Tag: Rules

MLB Modifies Infield Fly Rule in Wake of Confusing Play During 2012 Season

Major League Baseball’s Official Playing Rules Committee has opted to alter baseball’s definition of the infield fly rule following a contested play late in the 2012 season that baffled broadcasters, flummoxed fans and caused a multi-minute delay.

No, the disputed play was not the infamous Cardinals vs. Braves Wild Card sequence that saw fans hurling debris on the field in protest of umpire Sam Holbrook’s gutsy—yet absolutely correct—call.

Instead, the change comes in response to August 26’s Marlins vs. Dodgers game in which the infield fly rule fused with interference to wreak havoc on a fairly benign transcontinental NL clash.

With one out and runners on first and second, Dodgers batter Luis Cruz hit a 45-foot pop fly down the first base line. Pursuant to the infield fly rule, if the ball were to land foul, Cruz would hit again. If the ball became fair, however, Cruz would be out.

As Marlins first baseman Carlos Lee attempted to make a play on the ball, he collided with baserunner Andre Ethier, producing an interference call and, according to Rule 2.00 (Interference), an automatic dead ball.

Because the ball became dead before umpires could determine whether it was fair or foul—it eventually landed fair and rolled foul, whether it was first touched by catcher Rob Brantly first is another debate, though home plate umpire Tony Randazzo signaled the ball fair—the infield fly rule could not be applicable because the ball never became fair before it technically died.

As such, Ethier was declared out for interference, but Cruz was permitted to hit again, a compromise Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was seen applauding while Miami skipper Ozzie Guillen remained phlegmatic. 

According to baseball’s modified infield fly rule for 2013, a similar play will now produce a double play (assuming the catcher did indeed touch the ball in fair territory).

Added to Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) for 2013 is the phrase:

When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05(l). The infield fly rule takes precedence.

The Committee also changed the following rules for the 2013 baseball season:


Rule 2.00 (Interference)

 In response to the aforementioned rules change, the Committee eliminated the phrase “on any interference the ball is dead.” Additionally, a run may now be scored during a play in which interference occurs:

If during an intervening play at the plate with less than two outs a runner scores, and then the batter-runner is called out for interference outside the three-foot lane, the runner is safe and the run shall count.


Rule 8.02 and Pitcher’s Hand to Mouth

Past rules and practice prescribed that if a pitcher shall touch his mouth or lips while standing with the ball on the mound, the umpire shall add a ball to the count.

Starting next season, umpires shall instead remove the ball from play and warn pitchers for the first violation of this rule. Starting on the second offense, umpires will still add a ball to the count.


Rule 8.05 and Balks

As confirmed in early January, baseball has done away with the popular fake-to-third pickoff move.

In addition to adding the words “or third” to Rule 8.05(b)—”it is a balk when the pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first or third base and fails to complete the throw”—Rule 8.05(c) comment now clearly specifies it is legal for a pitcher on the rubber to fake only toward second base.

Furthermore, the phrase “drops the ball” has been replaced by the less ambiguous “has the ball slip or fall out of his hand or glove.”


Administration and Uniform Police

Beginning in 2013, all fielders will be prohibited from using gloves lighter than the “current 14-series” PANTONE color set. The Committee also specified more precise instructions for suspending and resuming halted ball games.


Gil Imber is Bleacher Report’s Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Umpires Get It Right: Mike Scioscia’s Angels Will Lose Protest over Call vs. CWS

During a contest that saw the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lose to the Chicago White Sox in extra innings, manager Mike Scioscia argued an umpire’s call so vehemently that he took the rather extreme step of filing an official protest.

With a 1-0 Angels lead in the bottom of the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko stepped to the plate against new Angel Zack Greinke with none out and the bases loaded. He clubbed a grounder to third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who then threw home to catcher Chris Iannetta for the easy force out.

What followed would result in one of the strangest first-inning sequences in recent baseball memory.

After receiving Callaspo’s throw, Iannetta spun and fired to first, taking great care to avoid batter-runner Konerko, who was sprinting down the first base line. The resulting throw was wide, pulling first baseman Albert Pujols off the base. Konerko was declared “safe” by first base umpire Paul Nauert, which would ultimately allow the inning to continue. Chicago scored four runs to put Anaheim in an early hole.

