June 2010

What the…?

Yes, it’s two posts in two days. Don’t get used to it.

First off, I want to make it clear that I’m not writing this in a whining way or to make anybody look like an idiot (I think that happened just fine already). I just want to share a learning experience at a baseball game.

So last night, we had a major malfunction at the game. As you probably know, baseball requires nine batters to be in the lineup. The TinCaps found a way to only send eight batters to the plate in their first trip through the lineup. Not eight batters in one inning… eight batters in one trip. It’s as mind-blowing now as it was last night.

What it boils down to is, the TinCaps skipped a batter in the order, which is considered batting out of order, which led to a situation that Vince Lombardi (and maybe Vince McMahon) should’ve been here to solve. Let’s go to the gory details!

The lineup which was posted on the clubhouse bulletin board was this:

1. Payne LF
2. Valdez 2B
3. Hagerty DH
4. Freiman 1B
5. Rincon 3B
6. Liriano CF
7. Benedict C
8. Anna RF
9. Galvez SS
Watt P

Players (and radio/media guys, aka me) generally look at that lineup as gospel. I copied it down and distributed it like I do every day. Every day for the last two years, that has worked fine.

Until last night.

Now, understand that the ONLY lineup that means anything is the triplicate copy given to the opposing manager and the umpires. That is the official lineup, and everything else is essentially just for show. THAT lineup was this:

1. Payne LF
2. Valdez 2B
3. Hagerty DH
4. Freiman 1B
5. Rincon 3B
6. Benedict C
7. Liriano CF
8. Anna RF
9. Galvez SS
Watt P

Apparently, something happened (intentional or unintentional switch from one sheet to the other, alien abduction, etc.). Nobody told me or anybody in the press box about this, which would’ve been nice, but not essential to the rules of the game. But, as you can see, Benedict and Liriano were flip-flopped in the batting order on the two sheets. Again, all that matters is the lineup the managers and umpires have (the second one I listed for you here). What ACTUALLY happened in the game was that the TinCaps came to bat in the first order I listed. In other words, Liriano followed Rincon (out of order, which is against the rules) and grounded out to end the top of the 3rd inning.

Now, according to Rule 6.07(a), a batter shall be called out, on appeal, when he fails to bat in his proper turn, and another batter completes his time at bat.

BUT! there was no appeal from anyone. Once a pitch was thrown in the top of the 3rd, Wisconsin’s chance to appeal had passed. Now according to Rule 6.07(d)(2), when an improper batter (Liriano) becomes the proper batter because no appeal is made before the next pitch, the next batter shall be the batter whose name follows that of such legalized improper batter (Liriano). The instant an improper batter’s actions are legalized, the batting order picks up with the name following that of the legalized improper batter (in this case, Anna).

So Dean Anna led off the bottom of the 3rd, and the TinCaps only sent eight batters to the plate. Believe it or not, this was exactly the way the rulebook says the rules should’ve been administered.

Now, when the TinCaps sent Benedict (who hadn’t batted until the 5th inning!) to the plate in the bottom of the 5th, then Liriano reached on an infield single, Wisconsin finally said something, because they were hoping to get an out from the lineup snafu (if a batter who bats out of turn reaches base, and you appeal before the next pitch, the runner is out). Unfortunately for them, their chance to appeal had already passed and the TinCaps were back in order. Which in a way doesn’t make sense because they only sent eight batters to the plate in their first time through the lineup, but it’s the correct interpretation. So, while the umpires went back into the locker room to double-check the rulebook to make sure everything was right (it was), Wisconsin’s pitcher (Maverick Lasker, which may beat South Bend’s Lieutenant Dan Taylor for best name in the MWL so far) stood around doing nothing. Sixteen minutes later when the game resumed, the Timber Rattlers put the game under protest and the TinCaps scored two runs to make it a 4-2 game. Wisconsin’s coaching staff admitted later they messed their own pitcher up by doing all this, but it didn’t end up mattering because they won 6-4.

Now… how could this have been avoided?

