Ignorance of the rule book makes a travesty of the game of baseball

Angels' manager Mike Scioscia can't be blamed for thinking the umpires have lost their minds.

Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia can’t be blamed for thinking the umpires have lost their minds.

What do you call it when the Closer Nobody Wanted returns from exile throwing only fastballs and pays no attention to a man representing the tying run on first base?

You call it some real B.S.— a blown save caused by a case of vast indifference to a baseball fundamental.

If you’re the Tigers, it’s par for the course for the usual Papa Grande crisis. This time around, it comes with a new sort of bi-colored goatee, but otherwise it’s very familiar.

A crisis can be an opportunity, though — if you’re an innovator.

There’s nothing in the rule book that says how long a starter or a reliever can pitch. You could switch all the short men to the front of the game, giving the opposing manager a real headache, and finish with your horse hurling the last six or seven innings. It’s not against the rules.

What fun it would be to have, say, Drew Smyly and Al Alburquerque warming up before every game — and keep the opposing manager guessing until you bring out the lineup card. Have Max Scherzer or Anibal Sanchez ready to enter the game in the third or fourth inning. It would defy all tradition, and even Joe Torre and Bud Selig couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

I return from this temporary fantasy interruption to opine that baseball today could really use the likes of a Tony LaRussa — a working brain not afraid to take bold risks. In bygone days, Tony L. found a way to exploit the rules by bringing in a reliever, having him pitch to a batter, putting him in left field, bringing in another pitcher in place of the replaced outfielder, and thus having two pistols in his pocket ready to fire at will.

Instead, these days we get treated to the obviously addled brain of Astros manager Bo Porter, who last week proved even more ill-suited for the majors than half the Triple-A refugees on his team. In fact, his managerial move would have been laughed out of the minors, college, high school, and even Little League.

At all levels of ball from time immemorial, as any fan who’s been paying even cursory attention knows, a relief pitcher has to pitch to at least one batter before he can be removed. Was Porter really so ignorant that he didn’t know the rule, or was he trying rather futilely to pull a dumb fast one on the umpiring crew?

Of course, you could never get away with such blatant defiance of a universally known rule – just like a basketball coach couldn’t tell a bench player to run out on the court unannounced and receive a pass as play was in progress to make a bucket. Just like a World Cup coach couldn’t get away with a fourth substitution. Just like you can’t suddenly switch your token for a new one and place it on a square of your choice on a Monopoly board.

But in the alternative universe of 2013 MLB, the umps huddled, and then the crew chief, Fieldin Culbreth (yes, really), ruled Porter could take his pitcher out without him having thrown a pitch. Which was a development more surprising than seeing Jose Valverde throw to first base to hold a runner on.

It also raised several questions: Why didn’t someone haul out a rule book, or fire up Google on a smart phone? What was Fieldin thinkin? Why didn’t these umps get shipped to the low minors, along with Porter, on the next train leaving for La-La Land? That’s obviously where they belong.

And what’s next? Will Jim Leyland tell Prince Fielder to run over the pitcher on his way to first base? Will Culbreth’s crew allow the visiting team to swap places and force the home squad to bat in the top of the ninth?

Baseball has always had written rules, unwritten rules, and innovators who devise ways to get around the rules.

The essentials of the game haven’t changed substantially in six generations. But there have always been tweaks — rules put in to thwart the more creative practitioners of the game.

Like Detroit’s Germany Schaefer, who a century ago liked to rattle the pitcher by stealing second base and then on the next pitch stealing first base. His tactic was more a clown act than a coherent strategy, but the lords of baseball did not look kindly on it and devised a rule that banned running the bases in reverse to prevent Schaefer from making a “travesty” of the game.

Someone forgot to tell Porter and Culbreth about that “travesty” prohibition. But then, quite obviously, they know the rule book about as well as Papa Grande knows how to prevent a runner from stealing second. Which is to say, not in the least.

6 replies on “Ignorance of the rule book makes a travesty of the game of baseball

  • Sam Johnson

    I think it’s in the rule book that you have to steal first back when the double steal isn’t executed properly.

  • Rick

    The bottom line is Selig is and always has been a buffoon and a schill for the owner’s of which he was one for years. His legacy will be by far the worst let me take that back. Withe the exception of Gary Bettman his legacy will be the worst in all of professional sports. Steroids, blanant cheating and no respect for the rules are all your’s Bud be proud. Let’s celebrate Johan Santana’s one hitter as a no hitter (I still can’t believe he’s is proud of that)personally I would have been ashamed and embarrassed. Then tell poor Armando Galaraga to be happy with his one hit perfect game. Great move BUD! Hey guys, want to bet between Santana and Gallaraga only one of them shows his kids their game with pride? I guess that does make it right in some warped way. As for Taco Bell when and it is WHEN not if he’s starts blowing games hopefully Mr I will send DUMBrowski and Jim genius packing too! 40 games in and barely above 500 nice job old genius!

  • Randy

    I am anxiously looking forward to Seligs retirement. He has overseen an era in MLB that in my opinion exceeds that of the 1919 black sox scandal. MLB didn’t address the steroid issue until Congress threatened to intervene. Now Mr. Aaron is no longer recognized as the homerun king (well not in the record books anyway but I will always recognize him as such). Other great home run hitters like Mantle, Killebrew, McCovey and many more have been moved down the list because of the likes of Bonds, Sosa & A Rod. The great 1961 season by Roger Maris is now wiped away from the record books because of the lack of desire to deal with steroids. The All Star game determining home field advantage for the World Series is just plain stupid. And we still after all these years have a league divided by the designated hitter rule. What other major sport changes the rule of the game depending on the venue. AL park use the DH, NL park don’t use the DH. Though it is a controversial subject why is Pete Rose still not in the Hall of Fame? If it was my call Pete would be in the Hall and Selig would be banned from baseball.

  • Gary Steinke

    I love this article, I’ve been watching baseball for almost 50 years and the umpiring in MLB, the past 5 years or so, has been the worst in any pro sport (except for the replacement refs in the NFL last year). These clowns they call umps can’t even watch a replay of a HR and get the call right, and MLB is talking about more replay reviews. Get ready for 5 hour ballgames. The caption in the picture you’ve shown says “Scioscia can’t be blamed for thinking the umps have lost their minds”, these a-holes don’t have minds. MLB said the umps DID blow the call, and what did MLB do about it? NOTHING, just like nothing was done when the umps screws Galaraga out of his perfect game. When the “pinetar bat” thing happened with George Brett, and MLB said the umps blew it, that game was replayed from the time Brett hit his HR, but MLB had a real commissioner then, not the jerk they have now.

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