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Monday, July 02, 2012

A’s hitting instructor banned by California League over balks

Todd Steverson, the roving hitting instructor for the Oakland Athletics, has been fined an undisclosed amount and banned from California League dugouts for one year by league president Charlie Blaney for ordering a Stockton Ports pitcher to issue three intentional balks in the 17th and 18th innings of Modesto’s victory over the Ports on June 23 at John Thurman Field.

When asked Sunday about the balks, Steverson confirmed they were intentional and ordered in an effort to bring the game to a conclusion.

Stockton already had used two position players to pitch in the game and Steverson was concerned that players were being exposed to injury by being asked to play an unfamiliar position.

 

Danny Posted: July 02, 2012 at 10:15 PM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, minors

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   1. Tripon Posted: July 02, 2012 at 11:47 PM (#4171843)
Over reaction.
   2. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: July 02, 2012 at 11:49 PM (#4171844)
Understatement.

EDIT: But also, overprotection.
   3. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 02, 2012 at 11:57 PM (#4171846)
I'm curious what the punishment entails, and how meaningful it will be in reality. If it simply means he can't be in the dugout during the course of any California League games, then it probably isn't that punitive for the roving hitting instructor, provided he's still allowed to work with the hitters before and after games. If it's nowhere on the field on game day or something similar, that would be significant (though I can't say entirely undeserved: he did confess to throwing the game).

It looks like a rare situation (according to the FA, the team's manager was on vacation and he was filling in*) that put him in charge to begin with.

* Do MiLB managers typically get in-season vacations? That seems odd.

   4. Shredder Posted: July 03, 2012 at 12:22 AM (#4171859)
* Do MiLB managers typically get in-season vacations? That seems odd.
June 23rd was a Saturday. May have been gone for a wedding or something and this was just a poor choice of words by the writer. It would seem weird if he just took his family to Hawaii or something.

By the way, I hate this stuff in baseball. I hate the idea that he gets punished not so much for the result, but for being "too obvious" about it. He could have just had the guy make a pick off throw to first and have it get away, all done intentionally, and that would have been totally fine. It's the same as when a pitcher intentionally drills someone, then only gets suspended because he admitted it was on purpose, even though everyone involved in the game knew it was intentional. The message "you guys can screw around out there, just don't make it too obvious to the fans that you're screwing around out there."
   5. The District Attorney Posted: July 03, 2012 at 12:32 AM (#4171864)
Very interesting. Just a couple weeks ago in his Youtube Q&A, Rob Neyer was asked about this exact situation -- a manager who has no one left to pitch decides to simply forfeit an extra-inning game. You can see the video here, but to summarize, Rob guessed that the team would be "vilified" and fined "perhaps in the millions of dollars". I thought at the time that Rob was overstating the case. Maybe not.

("We won't ever see that happen, I'm fairly certain", Rob amusingly concludes. I suppose there is a technical distinction between "forfeiting" and forcing the winning run to score against you, but...)
   6. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 03, 2012 at 12:36 AM (#4171868)
June 23rd was a Saturday. May have been gone for a wedding or something and this was just a poor choice of words by the writer. It would seem weird if he just took his family to Hawaii or something.


That's probably it.

I hate the idea that he gets punished not so much for the result, but for being "too obvious" about it. He could have just had the guy make a pick off throw to first and have it get away, all done intentionally, and that would have been totally fine.


I don't know. I'm generally on board with this idea, but it's tough to just ignore a guy who admits to throwing a game, even an MiLB one.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: July 03, 2012 at 12:39 AM (#4171869)
He forced the league's hand really. miLB does everything it can to maintain the myth that winning matters.
   8. McCoy Posted: July 03, 2012 at 01:36 AM (#4171883)
How pathetic does the other side have to be to not win a game until the 18th inning in which you faced two positional players as pitchers and had the opposing manager trying to give the game away in the 17th?
   9. McCoy Posted: July 03, 2012 at 01:42 AM (#4171885)
Here's the box score and I see it took Modesto 10 innings to score a run to win the game.

Tony Thompson was one of the positional players that pitched. He threw 2 innings of hitless ball and struck out a batter. Josh Whitaker was the positional player given the duty to commit 3 balks and he gave up 2 hits and a walk in 1.3 innings.

In the 17th Josh gets the first batter to ground out, the next batter walks, and Josh commits two balks to move him over to third. Next batter strikes out and the final batter of the inning flies out.
   10. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: July 03, 2012 at 05:09 AM (#4171906)
Next Time It Should Count.
   11. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: July 03, 2012 at 06:58 AM (#4171916)
All they had to do was have the catcher let the batter know a fat pitch was coming, and the fielders could have loafed and let the bases clear (if the batter didn't hit a HR).

