never told them to deflate below the minimum threshold”. You leave bus marks on their back and we all go on with our day.

Enough on that, let’s talk about baseball cheating. Well, in major league baseball, there is actually a small distinction between something being illegal and an outright accusation of cheating.

Remember this play:

The famous pine tar play. The rules were actually rewritten to say that this is not an out.

Rule 1.10 (c)

(c) The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance that extends past the 18-inch limitation shall cause the bat to be removed from the game.

NOTE: If the umpire discovers that the bat does not conform to (c) above until a time during or after which the bat has been used in play, it shall not be grounds for declaring the batter out, or ejected from the game.

Rule 1.10 also states other specifications for bats. There are rule book stated limits on material (wood), length (42 inches), and diameter (2.61). There is no penalty listed for breaking the rules. Basically, if discovered, the bat is just taken out of play and told not to be used again. If a player persists in disobeying an umpire (which would be dumb), he could be ejected.

As the video shows, Brett was originally called out. That ruling was overturned later with the new rule language added that you see above. The game was finished from the top of the ninth days later.

My favorite part of this story: the continuation game had a whole new set of umpires. As the ball was put in play Yankee manager Billy Martin appealed that Brett had not touched the bases on his homer. The umpires produced signed papers from the original umps that the bases has been touched. Martin also monkeyed with his lineup in odd ways to protest. The story is here. It is awesome due to its ridiculousness.

Brett was not out for using a bat that did not conform to specs. You might be asking why this play was an out:

It is because cheating is different than not meeting specifications in the book.

Rule 6.06 (d)

6.06 A batter is out for illegal action when—

(d) He uses or attempts to use a bat that, in the umpire’s judgment, has been altered or tampered with in such a way to improve the distance factor or cause an unusual reaction on the baseball. This includes, bats that are filled, flat-surfaced, nailed, hollowed, grooved or covered with a substance such as paraffin, wax, etc.

No advancement on the bases will be allowed and any out or outs made during a
play shall stand.

In addition to being called out, the player shall be ejected from the game and may be subject to additional penalties as determined by his League President.

Rule 6.06(d) Comment: A batter shall be deemed to have used or attempted to use an illegal bat if he brings such a bat into the batter’s box.

Use a bat not up to code, replace it. Use a bat that you altered or tampered in order to improve its performance, you are out – and likely suspended.

This rule is different in high school. If you come to the box using a bat not up to code, you are out and your coach is restricted to the dugout.

Bat specifications are covered on page 13 of RuleGraphics.