Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Bizarro World

Every sport has its quirks especially when it comes to the rules. And baseball is no different. Every so often when watching a game or a highlight reel we see one of those really bizarre rulings that sends our mind into a tailspin. You know the type: The play that has you yelling blue murder at the umpires because they don’t know what they are doing. Here is a list of the 7 most weird and quirky rules and scenarios in baseball:

1. Ground Rule Triples
Well, technically that is not quite correct. A ground rule is governed by the unique characteristics of the field. For instance, at Wrigley Field a ball that gets lodged in the vines by the fence is an automatic ground-rule double. However, a ball that bounces before skipping over the fence, while commonly referred to as a ground-rule double, is in fact just a two-base award.
So what about that ground-rule triple?
There are two ways that this can happen and you almost never see either at major league level. One, is if a player deliberately touches the ball with his hat or mask (ie, tries to catch it, for instance), or, two, if a player deliberately throws his glove at, and touches, a fair ball. Since neither of these corresponds to unique characteristics of the field it isn’t really a ground rule triple but rather a three-base award. That’s not the end of the story. If you believe what you read on the internet legend has it that a ground-rule triple is possible at only one park: Fenway. On the Green Monster there is a ladder that groundskeepers used to retrieve home run balls. Although the netting has gone, the ladder remains and it is this, if hit, that yields the mysterious ground-rule triple. Sadly this is a case of where you certainly shouldn’t believe what you read online. It simply isn’t true. Or if it is it certainly doesn’t make it into MLB’s official ground-rule list. In fact the ladder has only been hit twice. On both occasions the batting team score an inside the park home run.

2.Twenty-three ways to get a man (any man) on first base
I won’t bore you and list all 23, but they range from the obvious, such as a hit or a force play, to the slightly esoteric, such as deploying a pinch runner for a man already on first, to the downright odd, such as a failure to pitch within 20 seconds or four illegal pitches (eg, catcher out of the box).
Perhaps the most bizarre is if there is a runner on first base when the game is suspended. If this runner then gets traded prior to the makeup a new player is allowed to take his place without the roster implications of using a pinch runner, thereby reaching base.
What the heck; I lied. Here is the full list of all 23 ways for a man to get on first base (courtesy of ESPN Magazine).
1. walk
2. intentional walk
3. hit by pitch
4. dropped 3rd strike
5. failure to deliver pitch in 20 seconds
6. catcher interference
7. fielder interference
8. spectator interference
9. fan obstruction
10. fair ball hits ump
11. fair ball hits runner
12. fielder obstructs runner
13. pinch-runner
14. fielder's choice
15. force out at another base
16. preceding runner put-out allows batter to reach first
17. sac bunt fails to advance runner
18. sacrifice fly dropped
19. runner called out on appeal
20. error
21. four illegal pitches
22. single
23. game suspended with runner on first, that player is traded prior to the makeup;
new player is allowed to take his place

3. Triple play without the ball touching a fielder
Not necessarily a rule per se but rather a composition of a range of rulings. Again there is some debate as to whether a triple play without the ball touching a fielder is an urban myth. While it might be technically possible, it certainly hasn’t happened and nor is it likely to.
The theory goes like this:
There are runners on first and second with no outs. The batter hits a fair ball that can be fielded by one of the infielders. He is out by the infield fly rule even if no one touches the ball. Then the crazy stuff really starts. The runner on first passes the runner on second, so the runner on first is out due to rule 7.08, which forbids a runner overtaking another runner on the base paths. Two outs. The runner at second is then struck by the batted ball as it lands (rule 7.08 again—look, it covers a whole host of base running situations). There we have it three outs and no fielder has touched the ball.
The Mariners somehow "hit" into a triple play in a Sept. 2 game in Tampa Bay—without a ball being put in play. How'd that happen? It wasn't easy. Raul Ibanez got called out on strikes for the first out. Adrian Beltre got nailed stealing second for the second out. Then Jose Lopez bolted for the plate and got thrown out at home for the third out. Try that one on your X-box sometime.