Sensing a potential rules gaffe, former catcher Scioscia went from the visitor’s dugout to meet home plate umpire Lance Barrett, knowing full well that Barrett had the power to make a key call from his angle near home plate.

Scioscia was determined and desperate to change the arbiter’s silence. Indeed, after the umpires convened and refused to oblige, Scioscia still felt so uneasy about the whole affair, he elected to file an official protest with Major League Baseball.

At issue was the umpires’ decision to declare Konerko “safe.”

Official Baseball Rule 6.05(k) states that a batter, in running the final 45 feet from home plate to first base, may not interfere with the fielder taking the throw at first base by running outside of the three-foot line outlined by a chalk or painted stripe. If the batter-runner does run outside of the running lane, and in doing so interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, he may be declared out.

Because OBR Rule 4.19 states that, “No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire,” Scioscia was prohibited from filing a protest alleging that the umpires incorrectly judged batter Konerko to be within the runner’s lane. Had the umpires explained that Konerko had been within the lane, the protest could not have been filed for it would have been a judgment call protest, which is prohibited by rule.

Instead, Rule 4.19 authorizes a protest “when a manager claims that an umpire’s decision is in violation of these rules.”

Judgment call? No. Rules interpretation? Yes.

Speaking after the contest, Scioscia explained his decision and basis with which to file the report. “The umpire set the parameter and told us that Konerko was running well inside the line. All of the umpires agreed with that.”

Meanwhile, umpiring crew chief Dana DeMuth countered, “[Ianentta] threw wild … Konerko [in] no way interfered with the play at first.”

Very well.

Scioscia and the umpires stipulated that Konerko was running inside (to the left of) the foul line, in fair territory, one of the criteria Rule 6.05(k) requires for a batter-runner’s lane interference call.

Though what of that second required element of Rule 6.05(k), the actual instance of interference?

Further complicating matters is an exception to Rule 6.05(k) interference: “The batter-runner is permitted to exit the three-foot lane … in the immediate vicinity of first base.”

According to DeMuth, that second benchmark was never satisfied: “Konerko going down to first was [in] no way interfering with the play at first…It doesn’t matter where is running.”

Per Rule 6.05(k), the interference must occur with the fielder taking the throw at first base—most likely the first baseman—for such a rule to be invoked.

By rule, the thrower (in this case Iannetta) may not be the beneficiary of a runner’s lane interference call; only the receiver (Pujols) may receive the reward if he is interfered with by the runner’s illegal action.

Because only the receiver may benefit from this interference call, the exception to Rule 6.05(k) applies only to the batter-runner’s position as the fielder receives the throw.

Replays indicate that while Konerko was conclusively over fair territory when Iannetta released his throw, Konerko was on his final stride toward first base when Pujols fielded the throw, which means Konerko was covered by the Rule 6.05(k) exception.

And even if Konerko was not covered by this exception, the umpires still got the call right because Pujols was not interfered with.

Herein lies Scioscia’s conundrum. Iannetta’s throw attempt may very well have been hindered by Konerko’s running in fair territory as the Angels catcher released the ball—for all intents and purposes, it was. However, given the quality of Iannetta’s throw, which was wide and pulled Pujols off the bag, Pujols could not have been interfered with by Konerko because the throw was significantly to the center field side of first base and Pujols nonetheless made the catch.

Had Iannetta’s throw been on-line, then interference might have been possible.

Had Iannetta’s throw nailed Konerko in the back while Konerko was inside fair territory and not protected by the Rule 6.05(k) exception, interference might have been possible if the umpires ruled Konerko’s action and position prevented Pujols from fielding the throw.

Had Iannetta’s throw been lost by Pujols in the sight of Konerko running at him while inside fair territory, interference might have been possible if the umpires ruled this batter-runner positioning constituted an impediment and hindered Pujols from making the play.

Unfortunately for the Angels, neither of these scenarios occurred—the throw was inaccurate and as athletic as Pujols may be, he was pulled off the first base bag by a wild throw from Iannetta, who—as catcher—was not protected by nor subject to the Rule 6.05(k) interference call.

When MLB reviews this filing, the League Office will uphold the umpires’ call on the field and deny the Angels’ protest not because judgment was right or wrong, but because the umpires’ rule interpretation was absolutely correct.


Gil Imber is Bleacher Report’s Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Ejection Tantrum: Joe Mikulik Meltdown Shamefully Typical of Baseball Blame Game

Joe Mikulik has served as manager of the minor league Asheville Tourists since 2000 and has been an embarrassment to professional baseball on the national stage since 2006.

