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Cowboy Joe and the Frisk
2008-05-16 10:29
by Mike Carminati

While I begin my annual attempt to ignore interleague play, there was a minor but extremely odd incident in the Wednesday Milwaukee-LA game upon which I will choose to dwell.

With the Brewers leading 4-3 at the top of the ninth and the Dodgers [reparing to bat, newly anointed Brewer closer Guillermo Mota had just entered the game. As he was completing his warm-up tosses, third base ump Joe West called for the ball. Mota obligingly tossed the ball to third with a rather non-plussed expression and awaited its return post-inspection.

West, however, did not inspect the ball but rather Bogarted it like the Courtship of Eddie's Father kid at the end of the original Bad News Bears. And play just seemed to freeze for a minute or two. This brought a rather perplexed and TO'ed Ned Yost out of the dugout. His reliever was trying to get ready to save the game and didn't need any unnecessary delays. As a heated confab ensued on the field, the announcers (at least the ones provided by MLB.TV's broadcast) were trying to fathom what was happening on the field.

Finally, Bill Hall gave Mota a ball, perhaps the one West had had which the Brewers had somehow purloined, and the inning proper could begin. The Dodgers went on to score three runs in the ninth, all off the reeling reliever, and won the game.

While questions swirled as to why the Brewers could not have lost just as easily with their other, original beleaguered closer, Eric Gagne, the West story, though reduced to a footnote, came into shape. According to Mota, West stopped him after five warm-up pitches: "Joe West asked me for the ball and threw it to second base," said Mota. "I only threw five pitches. I said, 'I get eight.' He said I threw extra pitches in the bullpen."

I checked the footage from the broadcast, but it's inconclusive. We only get to see the final warm-up pitch and then Mota being fleeced of the ball. But a quick check of the rules supports Mota:

8.03 When a pitcher takes his position at the beginning of each inning, or when he relieves another pitcher, he shall be permitted to pitch not to exceed eight preparatory pitches to his catcher during which play shall be suspended. A league by its own action may limit the number of preparatory pitches to less than eight preparatory pitches. Such preparatory pitches shall not consume more than one minute of time. If a sudden emergency causes a pitcher to be summoned into the game without any opportunity to warm up, the umpire-in-chief shall allow him as many pitches as the umpire deems necessary.

The National League really doesn't exist as an organizing body any longer, which makes it highly improbable that it switched suddenly to five warm-ups just for this inning. So unless Mota took over a minute to throw five times, West was basically making up his own rules. Maybe he had a gig to get to:

What's odd about West's move is that the rule was set up to shorten the game whereas West's grandstanding actually delayed it. Joe does always like to be bigger than the game, however, so it's all good.

I took a look at Rich Marazzi's "The Rules and Lore of Baseball" to see if West's move had a precedent. Apparently, an umpire had changed the number of warm-up pitches, but in that case, he extending them:

An amusing story relates to 8.03 involving Jimmy Dykes when he managed the White Sox. In this particular game the opposition brought in a relief pitcher. After the pitcher threw seven warm-up pitches, Dykes shouted, "Next one is the last and let's get going." Umpire George Moriarty wasn't about to let Dykes tell him how to run a game. He allowed the pitcher to take about 15 or 16 warm-ups.

Sound like anyone you know?

2008-05-16 16:53:22
1.   Eric Enders
Since there were no comments, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed this. And that Cowboy Joe is, of course, a disgrace.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.