• “Hey Blue, the runner busted his butt running to first base, the least you could do is move 10 ft. to make a call!”~~~

  • “Wipe the dirt off that called strike, Blue!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, did they stop printing the rulebook in Braille?”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, Lenscrafter called and said your new glasses will be ready in 30 minutes!”~~~

  • “You're killing me, Blue!”~~~

  • “Blue, that was a strike in any bowling alley!”~~~

  • “Sweep the plate Blue! It's the least you can do!”~~~

  • “Wake up Blue, you're missing a great game!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, you're getting better, you almost made the right call that time!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, Stevie Wonder could see that one!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, you really shouldn't be in the game until you get warmed up!”~~~

  • “Blue, just 'cause it's a night game, doesn't mean you should be asleep!”~~~

  • “Blue, if that pitch were any further outside it would be in the West Desert!”~~~

  • “Somebody call the police, this guy is impersonating an umpire!”~~~

  • “Blue, now I know why there’s only one eye (I) in umpire”~~~

  • “You can go home Blue. We'll take it from here.”~~~

  • “Come on Blue, it’s a strike zone, not an end zone!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, does your wife let you make decisions at home?”~~~

  • “Blue, kick your dog, he's lying to you!”~~~

  • “Blue, if the pitcher is throwing too fast for you, we can ask him to slow it down!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, how can you sleep with all these lights on?”~~~

  • “I’ve seen better Blues in a box of crayons!”~~~

  • “I’m gonna break your cane and shoot your dog!”~~~

  • “If I had a dollar, Blue, for every good call you’ve made, I’d be broke!”~~~

  • "Is that your final answer?”~~~

  • “The magic 8 ball says……”~~~

  • “When your dog barks twice, it's a strike!”~~~

  • “Mix in some consistency once in awhile!”~~~

  • “Take off that welding mask”~~~

  • “Lenscrafter called... They'll be ready in 30 min.”~~~

  • “Open your good eye!”~~~

  • “Can I pet your seeing eye dog after the game?”~~~

  • “Looked pretty good from up here Blue!”~~~

  • “Do your sleeping at home Blue!”~~~

  • “You must be losing them in the lights!”~~~

  • “Why do you keep looking in your hand...do you have a map of the strike zone in it?”~~~

  • “I'll take three pencils!”~~~

  • “For a guy that only works 2 hours a day, you're doing a pretty bad job!”~~~

  • “Hey blue, if you had one more eye you'd be a Cyclops!”~~~

  • “RING..RING....Wake up call Blue!”~~~

  • “I've seen better blue in a toilet bowl!”~~~

  • “What's a matter you gotta broken arm?”~~~

  • “Look through the mask, not at it!”~~~

  • “It really is hot today - that strike zone is melting!”~~~

  • “Wrong!”~~~

  • “Here's a quarter, go buy a strike zone!”~~~

  • “How's work experience going Blue?”~~~

  • “Hey Blue…if you had one more eye, you’d be a Cyclops!”~~~

  • “Keep that up and we’ll shoot your dog and break your cane!”~~~

  • “"Easy Flinchy" – After a slight flinch behind the plate.”~~~

  • “I thought only horses slept standing up!”~~~

  • “You're blinking way to long!”~~~

  • “Come on Blue, that pitch was so far outside it had a hat and coat on!”~~~

  • “You couldn't see the plate if your dinner was on it!”~~~

  • “Wake up Blue, you're missing a great game!”~~~

  • “Somebody call the police, this guy's impersonating an umpire!”~~~

  • “You're like a bat without sonar!”~~~

  • “I didn't know we were golfing today, I would have brought my clubs!”~~~

  • “Did you star in "Weekend at Bernie's"?”~~~

  • “Hey blue, that call was a get outta here quick call!”~~~

  • “I thought only horses slept standing up!”~~~

  • “That was higher than a t-shirt at Mardi Gras!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, it's against the law to make prank calls!”~~~

  • “(Hold up cell phone) Is this your cell phone? Because it has three missed calls!”~~~