A former San Jacinto Junior College walk-on, Mikulik was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1984, sputtering around the minor leagues until retiring in the early 1990s, never having made it to MLB action.

Despite his stalled playing career, Mikulik endeavored to assist others in achieving their dreams, turning to coaching and accepting a position with the Canton-Akron Indians in 1995 before his promotion to manager of the Burlington Indians in 1997 and finally landing with the Asheville Tourists—a Colorado Rockies affiliate—in 2000.

Though as altruistic as the minor league player-turned-coach story might be, Mikulik appears to have never quite gotten over the pill of retirement, as evidenced by two significant meltdowns since taking the job. 

Michael Erwin of CareerBuilder advises employees not to curse in the workplace—57 percent of surveyed employers said swearing could cost an employee a promotion—but don’t tell that to Mikulik, who has been the Single-A Asheville Tourists’ manager ever since.

On June 25, 2006, Mikulik was ejected from a game against Lexington after arguing a safe call at second base.

Cue the insanity.

During his ’06 temper tantrum, Mikulik—and get ready for a long list of misconduct—threw his hat, yelled, dove into second base before picking up the base and showing it to the umpire, threw the bag toward center field, kicked chalk and dirt on home plate—indeed covering the plate with dirt by using his hands—threw bats from the dugout onto the playing field, dumped water on home plate before pretending to be a catcher, spiked a water bottle on the plate and untucked his jersey before finally retreating to the clubhouse, where he knocked over several water coolers and slid a batting practice screen in front of the umpires’ dressing room door.

Mikulik, who was fined $1,000 and suspended seven days for his histrionics, chalked it up to frustration, via ESPN.com: “I don’t think I ever lost total control … It was just frustration and I obviously went a little bit too far. I apologize to fans and to the umpires for my actions, and I regret what happened.”

Apparently, Mikulik was not sorry enough: Fast forward to July 27, 2012 and “Mikulik Meltdown Part II.”

To his credit, Mikulik‘s tantrum was tamer this time around, with the manager only kicking dirt, throwing his hat and running wildly toward third base before picking up the bag, handing it to one lucky fan before tipping his cap to the crowd en route to his club’s dugout.  

Yet acting like a buffoon is not limited to Mikulik.

In 2007, then-Double-A Braves manager Phil Wellman famously created an improvised grenade with a pitcher’s rosin bag before walking away with both second and third base, blowing kisses to fans as he exited through an outfield wall.

In 2010, South Georgia Peanuts manager Wally Backman launched a profanity-laced tirade and threw a bucket of baseballs along with some bats toward home plate—not safe for work—a tantrum featured in the documentary Playing for Peanuts.

Backman also forfeited a game by pulling his team off the field following a bench-clearing brawl. Backman had been ejected in the first inning of that particular contest.

And then there’s former MLB manager “Sweet” Lou Piniella, famous for base-hurling, dirt-kicking, cap-throwing tirades.

Sure the Mikulik and Piniella tantrums make for riveting television—and the oddest of music videos—in a train wreck sort of way, but such meltdowns are an absolute disgrace to the sport: In an Umpire Ejection Fantasy League poll, just 13 percent of respondents agreed that tirades were pure entertainment. The remaining 87 percent of voters pegged such tantrums as at least partially disgraceful, with 49 percent describing them as purely disgraceful.

Baseball, in its ideal state, is intellectual—from sabermetrics to strategy, baseball is a brainy person’s game, whereas the brawny sports of football, basketball and hockey feature brutal contact, towering strength and speedy burliness.

Yet tirades and hissy fits detract from the great baseball paradigm, injecting immaturity into a sport distinguished for its classy and classic nature—while hockey fights are commonplace and accepted, and hard fouls and hits are par for the course in football and basketball, baseball is remarkably gentlemanly.

When a manager or player airs his frustration with an umpire’s call by employing childish tactics—though statistics prove that MLB umpires are right 99.5 percent of the time—he promotes the stereotype that baseball is “dumb.”

When Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon sounded off on umpire D.J. Reyburn after surrendering a game-winning triple to Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon earlier this season, the veteran reliever bashed Reyburn in a flurry of Freudian-like puerility, calling the umpire “terrible” instead of taking responsibility for his own shortcomings.