Or, not even tell the batter, just serve one up. Or two. Or three.
   12. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: July 03, 2012 at 08:11 AM (#4171938)
* Do MiLB managers typically get in-season vacations? That seems odd.

I was reading some game notes from the local team within the last week. Trevor Wilson is the pitching coach for them, the Arkansas Travelers. The notes noted that the Angels' roving pitching instructor was going to serve as pitching coach for the next four games because Wilson was taking his vacation. And that the Angels now allow minor league coaches to take one four day vacation during the season.

It did say 'now', indicating this is a fairly new thing. But it may also have been what was going on here, if it's a policy that is spreading.
   13. Scott Lange Posted: July 03, 2012 at 08:49 AM (#4171943)
I don't know if this was an over- or under-reaction, but I will say that I would feel terribly cheated if I stuck with a game for five hours only to have one of the teams throw the game.
   14. BDC Posted: July 03, 2012 at 09:03 AM (#4171945)
Or, not even tell the batter, just serve one up. Or two. Or three

Exactly. Implicitly, this is what position players (pace Chris Davis) should be doing anyway in the seventeenth inning. Don't stress your arm trying to perfect your slider. Just play catch with the catcher and see if someone can hit the ball. Plenty of ballgames have been fairly contested on those principles.
   15. Smiling Joe Hesketh Posted: July 03, 2012 at 09:22 AM (#4171951)
("We won't ever see that happen, I'm fairly certain", Rob amusingly concludes. I suppose there is a technical distinction between "forfeiting" and forcing the winning run to score against you, but...)

Bobby Valentine essentially did this earlier this year by using a position player to pitch in the 18th inning AT HOME after the O's had already gone to Chris Davis to pitch. Had he used a regular pitcher, even a tired one, it was extremely likely that Davis would have given up a run before the real pitcher would have. Instead he put in Darnell McDonald and lost the game. Inexcusable.
   16. Rennie's Tenet Posted: July 03, 2012 at 10:08 AM (#4171981)
It seems a little incongruous that the minors would have 7 inning games when a doubleheader is scheduled, but then allow a single game to go 18. They should cap a game at 12 innibgs, and then have the two fastest men race around the bases as a tie breaker.
   17. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: July 03, 2012 at 11:45 AM (#4172108)
I can see why they don't like throwing games or forfeits, but why not suspend the game and continue it before some other regularly scheduled game when real pitchers are available? They could do it by mutual agreement between the teams, or also have a rule that when position players throw more than X innings or after the game goes more than X innings.
   18. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: July 03, 2012 at 11:50 AM (#4172114)
New rule: All minor league games that are tied after 12 innings (or 10 innings in those 7-inning doubleheaders) will be decided by a home run contest.
   19. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: July 03, 2012 at 12:13 PM (#4172140)
then have the two fastest men race around the bases as a tie breaker.

love this.
   20. Dale Sams Posted: July 03, 2012 at 12:21 PM (#4172155)
then have the two fastest men race around the bases as a tie breaker.

love this


This is what decides the "greatest sports tournaments on Earth" isn't it?
   21. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: July 03, 2012 at 12:25 PM (#4172162)
for ordering a Stockton Ports pitcher to issue three intentional balks


I thought balks were committed, not issued.

He could have made it a lot less obvious by telling the guy to sail a few past the catcher.
   22. Nasty Nate Posted: July 03, 2012 at 12:28 PM (#4172168)
I don't think any position players pitched in the 33-inning game, right?
   23. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: July 03, 2012 at 12:41 PM (#4172191)
No, it was all actual pitchers. On the other hand, that being an AAA game most of the pitchers were 30ish (or 25ish at least) minor-league veterans.
   24. Walt Davis Posted: July 03, 2012 at 05:24 PM (#4172601)
I would feel terribly cheated if I stuck with a game for five hours only to have one of the teams throw the game.

Good question -- was anybody left in the stands?

the two fastest men race around the bases as a tie breaker.

It's not the XFL! :-)
   25. Bob T Posted: July 03, 2012 at 06:39 PM (#4172664)
I can see why they don't like throwing games or forfeits, but why not suspend the game and continue it before some other regularly scheduled game when real pitchers are available? They could do it by mutual agreement between the teams, or also have a rule that when position players throw more than X innings or after the game goes more than X innings.