  • “That pitch was like your last date, you didn't want to see her or call her.”~~~

  • “To batter as he steps into the box: "You better be swinging. You're standing in the strike zone."”~~~

  • “After the ump has dusted off home plate: "You're gonna make someone a great wife someday!”~~~

  • “You're not gonna sleep a minute tonight because you've slept all game!”~~~

  • “Did you make the call on WMD in Iraq as well?”~~~

  • “Is your rule book written in Braille?”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, how can you sleep with all these lights on!”~~~

  • “Stevie Wonder could see that one!”~~~

  • “Flip over the plate and read the directions!”~~~

  • “How about some Windex for that glass eye!”~~~

  • “The French judge says it's a strike!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, diarrhea has more consistency than your strike zone!”~~~

  • “You need to go to confession after that call!”~~~

  • “I've seen better Blues in a box of crayons!”~~~

  • “Don't bother brushing off the corners, you're not calling them anyway!”~~~

  • “We know you're blind, we've seen your wife!”~~~

  • “They're putting your strike zone on the back of milk cartons!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, that's not a 9 iron he's hitting with!”~~~

  • “How do you sleep at night?”~~~

  • “I was confused the first time I saw a game too!”~~~

  • “I've gotten better calls from my ex-wife!”~~~

  • “Good thing there are not three choices!”~~~

  • “Somebody get the ump his prescription mask!”~~~

  • “You flipping coins?”~~~

  • “Hey Blue is that a dinner plate? Apparently it has no corners!”~~~

  • “Admit it.... You lied!”~~~

  • “Why don't you get your Seeing Eye dog to call it for you?”~~~

  • “I forgot the Milk-Bone for your seeing-eye dog!”~~~

  • “Have you lost your strike zone in the lights?”~~~

  • “Now I know why there's only one eye (I) in umpire!”~~~

  • “You couldn't get a pitchout right!”~~~

  • “You're making more bad calls than a telemarketer!”~~~

  • “Kick your dog, he's lying to you!”~~~

  • “Be careful when you back up, so you don't fall over your dog!”~~~

  • “Did you haul in your strike zone on a tractor trailer bed?”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, if you had another eye it would be lonely!”~~~

  • “You couldn't call hogs!”~~~

  • “Keep calling them like that and you'll be bagging groceries in no time!”~~~

  • “Get a hammer and some nails, the plate is movin' around again!”~~~

  • “You call more strikes than a union delegate!”~~~

  • “Did your glass eye fog up?”~~~

  • “You couldn't call a cab!”~~~

  • “The circus is in town and the clowns are wearing blue!”~~~

  • “It's a strike zone, not an end zone!”~~~

  • “You really shouldn't be in the game until you get warmed up!”~~~

  • “Come on Blue, turn that mask around and get a GOOD look!”~~~

  • “You can go home blue, we'll take it from here!”~~~

  • “How'd you become an umpire? Flunk out of tollbooth school?”~~~

  • “How about asking the crowd?”~~~

  • “Do you want to use another lifeline?”~~~

  • “3 Blind Mice, 3 Blind Mice,”~~~

  • “What were you, a lookout for the Titanic?”~~~

  • “How many fingers am I holding up?”~~~

  • “(For an umpire is slow getting in position) C'mon blue, put the Snicker Bar down!”~~~

  • “Sweep the plate! It's the least you can do!”~~~

  • “Move around, you're tilting' the infield!”~~~

  • “Move around Blue, you're killing' the grass!”~~~

  • “It sure sounded like a strike!”~~~

  • “How'd you get a square head in that round mask?”~~~

  • “Have they stopped printing the rulebooks in Braille?”~~~

  • “Don't donate your eyes to science, they don't want 'em'”~~~

  • “Does your wife let you make decisions at home?”~~~

  • “Pull the good eye out of your pocket!”~~~

  • “Wipe the dirt off that called strike!”~~~

  • “Sure you don't want to phone a friend?”~~~

  • “You can open your eyes now!”~~~

  • “Do you get any better or is this it?”~~~

  • “You're blinking too long!”~~~

  • “You couldn't make the right call if you had a phone book!”~~~

  • “You couldn't make a call in a phone booth!”~~~

  • “Do you take Visa or American Express?”~~~

  • “Leave the gift giving to Santa!”~~~

  • “Take out your glass eye and wash it!”~~~

  • “Guess again, the last call was wrong!”~~~

  • “Blue, do you feel guilty?”~~~

  • “If the pitcher is throwing too fast for you, we can ask them to slow it down!”~~~