1. Call your friendly neighborhood radio/media guy with the lineup switch, everyone gets the correct lineup, the correct name is announced and Liriano probably doesn’t come to the plate in the wrong place in the first place.
2. Someone, anyone, checks the official lineup card, which was correctly copied onto the lineup card taped to the wall of the dugout, call Liriano back into the dugout at any time before or during his at-bat in the 2nd inning, send Benedict up there to finish the at-bat and everything is fine.

Neither happened.

This is the life of a Class-A baseball team, apparently. BIG salute to the umpires (Matt Jones and Brett Houseman), who ruled the whole thing perfectly. Umps catch all the heat when they miss a call, but this one was spot-on.

Here’s the final word on the Tigers’ perfect game/one-hitter escapade, as far as I’m concerned. Peter Gammons, you have the floor.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m participating in pitchers’ batting practice this afternoon and I’m about to put on a hitting display.

And now, musical guest… The Gap Band!

Take care!


Unbunch your Herzogs

So everyone is outraged and shocked and hurt and flabbergasted to the point of weeping by Armando Galarraga not throwing a perfect game. In other news, Albert Pujols fouled off a pitch right down the middle and Greg Maddux once walked a batter on a bad call. Get over it. The umpire apologized, the manager and pitcher forgave him and they’re moving on. It was still a well-pitched game with some phenomenal defensive plays.

Perfect game, one-hitter or 11-10 slugfest, the Tigers still won the game and it’s one out of 162. And, as Rob Neyer writes, we get all bent out of shape because we get to see 900 replays from the perfect angle in super-slow-mo. It’s not a case of “people don’t pay money to come watch Jim Joyce umpire” or anything else. The guy just missed a call. I bet you forgot to pick your kid up from school or caused a car accident on the way to work. Umpiring isn’t as easy as everyone thinks. Should replay be expanded? Yep, but that’s not news… Everyone already thought that last year during the playoffs. Whether you want to admit it or not, people enjoy being outraged about other people’s mistakes. It makes our boring lives interesting. It’s just a bunch of guys swinging a bat at a ball. Relax.

If there was ever a case where people were justified in being outraged at an umpire’s call it was Whitey Herzog’s Cardinals in the 1985 World Series. Don Denkinger missed a call that might’ve affected the game and the series. That would be a much bigger deal than a perfect game becoming a one-hitter in early June.

Also, haven’t we had enough perfect games lately? There have only been 20 in MLB history and we’ve had three in the last year, two in the last month. We’re getting spoiled.

Besides, everyone being upset overshadows a nutty Wednesday in baseball. Ken Griffey, Jr. retired… about seven months later than he should have (when you get carried off the field in the last game of the season, isn’t there a rule that you must retire?). Fort Wayne alum George Kottaras hit a home run… and the bat shattered everywhere.  David Huff isn’t even going to miss a start after getting smoked in the head by a line drive. And it’s almost time for the prospects to start hitting the big leagues in full force. Strasburg, Stanton, Santana… they’ll all be up soon. I, for one, can’t wait.

Some people might look at Mike Stanton’s numbers (20 home runs, for goodness sake) and, again in full outrage mode, wonder why he’s not in the big leagues right now. As odd as it sounds, maybe the Marlins want to see him to struggle. Why? Because you have to be able to handle adversity and come out of a slump. Everyone in the major leagues is good, but everyone in the major leagues goes into a slump every once in a while. It’s being able to shorten the slump, figure it out and get back into the groove that makes you a good, consistent major leaguer.

