During the last homestand of the Giants’ 2008 season, J.T. Snow signed a one-day contract with the club to officially retire as a Giant. He was listed as the starting first basemen in the line-up while taking infield in a Giants uniform one last time. He then tipped his cap and shook hands as he walked off the field, being replaced at first base before the game started. But do you know the funny thing about that appearance? According to Rule 10.20 of the Official Baseball Rules, this counts as a game played in Snow’s stats!?! That’s right, Snow has this statistical line for the 2008 season:
2008 40 SFG NL 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
This got me to thinking. How much would someone pay to see their name immortalized in the records of the Game? Picture your smiling face on a Baseball-Reference page! Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show on steroids!
Well, why not? MLB is always looking for new revenue streams, here’s a golden opportunity. Player for a day! Not just throwing out a ceremonial first pitch, but actually getting credit for playing in a major league game! Forget the Star Registry, this time it counts!
People shell out five or ten grand for season tickets. You would think they could find 81 fans willing to pay $5,000 for a Snow job. The fee would entitle them to be treated with all the respect that J.T. Snow received when he did his farewell stunt. You get a uniform, get to hang with the players a bit before the game, even take the field during warm-ups for a couple tosses. You then get to stand with the team during the national anthem. After jogging out to your position you tip your cap and shake hands as you trot off the field.
It might seem a little awkward and distracting at first, but I think it would quickly become a seamless part of the pregame routine. I think it could actually be very beneficial for a team’s public relations, with the Pro-for-a-day being a bridge; as the fans’ representative, he/she would give them a feeling of greater connection with the players.
For Snow himself there is a downside to his final bow. He actually last played in a MLB game for Boston on 6/18/06. Normally this would allow him to appear on the HOF ballot in 2012, the upcoming election. However, because his appearance in 2008 is technically a Game, the Hall of Fame has indicated that Snow cannot appear on the ballot until 2014. This decision seems a little at odds with Rule 3.C of the BBWAA Election Rules which says: “Player shall have ceased to be an active player in the Major Leagues at least five (5) calendar years preceding the election….” Snow didn’t try to work himself into game shape in 2008; his intent was never to actually be an “active player”, but to be honored in a Giants uniform.
Rule 10.20 is actually inconsistent with another rule. Rule 10.23(c) tells us that Snow’s Game in 2008 is not sufficient to continue a consecutive-game playing streak. For that he would actually have to play a half-inning on defense or complete a time at bat. Well, why not use that same rule to define what constitutes a continuation of a career? Add this sentence to Rule 3.C of the election rules: Unless a player plays at least one-half inning on defense or completes a time at bat, in the regular season or the post-season, he will not be considered to be an active player in that season for purposes of HOF eligibility.
I also suggest that MLB should modify Rule 10.20 and credit a player with a Game played only if they are in the game when something happens. I think that precipitating a pitching change or some other managerial move by your announced presence does not constitute "being in the game when something happens." A Game played should be credited when a player is in the game and on the field when either 1) one pitch is thrown, 2) one fielding chance occurs, or 3) a base is gained.
As things stand, as long as Rule 10.20 is left unchanged we can all appear on the Rolls of MLB players without ever actually playing. Let’s hope some enterprising ball club picks up on this opportunity!