The league president said that Stockton could have requested a suspension. However, they still had not used their starter (and I believe one other pitcher) they were saving for the next day. If they had burned those two, the league would have suspended the game and finished it later.
   26. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: July 03, 2012 at 07:59 PM (#4172716)
I hate to go all Herman Edwards here, but you play the game to win the game. Now, I don't think you have to play every moment of every game like it's the World Series when you're in A ball. But you are obligated, in my opinion, to at least make a reasonable effort at trying under every circumstance. I know it's a minor league game and it's about development and yadda, yadda, yadda. But you have cheated the very essence of competitive sport when you "take a dive" like this. I'm surprised the reaction to this seems rather blase. In my opinion, this guy should be banned from organized baseball.
   27. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: July 03, 2012 at 08:17 PM (#4172725)
A team's effort will vary from game to game, in any sport. At that stage of the game, it's not surprising they'd want it to end.
   28. Bruce Markusen Posted: July 03, 2012 at 08:32 PM (#4172742)
Right on, Tyrus Raymond. No one is saying that minor leaguers need to do everything possible to win at all times, not when player development is the key thing. But it should never be permissible or excusable to lose intentionally--never. Fans paying for their tickets should at least be guaranteed that losing on purpose will never take place. And no, it doesn't matter if there were five fans left in the stands or 500. They still paid their money.
   29. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: July 03, 2012 at 08:37 PM (#4172743)
This is all very consistent with the A's organizational philosophy of 'Who gives a ####?'
   30. Danny Posted: July 03, 2012 at 09:30 PM (#4172772)
Interestingly, Steverson seemed to be pretty conscious about not overtly throwing the game. He balked runners into scoring position in the 17th and 18th, but he didn't balk them home. I wonder if the CAL would have imposed the same penalty on a regular manager, as banning the roving hitting instructor is a convenient way to grandstand without actually pissing off the organizations.

It's also worth noting that Stockton has an OF, 2008 9th rounder Mitch Levier, who had to have TJ surgery after pitching in a blowout in 2009.
   31. Sunday silence Posted: July 05, 2012 at 01:42 AM (#4173358)
I think if you take the position that throwing baseball games is absolutely the worst thing, or one of the worst (obviously taking someone's life would be worse yet) you can do then how can you say this is overreacting? Is the integrity of the game not sacrosanct?

I guess I dont understand that reaction.

Maybe I feel this way because I still dont think Pete Rose should be banned from HoF, but I guess I am a minority on that one. I mean, I dont recall any proof that he actually threw baseball games, so why the death penalty for him? If people think Rose deserves the death penalty because he might, possibly, could have, but not really threw games, then how do you come down on this?
   32. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: July 05, 2012 at 08:45 AM (#4173391)
Maybe I feel this way because I still dont think Pete Rose should be banned from HoF, but I guess I am a minority on that one. I mean, I dont recall any proof that he actually threw baseball games, so why the death penalty for him? If people think Rose deserves the death penalty because he might, possibly, could have, but not really threw games, then how do you come down on this?


I'm one of those who feels Rose deserves what he got but I can see the argument for the one year suspension here. The circumstances are different and it looks to me that Steverson was acting with good intentions. I wouldn't be at all bothered if he got a lifetime ban, and I think serious punishment is appropriate but given that his intent appears to have been protecting the players I'm willing to give him a second chance. I think the one year is a fair result here.
   33. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: July 05, 2012 at 10:46 AM (#4173455)
Stevenson was doing what he thought was best for winning over the long haul, which is what every manager should always be doing. I think that's the difference between this and simply "taking a dive". He also did it in the way which was least likely to get someone on the other team hurt -- throwing a few to the backstop I suppose you run that risk. Not that I disagree with the penalty.
   34. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: July 05, 2012 at 11:46 AM (#4173523)
He threw a baseball game, period. I don't care why. It's that wrong. I do not believe Pete Rose, though perpetually vilified, ever managed to lose a game. You can prioritize what is best for the long term. You can even think to yourself "Gosh, part of me kinda wishes we'd give up a run already so we can get out of here before someone gets hurt." But when you order your team to lose on purpose you have crossed a point of no return. This is never, ever acceptable.
   35. Paul D(uda) Posted: July 05, 2012 at 12:02 PM (#4173539)

He played to win long term, period. This happens all the time. It's Mo doesn't pitch every game. It's why the playoffs are managed differently from the regular season. It's night and day from Pete Rose.
   36. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 05, 2012 at 12:09 PM (#4173547)
He played to win long term, period. This happens all the time. It's Mo doesn't pitch every game. It's night and day from Pete Rose.


No it isn't. There is a huge chasm between not pulling out all the stops to win an individual game and intentionally trying to lose.

I'm somewhat sympathetic to this fella, as this was the minor leagues (where winning is not the only goal), he was doing it to protect his players and he clearly wasn't trying to be secretive about it. But this is nothing like not bringing in your closer because he's pitched three straight days. I've got no problem with the league's decision, and wouldn't have any problem with a lifetime ban from the league (I'd balk at a lifetime ban from baseball, however).



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