For better or for worse, spitting is as big a part of baseball as hot dogs and apple pie. If you used a pencil and paper to count how many times players spit during a game you’d go through three or four Ticonderoga HBs a night. It’s ubiquitous. It’s u-spit-quitous.
Yet a ballplayer spitting was held to have been in violation of the rules last night. Guilty of an act of expectorational deception! The spitter in question, Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz. His spit occurred in the second inning with runners on first and second, and when he spit the umps called him for a balk. I am not kidding.
I mean, just look how egregious and horrifyingly deceptive this is!
In case you missed that, here it is in isolation:
That is . . . one of the most pathetic calls I’ve ever seen.
The balk rule exists to prevent a pitcher from deceiving the baserunners, typically by faking the starting-and-stopping of a pitching motion or by otherwise fidgeting in such a way as to make it unclear as to whether he is delivering a pitch or not. If you can find the deception in that “movement” you’ve got better eyes than I do.
The consequences of that ridiculous call were pretty significant too. Instead of runners on first and second with nobody out it was runners on second and third. The next batter grounded out to second, scoring a run that would not have scored absent the balk call and prevented what could very well have been a double play. The next batter up grounded to second as well, with another run scoring when the second baseman committed an error as he threw home. Which, again, he would not be doing absent the balk. You can’t assume double plays and, at some point, the chain of causation from a given event must break as an inning proceeds, but it’s not unreasonable to say that the crap balk call led to two Cubs runs that would not have otherwise scored.
Final score: Cubs 5, Braves 4. That obviously pleased the Cubs. I’m guessing that pleased the Phillies too, who gained a half game in the standings on Atlanta. The Braves and Brewers, though, are likely far less pleased.