  • “Your strike zone is a moving target!”~~~

  • “You're getting better, you almost made the right call that time!”~~~

  • “Punch a hole in that mask, you're missing a good game!”~~~

  • “Hey, Sleeping Beauty, wake up!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, Magnum P.I. called and he can't find your strike zone!”~~~

  • “I've seen potatoes with better eyes!”~~~

  • “Next time buy a ticket if you're going to watch!”~~~

  • “Can I buy you another beer?”~~~

  • “We know your blind we've seen your wife!”~~~

  • “I’ve seen better blues in a crayon box!”~~~

  • “I've heard better calls at a square dance!”~~~

  • “I've heard better calls between two tin cans and a piece of string!”~~~

  • “Hey Blue, were you looking for the curve?”~~~

  • “Hey Blues, which one of you is the designated driver?”~~~

  • “Move a little Blue, you're growing' roots!~~~

  • '

G Balk--Deceive

Michael Leavitt

After a long restless night, I have a Majors coach that I want to go and talk with to resolve an on the field no-call from yesterday’s late game. Obviously, if I am still thinking about a play from last nights ball game, then I need to create some resolution because my non-call and action to explain did not leave the coach feeling very good and whether I was right or wrong does not completely matter. Coach, I should have afforded you the opportunity for us to have resolution. I apologize for denying us that chance.

Aaron4 300SCENARIO: The Pirates had just had the inning of a lifetime that included 16 runs, with the bases loaded and single after single, leaving the score going into the last inning 22-1. The Cardinals got their 3 outs and were finally able to take their turn at bat. Their lead-off batter got to first and the pitcher for the Pirates wanted to pick him off. His intent was obvious. He walked up the mound with the ball and had not yet straddled the mound and he stood well behind the pitcher’s plate. As he did I just knew we had a “Here we go again” moment. With the first base coach telling his runner to get a lead off instead of, “Hey watch it because the pitcher’s foot is still behind the rubber!” And with that came the throw to first and the runner was picked-off easily. From the third base coaching box across the field came the Cardinal’s coach loudly protesting the call and letting me know that was a balk and I missed the call badly. From my position 15 feet from the pitcher’s plate I had a good view of the entire play and I loudly pointed down and said, so all could hear, “His foot was behind the plate. Runner, you are out. Let’s play!” That did not sit well with the coach who wanted to approach me at the middle of the field. I raised my hand towards him in a stop motion and said, “Coach, let’s play.” Two pitches later he was still upset in the coaching box, and just a few pitches more came outs two and three and the ballgame was over.

WAS I RIGHT? - So was I right, or was I wrong? At this point it only partially matters. The question to me is how I could have handled the situation on the field better, and that is why I was tossing and turning through the night and replaying the scenario over and over again in my mind.

IF IT EVER HAPPENS AGAIN - If I ever find myself in that same situation again where one team is trouncing the other and going to add insult to injury, I am going to find some way to call time and go to the pitcher and recommend they just get the next three batter’s instead of trying to pull off the trick move of the century towards first base in an effort to really disgrace the other team. The phrase that has been around since nearly the inception of the game is “Bush League,” and I know the Cardinals’ coach walked away feeling that the Pirates had just closed out their win with a bush league play and that I should have called a balk and sent his runner to second instead of to the dugout. I could have and should have done something to prevent those ill feelings towards the game and prevented the feeling of salt being applied to the gaping wound of the 22-1 loss. It is all about respect for the game and that is where I could have done more to maintain the level of respect on the field. Coach, I apologize!