During a recent interview on FOX Sports Radio’s Petros & Money, longtime umpire Joe West described baseball as “typically American,” for according to West, “they’re always looking for someone to blame … The sport is so good, it has a place on the scoreboard for errors. There’s no other sport that has that.”

Enter the human element and the psychology of blaming umpires: There is always fault to go around.

When an umpire’s call adversely affects one’s team, it is the arbiter’s fault—even when instant replay deems the call correct.

Even when an umpire reverses a call for—as they say—the explicit purpose of “getting it right,” this is apparently an excuse to complain and induce an ejection.

And it does not stop at calls of “ball,” “strike,” “safe” or “out” either.

In another case of managers wanting umpires to “get it right” only when the call doesn’t go against their own team, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel was ejected for arguing Joe West’s use of instant replay to declare spectator interference during a 2011 contest, resulting in an official protest and denial at the hands of MLB executive vice president Joe Torre, who publicly supported West’s replay-aided endeavor of “getting it right.”

West is right—baseball is “typically American,” though unfortunately, when baseball turns into a giant finger-pointing affair, it stops being a sport and regresses into a silly, infantile game.


Gil Imber is Bleacher Report’s Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Raul Mondesi, Jr. Misses Home Plate, Recalls Memories of Merkle’s Mistake

Raul Mondesi, Jr. might want to take a few baseball lessons from his famous father, the former Dodger great by the same name.

When it comes to walk-off wins, the idea is for the home team to celebrate, not the other way around. 

After smacking an 0-1 curveball from Missoula Osprey pitcher Dexter Price for an apparent game-tying home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, Helena Brewers prospect Raul Mondesi, Jr. inexplicably forgot to touch home plate, a huge gaffe observed by Osprey catcher Michael Perez and home plate umpire Blake Mickelson.

After Mickelson put a new ball into play, Perez motioned for his pitcher to throw him the baseball, turning to the umpire and appealing for the man in black to ring Mondesi up for the most improbable of base-running mistakes.

A home plate umpire’s bond with home plate is special. Umpires spend a considerable amount of time studying the precise dimensions of the 17″-wide dish, they brush and wipe it clean throughout the game and rule every pitch in relation to whether it has passed over home plate.

And when asked, umpires are quick to discipline a runner for failing to touch home plate when required to do so.

Helena manager Jeff Isom was in shock: “On any home run, the umpire has one job and that’s to watch the plate and make sure the runners touch it. He said [Mondesi] missed it by eight inches.”

Game over, Missoula wins, 2-1.

As the great Vin Scully said about Kirk Gibson’s 1988 home run in Game 1 of the World Series, “The impossible has happened.”

Official Baseball Rule Rule 7.10(d)—used by minor league ball in addition to MLB—covers appeal plays in regards to missed bases:

Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when … He fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to that base, and home base is tagged.


At least Mondesi, Jr. has some company.

In 1908, Giants rookie Fred Merkle famously forgot to touch second base on an apparent walk-off base hit. Merkle, the runner on first at the time, was forced to touch second base by virtue of batter Moose McCormick becoming a runner, so when Merkle inexplicably drifted off the base path to go celebrate with his team, outfielder Solly Hofman and Hall of Famer Johnny Evers saw what was happening and facilitated an appeal.

Umpire Hank O’Day obliged and ruled Merkle out for missing the base, effectively wiping out the game-winning run and resulting in a walk-off tie.

When the game was replayed to determine a winner, the Cubs won the contest, eventually finishing just one game ahead of the Giants for the NL pennant.  

Maybe it’s a teenager thing; Merkle was 19-years-old when he committed his bonehead play, famously known as “Merkle’s Boner”. After all, Mondesi, Jr. is also 19-years of age.

As Isom instructed his team, “From now on, make sure you jump on the plate on a homer.” Just hopefully not so hard that you break your ankle in the ensuing celebration a la Angels stud Kendrys Morales.


Gil Imber is Bleacher Report’s Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Yorvit Torrealba Punches Umpire: Punishment Forecast with Babe Ruth as Our Guide

Though Kill the Umpire was a comedy film from 1950, its themes—one of which is violence towards umpires—are all too real.

On Friday, Texas Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba joined an infamous list of players who have punched, struck, spat on or otherwise battered or assaulted umpires during or immediately following a professional baseball game.

