Bo Porter

Bo Porter wasn’t trying to pull a fast one. He actually didn’t know the rules. And neither did the umps.

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Still kinda amazed at that weird pitching change fiasco in the Astros-Angels game last night in which Bo Porter pulled his reliever for another before the first one ever faced a batter.

When I first read about it I figured that Porter was trying to pull a fast one and call in a different pitcher without anyone really noticing. Because while, yes, there are some rules in the book that are obscure, the one about pitchers having to face a batter before being lifted barring injury is pretty well known. But Porter’s post-game explanation of it shows that he either (a) actually did not know that; or (b) was going to great lengths to explain away his gamesmanship:

Q: Can you walk us through the pitching change in the seventh inning?

A: “My understanding of the rule, and I was fortunate enough last year to sit in with [Nationals manager] Davey [Johnson] when they changed the rule of a pitcher having to face a batter. But at the same time, if you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

Well, nope. Not at all. There is no “pinch hitter exception,” for the simple reason that if there was managers would delay a game for an hour constantly changing pitchers and hitters to get the platoon advantage. Tony La Russa probably lobbied hard for such an exception back in the day, but it’s not the rule.

So, OK, a major league manager is simply ignorant of a rule that governs his primary in-game job. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the umpires, no? How on Earth did they not know this relatively basic rule? Porter again:

Once I made sure that he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit, then I started towards the mound. The home plate umpire, he kind of stopped me. He said, ‘Whoa, Bo,’ and then Scioscia started yelling he has to face a hitter. I just calmly explained to him my interpretation of the rule is ‘Yes he has to face hitter ,as long as it’s the hitter that’s scheduled to hit.’ The hitter that was scheduled to hit had now been pinch-hit for, which now gives me the right to bring a pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

So the ump bought it even though it was his first impulse to not allow the switch. Is Porter a Jedi? Is he able to talk anyone into anything? Is home plate umpire Adrian Johnson and his crew — consisting of him, Fieldin Culbreth, Brian O’Nora and Bill Welke — that unsure of the rules that a calm, seemingly rational yet totally erroneous explanation of why such is not the rule enough to rule the day?  In the next game these guys ump, should a batter simply call time out after strike three and say “from my understanding of the rule, the batter is allowed four strikes, so I am going to continue batting”?

In some ways this is way worse than Angel Hernandez’s bad call on the home run the other night. This is simple umpire ignorance which was pointed out to them at the moment it occurred and which they ignored. They literally could have pulled out a rule book at that moment to consult it but didn’t.

Major League Baseball has to address this with more than a cursory statement from Joe Torre.

Oakland A’s officials taking a tour of a possible waterfront ballpark site

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  A Maersk Line container ship sits docked in a berth  at the Port of Oakland on February 19, 2015 in Oakland, California. International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) longshoremen at the Port of Oakland took the day shift off today to attend a union meeting amidst ongoing contract negotiations between dockworkers and terminal operators at west coast ports. The port closure, the seventh one this month, has left 12 container ships stuck at the dock with no workers to load and unload them. The ILWU members at 29 West Coast ports have been without a contract for 9 months. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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The Oakland Athletics’ ballpark saga has gone on for years now, with false starts in Fremont and San Jose, lawsuits and seemingly interminable talks with the City of Oakland over a new place on the current Coliseum site. That’s all complicated, of course, by the presence of the Raiders, on whose address — be it Oakland, Las Vegas or someplace else — the A’s future is still largely contingent.

The city has tried to get the A’s interested in a waterfront site for several years now. There are a lot of problems with that due mostly to zoning and regulatory matters, as well as proximity to transit and other practical concerns. The artist’s renderings are often pretty, but it takes more than artist’s renderings to make a good ballpark plan.

But no one is giving up on that and, it seems, even the A’s are willing to at least listen to such proposals now:

Oakland A’s co-owner John Fisher is expected to join officials Thursday for a hush-hush tour of the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, a cargo-loading area near Jack London Square that Mayor Libby Schaaf tirelessly promotes as “a fantastic site for a ballpark.”

Guess it ain’t so “hush-hush” anymore. As with all Oakland ballpark stories, however, feel free to continue snoozing until someone gives us a real reason to wake up.

Note: The above photo is from the Port of Oakland. I have no idea what the proximity of the working part of the city’s port is to where they’d build a ballpark, but I used this picture because I love the story about how George Lucas spotted those things from an airplane as he was leaving Oakland or San Francisco or whatever and used them as inspiration for the AT-AT Imperial Walkers in “Empire Strikes Back.” Which may be a totally aprocyphal story, but one I love so much that I told it to my kids when we flew in to Oakland back in June and will choose to believe despite whatever evidence you provide.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.