September 2, 2018

Umpire Joe West Says Phillies Pitcher Cannot Refer To Notes On Mound

Updated: The wording of the official rule and my comments.

We have seen outfielders refer to index cards in the field, reminding them where to play certain hitters. When Phillies reliever Austin Davis looked at a similar card last night, third base umpire Joe West quickly took it away from him.

West ruled that Davis's card violated Rule 6.02(c)(7):
(c) Pitching Prohibitions

The pitcher shall not: ...

(7) Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance.

Rule 6.02(c)(7) Comment: The pitcher may not attach anything to either hand, any finger or either wrist (e.g., Band-Aid, tape, Super Glue, bracelet, etc.). The umpire shall determine if such attachment is indeed a foreign substance for the purpose of Rule 6.02(c)(7), but in no case may the pitcher be allowed to pitch with such attachment to his hand, finger or wrist.
Davis's note card was not "attached" to his hand or wrist and he never pitched with the paper "substance" attached to his hand or wrist. It was in his pocket. Does that mean that a pitcher cannot have anything in his pocket when he is on the field? Is a piece of chewing gum or a lucky quarter against the rules?

This strikes me as a bit silly. Are umpires going to now inspect every pitcher's pockets before he is allowed to enter a game? If a catcher or an infielder or an outfielder can look at note cards between batters, why not a pitcher? If MLB is going to limit catcher and coach visits to the mound, they should allow note cards. (Also, the umpires have seen non-pitchers with cards for a long time. Why do they not have an official ruling as to whether pitchers can also have them?)

Until the office tells me, I can't let the pitcher do it. I can't let him do it. ... I said, "You can have it back after the game, but you can't have it now." I didn't want to throw him out. I know it's foreign, but he's not trying to cheat.
This is something I create. We have our meeting where we go over the hitters. I take that information and put it on a card so I don't have to try and memorize it, and use my mental energy to get ready for the game. ... Our analytics department works really, really hard to come up with this stuff for us, and I want to use it ... And if I have an answer to get a guy out, I want to know what that is.
[I]t wasn't pine tar, it wasn't an emery board, it wasn't whatever. In the long run, maybe they'll let him [have the card]. Right now, my hands are tied until they say yes or no. ... I told him we don't allow him to carry anything on their glove, person or clothing ...
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler:
Obviously we're using it for a scouting report and our outfielders use them, some of our infielders use them ... Austin Davis is pulling the card out of his pocket on the mound using it as a reference how to attack the hitters. I think it's actually a really good thing for baseball. I don't really quite understand this one. I mean, it's not like he's trying to hide anything. ... Our catchers have them on their wrists. It doesn't make sense to me ...
Cubs manager Joe Maddon:
I'm sure we'll get a ruling on this in the very near future. As long as you cannot alter the baseball -- I don't know if you rub it 35 times quickly, you might get a sheen on the ball -- but that's a first. That's an absolute first.
The Smarty Jones, The Good Phight:
I've spent enough time talking about the players. It's time to talk about the man who people really came to see.

[1 tweet]

That's right - I'm talking about your hero and mine: umpire Joe West! In the top of the eighth, everyone's favorite ump made his presence known by confiscating a strategy card from pitcher Austin Davis. Nobody could figure out why West took offense to the card, but rest assured, the fans - most of whom paid their money knowing he'd be the umpire - were thrilled.

[3 tweets]

Bravo, Joe! Every time I think you can't surprise me any more, you go and pull this trick.

My only hope is that Aaron Nola doesn't do anything to overshadow West tomorrow. The players have to know their role, and understand just who it is the fans are coming to see. If Nola wants to pitch well, that's fine. But he needs to do so quietly and inauspiciously, and no matter what, do NOT consult a strategy card!

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