Torrealba joins a list of All-Stars and ne’er-do-wells who have committed the cardinal sin of displaying violent conduct against a sports official.

Unfortunately, the list of guilty MLB players and coaches is a lengthy one. From Babe Ruth to Roberto Alomar, Jose Offerman and beyond, many professional baseball players have abhorrently used unjustifiable physical force against an umpire. If the list was expanded to include all sports at all levels, it regrettably might take years to finish reading.

First off, let’s be very clear. What Torrealba did when he struck home plate umpire Dario Rivero Jr. during the eighth inning of the Caribes de Anzoategui vs. Leones del Caracas game is a crime.

Admittedly, Torrealba took just one swipe at the arbiter with an open hand, but in the United States, that would be considered battery and Torrealba would be subject to arrest and prosecution—not to mention the fact that using a fist to strike an umpire’s face mask is slightly less stupid than striking the umpire to begin with.

Speaking of the United States, 21 states currently augment their battery and/or assault laws with enhanced penalties for committing the crime against a sports official engaged in his or her duties.

Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware (second or subsequent offense only), California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho*, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia and the Rangers’ home state of Texas.

However, as professional baseball history indicates, Torrealba will be forgiven for his disgraceful offense.

You may have noticed the words “assault” and “battery” have been paired together above, yet treated as separate offenses. This is because assault and battery often refer to two separate offenses.

As defined by Barron’s Law Dictionary, assault is “an attempt or threat, with unlawful force, to inflict bodily injury upon another, accompanied by the apparent present ability to give effect to the attempt if not prevented.”

An aggravated assault may occur when a dangerous or deadly weapon is used in conjunction with an attempt or threat to unlawfully strike or harm another. 

Barron’s Law Dictionary defines battery as “the unlawful application of force to the person of another.”

In other words, an assault may occur in the absence of physical contact when only a threat or attempt to inflict harm exists, whereas the element of unwanted touching caused by another person must be present for battery to exist.

The following is a brief record of MLB or MiLB players who have assaulted or battered umpires in the past and the lengths of their MLB- or MiLB-imposed suspensions. This list is not all-inclusive.

*Idaho’s assault and battery on sports officials punitive measures derives from Concurrent Resolution No. 32 in March 2011, which states, “local authorities [should] hand out more severe penalties. That would ensure that the fans, especially young children, realize that it is not acceptable to attack an official.”

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Phantom Double Play: Umpires Get it Right in Reds-Pirates Game

Umpire Lance Barrett worked his first MLB regular season game in 2010, joining the likes of fellow umps Vic Carapazza, Cory Blaser, John Tumpane, Alan Porter, Mark Ripperger, Manny Gonzalez and David Rackley as the so-called Class of 2010, now into their second season of big league games.

Like all AAA call-up umpires, Barrett is trying to set himself apart so he can get a full-time job at the MLB level.

Sometimes, proving yourself to the MLB brass involves making a big-time call in a potentially confusing situation. Last season, the Class of 2009’s Dan Bellino won over many Umpire Ejection Fantasy Leaguers as well as MLB Supervisors with an ejection following a confident and correct obstruction call in Washington. Bellino was hired by MLB prior to the 2011 season.

Barrett’s Bellino moment may have come in Pittsburgh tonight. In the top of the fifth inning of the RedsPirates game, with one out, runners on first and second, and the possibility of an infield fly fresh in all of our minds, Reds batter Drew Stubbs lined a Jeff Locke fastball to Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno.

While Cedeno fielded the ball on a short-hop, baserunner R2 (and pitcher by trade) Edinson Volquez, mistakingly believing the ball had been caught, stepped back onto second base as Cedeno threw to second baseman Neil Walker. Walker caught the ball and stepped on the second base bag, resulting in an out call from Barrett.

Walker subsequently tagged Volquez, who was standing on second base. This resulted in a safe call from Barrett.

Fairly straightforward: R1 Brandon Phillips was forced out on the tag of second base, which took the force off of R2 Volquez, who now legally and safely occupied second base. Batter Stubbs safely arrived at first base. One out, two on.

Not so fast… Phillips, as confused as anyone, and perhaps adding to the confusion himself, began running frantically between first and second base, drawing a throw from Walker. The bewildered Pirates infield quickly trapped the already-retired R1 Phillips in a rundown between first and second before unnecessarily tagging out Phillips for a second time.