As far as the TinCaps go, here are some points:

  • During the last two homestands, we’ve had every roving instructor known to man come to Parkview Field. Even Dave Roberts, who is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, was here. He’s a special baseball operations assistant with the Padres and wasn’t just here to stand around. He was doing some pretty in-depth coaching around the batting cage, in the outfield and on the bases. Good guy to have around.
  • Heard around the batting cage yesterday from a reliable source: “I’ve only seen two guys who could ever hit a bad pitch out of the ballpark: One’s Vladimir, and the other is in the Hall of Fame for the Pirates.” Kind of reinforces how important pitch selection is, eh?
  • I asked pitching coordinator Mike Couchee if guys can have long-term success in the big leagues as a starting pitcher with three pitches. The answer was yes. Come to think of it, one of the only guys I’ve heard of getting to the big leagues lately with four pitches (fastball, curve, slider, change) was Tommy Hanson.
  • Mat Latos accidentally broke Giants radio guy Dave Flemming’s sun roof by throwing a ball over the wall in San Fran. I can imagine the exchange while shagging fly balls in batting practice went something like this: “Hey Latos, bet you can’t throw this ball over that huge glove.” “Oh yeah? Watch this!” That’s Mat. A 12-year-old in a 23-year-old body, nothing malicious, just trying to have fun.
  • Nate Freiman squared up a couple of balls last night. One was caught on the warning track in dead center, the other went high off the wall in left-center for a double. Look out.
  • Jerry Sullivan has won four starts in a row, three against pretty tough opponents: Tigers 1st-rounder Jacob Turner, Bowling Green ace Alex Colome and Wisconsin RHP Nick Bucci, who came into last night’s game with an ERA around 1.50. There have been occasions this year where it seems like Sullivan just comes out and says “guys, we’re not losing today.” That attitude, plus a mid-90s fastball and a pretty filthy slider, make for a good pitcher.
  • I’m not trying to take credit for anything, but Sullivan’s hot streak started suspiciously close to the time he changed his warmup song to Ric Flair’s theme song. I almost lose it on the air every time he’s warming up. And it doesn’t help when I look down the row and see Tony DesPlaines playing the air timpani drums.
  • Speaking of Ric Flair, I know you want to watch this. You’re welcome.
  • When we had some bus trouble in Kentucky, Sullivan decided to lift our spirits by grabbing the intercom microphone and pulling his George W. Bush impersonation. It started with, “My fellow Amer’cans.” Too good.
  • Jeudy Valdez is a MUCH more polished player this year than he was last year. He’s a year older, plays smarter (a bad baserunning mistake on Tuesday notwithstanding) and is figuring out that it’s OK to be a speed-based player who flashes power, rather than the other way around.
  • Jonathan Galvez is getting better at shortstop. About a month ago, he looked like an infant giraffe trying to make a field-spin-throw play ranging up the middle. About a week ago he had the same chance and, while it wasn’t perfect, he got the runner.
  • Coming into the series, the TinCaps and Wisconsin had committed the most errors in the league. I would’ve set the over/under for combined errors at 15 (for entertainment purposes only, of course). So far, the TinCaps haven’t made an error in the two games and the Timber Rattlers have made four.
  • “The Big Dog” Hayden Beard put on a rugby ball-throwing exhibition in front of the dugout before a game a little while back. I wa
    s impressed and it looked like the TinCaps might have a team started by September.
  • Tonight is Part 2 of a pre-game interview with the Big Dog. If you don’t catch it live, I’ll probably post it on the website. It’s that good. Sample: He wants Thursdays at Parkview Field to be, in addition to Thirsty Thursday, Board Shorts Thursday. And, really, why wouldn’t it be?
  • I’m the charter member of the Nate Freiman Book Club. His first suggestion: With the Old Breed, by E.B. Sledge. It’s written by a veteran of the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa in World War II. I wouldn’t call it a pleasant read, but it was the perfect book to be reading on Memorial Day weekend. Nate came up to me during batting practice the other day… “I have an important question for you… Probably the most important question I’ve ever asked you. What book are you reading when you’re done with this one?” Answer? Young Patriots, about Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. I like finding out how we got to where we are today. Read: I’m a history nerd.
  • Best quote I read about our bus troubles last week, which caused an inexcusable moderate-to-major meltdown by a few people: “That’s part of the lifestyle in the minor leagues. That’s not an excuse for not coming out and hitting the ball. That’s just part of playing the game.” – Freiman. Spoken like a true pro.

And now, musical guest, Frankie Goes to Hollywood!

Take care!