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.