Either way, Barrett once again gave the out call so there would be no confusion this time. Unfortunately, there was confusion – lots of it, for everyone except perhaps Barrett, crew chief Mike Winters, and umpires Mike Everitt and Chris Guccione… or maybe for them as well.

For you see, the umpires determined that Phillips was out, as expected. Batter Drew Stubbs would be placed on first base, also as expected. But Volquez, who had taken off for third base in the pandemonium which ensued while Phillips was in a rundown between first and second, was sent back to second base.

To understand why Barrett, Winters and the other umpires ruled the way they did requires an analysis of MLB Rules 7.09(e) and 9.01(c).

Rule 7.09(e) states, in part, it is interference when “any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner.” Rule 7.09(e) Comment additionally states, “If the batter or a runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders.”

Rule 9.01(c), as all umpires know, is the so-called elastic clause, which gives an umpire the “authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.”

Putting the two together allows for an explanation of why the umpires ruled the way they did. Phillips’ post-put out actions were not enough on their own to be considered interference. This is clearly specified in Rule 7.09(e) Comment. However, the Phillips rundown clearly did confuse the fielders and allow Volquez to advance toward third base.

In the end, Winters correctly invoked Rule 9.01(c) to deliver a fair and just judgment: Phillips was out, Stubbs was safe at first, and Volquez would also be ruled safe, but fairly returned to second base.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fixing Three Major League Problems with Major League Baseball

The Philadelphia Phillies face off against the New York Yankees this week in Yankee Stadium, providing baseball fans in the northeastern United States with an opportunity to enjoy interleague play, cast their All-Star Ballots, and enjoy a potential World Series preview.

And in this sense, this week’s Phillies-Yankees series presents yet another reminder that Major League Baseball is broken.

Here’s how you fix it.


Problem 1: The Designated Hitter Rule

The current broken state of the MLB began in 1973, when the American League first introduced the Designated Hitter. 

While the problems with the DH to baseball purists are many—it eliminates strategy, it unfairly inflates offense, it encourages one-dimensional athleticism, it allows players to hang on well past their primes—in my opinion, there is only one problem with the designated hitter.

They only use it in one league.

Baseball is all about great performances, milestones being crossed, and records being broken.  If Frank Thomas needs to DH in order to stay on the field each day, so be it.  If we get to watch Edgar Martinez enjoy a full and complete career because he DH’ed, fine.  If we get to be enamored of repeated David Ortiz heroics because he can be a DH, great.

Baseball should be all about allowing aging and lumbering superstars continue to play in the league, at the expense of a handful of sacrifice bunts here and there.

The problem with the DH, though, is that by allowing one league to use a DH, while the other league does not, Major League Baseball has two different leagues playing by two different sets of rules.  This creates problems both visceral and substantive. 

From an aesthetic perspective, it is annoying having to compare AL pitchers to NL pitchers, always remembering that Dave Steib, Jimmy Key, Andy Pettitte, Ron Guidry, and Mark Langston likely would have enjoyed much more success if they’d been able to pitch in the National League, whereas Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Mike Scott, and Dwight Gooden were able to rack up superior looking statistics while facing an empty slot in the lineup each time through the order.

More importantly, though, the designated hitter causes an imbalance between the leagues. 

American League teams are built with nine hitters, and the DH is often amongst the best hitters on the team—the Frank Thomases, Edgar Martinezes, David Ortizes, Jason Giambis, Paul Molitors, Jose Cansecos, and Don Baylors—while National League teams are built with eight hitters.

When an American League team and a National League team meet up, this means one of two things—either the AL team has to sit one of its hitters to let a pitcher hit (in NL parks) or the NL team has to add one hitter to play DH (in AL parks). 

The result of this is that the AL team always has the advantage: Either the AL team gets to pick eight of its best hitters, or the NL team has to put a back-up into its starting lineup.  Either way the AL comes out on top.

This was not really an issue when AL teams and NL teams only met in the World Series.  For a maximum of seven games each year, there was an imbalance, but it was usually inconsequential; the AL has won 21 of 37 World Series since the DH was introduced. (What appears to be a DH-related advantage is probably explained away by the advantage of having the New York Yankees in the AL.)

Once interleague play was introduced, however, the imbalance between the NL and the AL became magnified.  Coming into this season, the AL has had 1673-to-1534 won-loss advantage over the NL, and it has to be because of the day-in-and-day-out advantage of having the DH in the lineup.