ALLOW THE COACH TO SPEAK HIS MIND - A coach is not allowed to argue the judgment calls, yet they still need to be able to take a moment and vent their frustrations to be able to express themselves in a rationale way and get some kind of explanation why something was either called or not called. I understand his frustration. Having been a coach for a number of teams I know there is a seemingly fine line between seeking an explanation and showing up the umpire. Last night I did not allow the coach to speak his mind because I felt he was crossing the line. If I had it to do over again I would not have given him the “Speak to the hand” signal. Instead, I should have given him the opportunity to come out and state his case. It would not have changed the call, but it would have allowed him the opportunity to either vent and regain his composure... or completely make a fool out of himself and be ejected (of which I don’t think he would have done), but I denied him those opportunities, and that was my error in judgment. Technically, I was right on the call, but I don’t think that is the key point. I think I should have allowed the coach the chance to come out and have a face to face. In all fairness, I was also caught up in the excitement of the moment and it felt like we were headed towards a crash and burn that I was trying to immediately stop before it got that far. His balk outburst was, in large part, due to the demoralizing 16 runs scored against his team in the prior inning, and I can understand his pain. But I did not let him express and release his pain.

WAS I RIGHT? First and foremost, balks are judgment calls and completely at the discretion of the umpire. I could hike my leg and take the “How dare you question me” attitude, but that would be unfair. All the calls on the field are under heavy scrutiny and my calls and no-calls  need to pass the litmus test. Let’s take a moment to evaluate the specific play while we look at the Major League Baseball balk rules found in section 8.05 of “The Official Rules of Major League Baseball.” There are 13 specific balk rules and two deception comments that each move by the pitcher has to pass, or else it is a balk. Fans, coaches, players, and umpires have to keep these fresh in their mind when evaluating the moves of the pitcher on the mound, and even for the experienced student of the rules it is tough to remember and apply each of these 15 points during the heat of the game. The rules below are in blue, the deception clause in red, and my commentary on each is in black. Let’s see if I can get last night’s scenario safely through each balk rule test...


MLB Rules8.05 - BALK RULES - Official Rules of Major League Baseball   

MLB 2013 200

8.05 If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when—

        (a) The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery;
        Rule 8.05(a) Comment: If a lefthanded or righthanded pitcher swings his free foot past the back edge of the pitcher’s rubber, he is required to pitch to the batter except to throw to second base on a pick-off play.

The pitcher had never touched his plate.

        (b) The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first base and fails to complete the throw;

The pitcher had never touched his plate.

        (c) The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base;
        Rule 8.05(c) Comment: Requires the pitcher, while touching his plate, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base. If a pitcher turns or spins off of his free foot without actually stepping or if he turns his body and throws before stepping, it is a balk.
        A pitcher is to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base but does not require him to throw (except to first base only) because he steps. It is possible, with runners on first and third, for the pitcher to step toward third and not throw, merely to bluff the runner back to third; then seeing the runner on first start for second, turn and step toward and throw to first base. This is legal. However, if, with runners on first and third, the pitcher, while in contact with the rubber, steps toward third and then immediately and in practically the same motion “wheels” and throws to first base, it is obviously an attempt to deceive the runner at first base, and in such a move it is practically impossible to step directly toward first base before the throw to first base, and such a move shall be called a balk. Of course, if the pitcher steps off the rubber and then makes such a move, it is not a balk.

The pitcher had never touched his plate.

        (d) The pitcher, while touching his plate, throws, or feints a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play;

The pitcher had never touched his plate.

        (e) The pitcher makes an illegal pitch;
        Rule 8.05(e) Comment: A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

No pitch was delivered.

        (f) The pitcher delivers the ball to the batter while he is not facing the batter;

No pitch was delivered.

