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A Million And One Uses
2003-05-18 00:36
by Mike Carminati

Too much glue won't stick, and too many words won't either.

-Chinese Proverb

Montreal pitcher Zach Day was ejected in the third inning today for violating rule 8.02(b):

The pitcher shall not... (b) Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game

Day had applied glue to a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand between innings after the blister had bothered him in the first two innings. But the umps didn't call him after they saw the effects of the "substance" on his pitches. Day is a junkball/groundball pitcher to begin with.

Day had walked Rafael Belliard, the leadoff batter in the third, at which point he attempted to remove the glue from his hand.

It was too slick, I couldn't feel the ball,'' Day said. "I was trying to get it off. I was just trying to prevent the blister from getting worse. I wasn't trying to do anything.''

When he was unsuccessful, the Expo trainer came out to the mound to help.

Home plate ump Bill Miller also approached the mound to investigate the delay. When Miller discovered what the Expos were up to, he told manager Frank Robinson that Day would have to be reported "to the league", which I don't think is part of the rules and I suppose means the commissioner since there is no "league" to which to report anything, and that the pitcher was ejected.

Robinson argued that a different rule applied, 8.01(a)(6):

The pitcher shall not...(a) (6) deliver what is called the "shine" ball, "spit" ball, "mud" ball or "emery" ball. The pitcher, of course, is allowed to rub the ball between his bare hands. PENALTY: For violation of any part of this rule 8.02 (a) (2 to 6) the umpire shall: (a) Call the pitch a ball, warn the pitcher and have announced on the public address system the reason for the action. (b) In the case of a second offense by the same pitcher in the same game, the pitcher shall be disqualified from the game...(e) The umpire shall be sole judge on whether any portion of this rule has been violated.

Robinson reasoned that applying this rule would result in only a warning for his pitcher, which would be superfluous once the glue was removed. There are a couple of problems with this reasoning: 1) The rule in its entirety deals not with the pitcher having something on his person that is illegal like Krazy Glue but rather with something actually having been done to the ball or attempted to be done to the ball: rubbing the ball, expectorating on the ball, defacing the ball, or applying a foreign substance to the ball. The claim was that the foreign substance was on Day's hand it could not have been applied to the ball since it was dry and it could not very easily have been used to deface the ball. 2) It was clear that Day did not deliver a trick pitch that would alter the ball's delivery or trajectory but rather that the reverse occurred, he had trouble even gripping the ball. 3) Besides the ump is the "sole judge" and he adjudicated already.

If any rule applies, I believe it's 8.02 (b). The umps felt embarrassed to even employ that rule:

"We didn't have a choice,'' Miller said. "They forced our hand. As soon as we heard that it was Super Glue and not just a blister, then we had to throw him out.''

But did rule 8.02 (b) truly apply?

I guess in the strictest reading of the rule, there was a foreign substance on Day's hand. However, what if Day had instead applied a bandage to the blister? It is unlikely he would do so given the attendant loss of control on the ball in the effected area, so maybe that's a bad example.

How about if Day applied what's called a liquid bandage?:

If a bandage of any sort is considered legal legal, so should a liquid bandage. For Day's intents and purposes what he applied to his finger was a low-cost version of a liquid bandage.

Can a bandage, liquid or no, be applied to a pitcher's hand? I could find no reference to its legality or illegality. However, given that pitchers may go to their mouth in cold weather to warm their fingers (see rule below), isn't wearing a bandage the same sort of extenuating circunmstance?

The pitcher shall not (a) (1) Bring his pitching hand in contact with his mouth or lips while in the 18 foot circle surrounding the pitching rubber. EXCEPTION: Provided it is agreed to by both managers, the umpire prior to the start of a game played in cold weather, may permit the pitcher to blow on his hand.

Clearly, Day had not intended to use the glue to alter the ball itself or the trajectory it took once it left his hand. If he had, he would not have been so cavalier with his "illegal substance".

I cannot believe that justice is served by ejecting Day. He was not trying to gain an unfair advantage, nor clearly did he gain one. I can't believe that this rule was intended to deny any sort of substance besides skin from residing on a pitcher's hand. What about a ring or a medical alert bracelet?

I just checked online and NCAA baseball prohibits bandages on the pitcher's pitching hand:

Rule 9.2 e . Apply any foreign substance or moisture to the ball or to the pitching hand or fingers, or do anything to deface the ball. The pitcher may use bare hands to rub up the ball.
A . R . (Additional Ruling)-The pitcher shall not use a bandage or any other distracting item on the pitching hand or fingers. A cast or bandage may be used on the non-pitching hand if it is not white in color or distracting to the batter or umpire.

However, their penalty is a warning for illegal substances for the first infraction and then an ejection. Therefore, the pitcher would be given an opportunity to remove the nefarious bandage.

I think that in this case the umps should have employed another rule:

9.01 (c) Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.

Clearly this situation is not properly covered in the rules. The ump should have warned Day, allowed the trainer to remove the glue, and then play resume. That was fair and expeditious route, and it was within his purview to do so. Instead the ump delayed and disrupted the flow of the game. Maybe they not only need a computer to help them call balls and strikes: maybe it can help their impaired judgment.

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