We have created a professional sports league in which half of the teams have a decided advantage over the other half of the teams.



Fortunately, the solution to the Designated Hitter problem could not be more straight forward: Introduce the Designated Hitter in the National League.  Yeah, sure, some people would hate it, but they’ll be gone eventually.


Problem 2: Unbalanced Divisions

The American League’s advantage over the National League is only enhanced by Major League Baseball’s unbalanced divisions.  At present, the NL has 16 teams, divided into two divisions of five and one division of six.  The AL, meanwhile, has only 14 teams, divided into two divisions of five and one division of four.

Despite the disparity, though, each league gets the same number of playoff slots—three division winners and a wild card—which means that the AL teams have less competition for a spot in the post-season than the NL teams do.  Further, four AL West teams get to take a shot at the automatic playoff berth that comes with winning their division, while six NL Central teams get to compete with one another for the same slot.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have definitely been bad the last 15 years, but keep in mind that they are the only team to finish in sixth place in their division six times in the last decade because they play in the only division that has a sixth place.

Is it fair to allow the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to go to the playoffs every season by beating three lowly teams while requiring the St. Louis Cardinals to have to bust through five other teams?

I think the answer to that question is clearly, “No.”



If I were having this conversation with the Commissioners of Major League Baseball, I would imagine his response to the Unbalanced Divisions problem would be:

“We have to have unbalanced divisions because we can’t have 15 team leagues.”

To this I would say, “Hogwash.”

Major League Baseball currently treats Interleague Play as a grand spectacle, a special part of the season dedicated to a special part of baseball, a magic time when the AL and the NL face off, almost as though for exhibition.

The grand spectacle treatment of Interleague Play was necessary when the MLB schedule first featured games between the leagues back in 1997, because there was a lot of opposition to Interleague Play, and the MLB needed to acknowledge, in some way, that it was slaying a sacred lamb of sorts.

This is no longer the case.  Nearly 15 years later, Interleague Play has been accepted by nearly everyone, and it is not even sensational any more.  The Phillies are playing the Yankees this week—yawn.  It is no longer novel, it is no longer unique, and it is no longer special.

So . . .

In order to solve the Unbalanced Divisions problem, Major League Baseball should give up the ghost on Interleague Play and eliminate the practice of having discrete times of the year, in which all of the AL teams play NL teams (with two NL teams always facing off against each other, oh by the way).

Instead, with balanced divisions and 15 team leagues, at all times there would be one interleague series going at a time: 14 of the AL teams would face each other, 14 of the NL teams would face each other, and then 1 AL team and 1 NL team would face off in the one interleague series.

That way, every team is playing two series every week, and every team has an equal chance at the playoffs.

If the MLB still wants sacred ceremonial times of the year, we can still set aside certain weeks for Rivalry Week, when all 15 AL teams play NL teams, with each series featuring a rivalry (Mets vs. Yankees, Dodgers vs. Angels, etc.).

Problem solved.

(The NL teams, of course, will have to draw straws to determine which team moves to the AL, but for my money you move the Kansas City Royals to the AL West and you move the Pittsburgh Pirates to the AL Central.  That way Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Chicago-Detroit-Minnesota becomes an uber-regional division and the Pirates and Phillies can play on Rivalry Week).


Problem 3: The Dumbest Rule in Professional Sports

The third problem with Major League Baseball is the Dumbest Rule in Professional Sports: the “Winner of the All Star Game Gets Home Field Advantage in the World Series Rule.”

How do we solve it?

Easy: Get rid of it.  Let the team with the best record in the World Series get the home field advantage, and, if the freakin’ All Star Game is tied after 11 innings, let the pitching coaches throw batting practice balls to each team until one of them comes out of an inning with more runs.

Or whatever.  Who cares?  Just don’t give home field advantage to the league that won the big exhibition game in the middle of the season.

And then baseball will no longer be broken.


Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of BaseballEvolution.com .

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Pete Rose: Five Reasons We Shouldn’t Care About His Bats

Surprise! Pete Rose is back in the news.

Apparently, there is a collector who has x-rayed one of Rose’s old bats. He has discovered that the bat has something in it that may be cork or a similar substance. He even has some evidence that the bat was used in a game.

This is not really news, as a 2001 Vanity Fair article made the same allegations.

Here is why we should not care.

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