        (g) The pitcher makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch while he is not touching the pitcher’s plate;

This is where the judgment comes into play. If I were the coach, then this would be the only part of the rules where I could possibly make a stand. But this is also where I felt the first base coach and the runner, as well as all the fans, players, and coaching staff could see that the pitcher was still clearly behind the rubber and deemed a fielder. I had kept the bases and the pitcher’s plate very clean throughout the game and he had never taken his stance at his plate. I keep the pitcher’s plate clean so that these disputes can be avoided. The pitcher was not in a fake stance to take his call from the catcher. In fact, he was not in any pitching stance and still deemed a fielder. He was clearly positioning himself to take advantage of a lapse in judgment on the part of the first base coach and the runner, of which he did and the runner was called out.

        (h) The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game;

        Rule 8.05(h) Comment: Rule 8.05(h) shall not apply when a warning is given pursuant to Rule 8.02(c) (which prohibits intentional delay of a game by throwing to fielders not in an attempt to put a runner out). If a pitcher is ejected pursuant to Rule 8.02(c) for continuing to delay the game, the penalty in Rule 8.05(h) shall also apply. Rule 8.04 (which sets a time limit for a pitcher to deliver the ball when the bases are unoccupied) applies only when there are no runners on base.

Nope, no major delays.

        (i) The pitcher, without having the ball, stands on or astride the pitcher’s plate or while off the plate, he feints a pitch;

The pitcher had never touched his plate.

        (j) The pitcher, after coming to a legal pitching position, removes one hand from the ball other than in an actual pitch, or in throwing to a base;

The pitcher had never touched his plate.

        (k) The pitcher, while touching his plate, accidentally or intentionally drops the ball;

The pitcher had never touched his plate.

        (l) The pitcher, while giving an intentional base on balls, pitches when the catcher is not in the catcher’s box;

No pitch was delivered.

        (m) The pitcher delivers the pitch from Set Position without coming to a stop.

The pitcher had never touched his plate.

        PENALTY: The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.
        APPROVED RULING: In cases where a pitcher balks and throws wild, either to a base or to home plate, a runner or runners may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled at his own risk.
        APPROVED RULING: A runner who misses the first base to which he is advancing and who is called out on appeal shall be considered as having advanced one base for the purpose of this rule.
        Rule 8.05 Comment: Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner. If there is doubt in the umpire’s mind, the “intent” of the pitcher should govern. However, certain specifics should be borne in mind:

The part that gets lost is that the pitcher had never yet established himself as a pitcher and was still deemed a fielder. LITMUS TEST - If the pitcher had thrown the ball wildly out of play, then the Cardinals’ runner would have gone to third base instead of second. Why? Since the pitcher had never placed his foot at the pitcher’s plate he was still classified as a fielder and not a pitcher. You can’t have it both ways. And everybody knows that if you either never take your place at the pitcher’s plate, or you step off with you back foot, then you are considered a fielder and can do pretty much whatever you want... Within reason, of course. (SEE WILD THROWS).

        (a) Straddling the pitcher’s rubber without the ball is to be interpreted as intent to deceive and ruled a balk.

The pitcher never straddled the rubber and he had possession of the ball.

        (b) With a runner on first base the pitcher may make a complete turn, without hesitating toward first, and throw to second. This is not to be interpreted as throwing to an unoccupied base.

There was no turnaround throw to second.

DID THIS MOVE PASS THE BALK TEST? - Yes. I put it through the 13 balk rules as well as the two “Deception Exceptions” and the move passed each and every test. I made the technically correct call.

MakeTheRightCall-200SO WHY THE UNCOMFORTABLE FEELINGS? - I feel that I could have handled the on field situation in a more professional manner. That is something I have complete control over and this is something I will continue to work on and try to improve upon. I will also allow coaches in the future the chance to better speak their minds, especially when it is during the tense part of the games.

AND FINALLY -  From Major League Baseball’s “Make The Right Call - Major League Baseball’s Official Rules and Interpretations plus League Umpire’s Guide and Instructions” book it stresses...

A manager or coach may not protest the call of a balk as defined in 8.05(c). If such a protest is made, the manager or coach shall be ejected from the game.



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