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Venditte Become Such a Problem?
2008-06-22 22:39
by Mike Carminati

If you missed it, last Thursday Yankee prospect Pat Venditte pitched a scoreless ninth to finish off a 7-2 Staten Island win over cross-borough rival Brooklyn Cyclones. But the big story in this rather lopsided loss was the last at-bat, which was nothing more than a four-pitch strikeout, with the last strike coming on a curveball a good half-foot outside of the strike zone.

Sounds like a pretty boring AB in a pretty boring game, but it was a breathtaking piece of baseball history, the like of which may not have been seen since 1888 and the glory days of "Ice Box" Chamberlain.

The final batter switch-hitter Ralph Henriquez came up to bat with two out and one on in the ninth, was batting lefty in the on deck circle, but came up to the plate batting righty. The ambidextrous Venditte—oh, did I mention that?—switched his Greg Harris-esque six-fingered glove to his left hand and prepared to throw right-handed. Henriquez switched to the left side of the plate. Venditte switched his glove to his right hand. Henriquez switched. So did Venditte. And so on, and so on.

After a six-plus minute delay and much deliberation among the overmatched umps, Henriquez was told to get in the box and quickly surrendered to Vindette's breaking stuff.

It's here in all it's glory.

Now, the New York-Penn League has instituted a new rule so that this monumental waste of time is not repeated:

"The new rule," (SI Yanks manager) McMahon said, "dictates that the batter will determine which side of the plate he wants to hit from, if he's a switch-hitter; and after that, Pat can address the rubber. The batter can switch one time, and Pat can switch."

Of course, this rule was entirely unnecessary. The plate ump in the June 19 game botched the call so badly that he lost all control of the game. No new rule was needed since it was already in the rules.

It's called rule 6.02(b):

The batter shall not leave his position in the batter's box after the pitcher comes to Set Position, or starts his windup.

PENALTY: If the pitcher pitches, the umpire shall call "Ball" or "Strike," as the case may be.

Rule 6.02(b) Comment: The batter leaves the batter's box at the risk of having a strike delivered and called, unless he requests the umpire to call "Time." The batter is not at liberty to step in and out of the batter's box at will.

Once a batter has taken his position in the batter's box, he shall not be permitted to step out of the batter's box in order to use the resin or the pine tar rag, unless there is a delay in the game action or, in the judgment of the umpires, weather conditions warrant an exception.

Umpires will not call "Time" at the request of the batter or any member of his team once the pitcher has started his windup or has come to a set position even though the batter claims "dust in his eyes," "steamed glasses," "didn't get the sign" or for any other cause.

Umpires may grant a hitter's request for "Time" once he is in the batter's box, but the umpire should eliminate hitters walking out of the batter's box without reason. If umpires are not lenient, batters will understand that they are in the batter's box and they must remain there until the ball is pitched. See Rule 6.02(d).

Rich Marazzi in "The Rules and Lore of Baseball" points to a number of instances in which the rule was invoked. Frank Robinson got called out on strikes after stepping out of the box to argue a previous call on Jun 1, 1956. Dave Philly was called out on similar circumstances. And Ray Chapman in 1920, the year he became the first and only major-leaguer to die in a game, was called out after he walked to the dugout with two strikes while facing Walter Johnson's heat. Ump Billy Evans yelled to Chapman, "You got another strike coming." To wit Chapman responded, "You can have it. It wouldn't do me any good."

So once Henriquez stood in a batter's box—pick 'em, any box'll do—and Venditte came to a set position, which he did each time Henriquez switched. Once Henriquez stepped out of the box, the ump should have forced him back in the box.

If Venditte pitched while Henriquez was playing ring around the rosey, the pitch should have counted. If the pitch hit him while he was in the strike zone, the batter would have been out.

The new rule is silly and unnecessary.

So the only question remaining is why the league and the umps were not ready for Venditte's unique situation prior to the game? In the minors, adjudicating dizzy bat contents clearly takes precedence.

So instead of doing a bit of research, the league invented an unnecessary rule that will surely follow Venditte as he progresses to various leagues and levels in his nascent pro career.

Hey, but at least it beats interleague play. By the way, the AL is clobbering the NL with a .580-something winning percentage (excluding today's games).

2008-06-23 03:38:02
1.   RIYank
I believe things are slightly worse for the batter than you've explained. For one thing, 6.02d says that the umpire may call an automatic strike, without the pitcher having to throw, if the batter refuses to get back in the batter's box. Second, 6.06 says:

A batter is out for illegal action when—

(a) ...

(b) He steps from one batter's box to the other while the pitcher is in position ready to pitch...

On the other hand, why do you think the batter would be out if struck by a pitch in the strike zone? I think that's just a strike.

2008-06-23 05:29:28
2.   Murray
All too typical and illustrative of one of baseball's annoying little problems: the rule book is badly organized and poorly written. If it were easier to read and contained better examples of how to apply the rules, then fans, players, and umpires would be better off.
2008-06-29 13:17:49
3.   dmac
What's even weirder is that this (obviously) came up when Venditte was in college. From the always-excellent Alan Schwarz in the NYT on 6 April 2007: "Against Nebraska last year, a switch-hitter came to the plate right-handed, prompting Venditte to switch to his right arm, which caused the batter to move to the left-hand batter's box, with Venditte switching his arm again. Umpires ultimately restored order, applying the rule (the same as that in the majors) that a pitcher must declare which arm he will use before throwing his first pitch and cannot change before the at-bat ends. 'Eventually, after 10 or 15 minutes, they got it figured out,' Venditte said with a smile."

Apparently, it takes 10 or 15 minutes at each level before they figure this out.

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