4. Balks
The balk is one of those slightly arcane rules that few properly understand. A balk is a penalty charged against a pitcher for deviating from the legal pitching motion while a runner is on base. It can occur either on a pitch or on a throw to a base during a pick-off.
There are 15 ways to balk.
1. switches his pitching stance from the windup position to the set position (or vice versa)
without properly disengaging the rubber;
2. when going from the stretch to the set position, fails to pitch;
3. throws from the rubber to a base without stepping toward
(gaining distance in the direction of) that base;
4. throws from the rubber to a base where there is no runner and no possibility of a play;
5. steps or feints from the rubber to first base without completing the throw;
6. pitches a quick return pitch, that is, intending to catch the batter off-guard;
7. pitches or mimics a part of his pitching motion while not in contact with the rubber;
8. drops the ball while on the rubber;
9. after a feint or throw to a base from the rubber, fails to disengage
the rubber before reengaging and pitching;
10. after beginning to pitch, interrupts his pitching motion;
11. begins to pitch while the catcher is out of the catcher's box when giving an
intentional walk;
12. while pitching, removes his pivot foot from the pitching rubber, except to pivot;
13. inordinately delays the game;
14. pitches while facing away from the batter;
15. after bringing his hands together on the rubber, separates them except in making a pitch or a throw;
16. stands on or astride the rubber without the ball, or mimics a pitch without the ball

5. When a perfect game is not a perfect game
Surely there can’t be any ambiguity surrounding a perfect game, can there? Oh yes, with people like Bud Selig in charge anything is possible.
Rule 10.19 (f) reads: No pitcher shall be credited with pitching a shutout unless he pitches the complete game, or unless he enters the game with none out before the opposing team has scored in the first inning, puts out the side without a run scoring and pitches all the rest of the game. When two or more pitchers combine to pitch a shutout a notation to that effect should be included in the league’s official pitching records. Seems innocuous, right? Wrong.
The key clause is this: “unless he enters the game with none out before the opposing team has scored in the first inning, puts out the side without a run scoring." This effectively says that a pitcher can inherit three base runners in the first inning and as long as he gets out of the inning with the score still zero a perfect game is intact. This rule is responsible for the most imperfect perfect game in baseball: Ernie Shore’s infamous perfect game in 1917 where Babe Ruth was initially pitching for the Red Sox. Ruth threw four balls to allow a base runner. A short kerfuffle followed and Ruth was tossed from the game. Shore came in to relieve, the base runner was gunned down trying to steal second and Shore then proceeded to retire the next 26 batters for the perfect game. It isn’t an isolated incident either. On May 31, 1998, Neil Allen managed to pitch a three-hit shut out after replacing Leiter in the top of the first. His line for the season read: 0 complete games, 1 shutout.

6. Fairballs and foulballs
We all know the foul ball rule. If the ball is first hit fair and then touches foul territory before it crosses either first or third base then it is called foul. However, if a fielder interferes with a fair ball so that it goes foul it is ruled fair. Check out what happened when Kansas City played the Seattle Mariners on May 27 1981. The Royals were ahead 7-4 and Amos Otis tapped a dribbler down the third base line. Seattle third baseman Lenny Randle got down on all fours and proceeded to blow the ball over the line (yes, blow) causing it to roll foul! Royals manager Jim Frey, not surprisingly, argued the call while Randle claimed he was just praying that the ball would go out. The ump ruled that the Randle was indeed interfering at Otis scores a hit.

7. Six consecutive strike outs in an inning
We all know the mantra three strikes and you out, right? Not so fast. Don’t forget the famous incident in the 2005 ALCS where A J Pierzynski managed to reach first on an unambiguous dropped third strike call (technically called an uncalled third strike by the way). Nothing wrong with that I hear you say. We often see uncaught third strikes where the catcher subsequently tags the batter out. However, playing the Pierzynski moment to a possible conclusion brings to the fore an endless set of bizarre outcomes, such as having six consecutive strike outs in an inning (or 54 in a game!)—20 Ks no longer looking too impressive now is it? Here’s how:
1. The first two batters strike out.
2. 3rd batter strikes out, but the catcher flubs, and the runner reaches first.
3. The lead-off man steals second, as the pitcher throws a strike, and the catcher can't
throw him out.
4. Fourth batter strikes out, and the catcher again flubs, so the runner reaches first.
5. Double steal as the pitcher throws a strike, and the catcher is caught flat-footed in a
fielder's choice.
6. Fifth batter strikes out, and the catcher flubs again, so the runner reaches first.
7. Sixth batter strikes out, finally ending the inning

No comments: