That is One Wild Pitch

When talking about America’s favorite past time it is rare to hear a story that does not revolve around anabolic steroids.  You have guys like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa all over the news about their illegal usage of these steroids during their careers.  The drug used to not be illegal but now remains as the most talked about drug in the Major League and guys that used it in their careers are having fingers pointed at them left and right being called cheaters (or worse) and people claiming their records (Barry Bond’s home run record for starters) are jaded (and in some cases need to have a star beside their names in the record books) because of these drugs.  Mind you, hardly any of these players have tested positive in the random drug testing nor have been proven guilty in the court of law.  In my eyes you can not even provide this as an argument because it is all speculation until it is proven.

But this week there was a reason to chat about one of the greatest sports of all time other than talking about drugs.  Twenty-nine year old rookie pitcher Brett Cecil took the mound on Thursday night in hopes of starting his career on the right path.  But after a two base mishap he has gone from being talked about for his talent to being talked about for his lack of common sense.  Let me tell you a little bit about the game of baseball, the rule that he broke more specifically, before I tell you what he actually did.  (I know that some of you might not understand why this is such a big deal, but if you knew a fraction about the sport and the reputation that these players hold, then you would understand why this required a post.)

The game of baseball has a pretty basic underlying principle.  You are to score, in the nine innings of a regular scheduled game, more runs than the other team.  You do this by a combination of hits and smart base running (like stealing bases and leading off) as well as a solid defense to make sure the runs you score mean more in the end than the runs you allow.  Of course, like any other sport, there are tons of rules to keep your brain spinning for weeks.  I can only imagine how thick the rules book is.  As it relates to this story here, the pitcher has one of the most important jobs on the field.  He has to throw pitch for pitch, hitting the strike zone as much as possible all while making sure the guys in the infield and outfield know who is coming to the plate.  On top of that there is the threat of a line drive down your throat, guys leading off trying to steal bases behind you, and the fear of a balk that will send the guy at the plate to first base.  All-in-all I say that the pitcher has the hardest job in baseball.  In theory, a guy in the outfield might go an entire game and do nothing more than kick dirt around and pick dandelions just to pass the time.  But an average game will require any given pitcher to throw over one hundred pitches.

Now, one of the rules that makes baseball different than some of the other sports out there are the limitless time outs that can be called by fielders, the guys at the plate, and the umpire.  You can be mid count (the count of balls versus strikes to the batter) and step out of the batter’s box, call time out, readjust, and take a deep breath before your next pitch.  Coaches can even call time out to yell at a pitcher for making a series of bad throws or missing a lead off man as he steals second base.  (He does not actually steal it, but that is what they call it.  Can anyone name the all time leader in stolen bases?)

And the coaches of the Toronto Blue Jays have a lot to be mad at with the mistake that Mr. Cecil made this week.  Brett had grabbed a loose ball that he had wanted to be taken out of play. (This can happen for various reasons whether it be a scratch on the ball or one that has been hit a few times that will loose it’s luster.  Players have the say, as does the ump (that’s umpire for short) to declare a ball out of play.)  So, in the process of taking this ball out of play, Brett grabbed it and tossed the ball into the dugout after a play had been completed on the field.  The only thing is that if you declare a ball out of play you must first stop play on the field by calling time out.  Brett did not call time out, tossed the ball, which by the rules of the game is to be considered in play, into the dugout and the guy on first base got the chance to take his behind over to third base due to the rules infraction.  This ball is considered a pitch (in play) and when he tossed it into the dugout became unplayable.  Therefore the player on first was granted two bases.

So the guy on first made his way to third and the managers made their way out of the dugouts to yell, and I am sure swear, at the rookie starter.  This might not seem like a big deal to the average fan, but anyone that knows anything about the sport will know that mistakes like this do not die over night.  He will be suffering jokes, and snide remarks from his doubters, for the rest of his career.  Look at guys like Pete Rose.  He bet on baseball (for his team, never against) and for the rest of his life will be known as a cheater and a guy that will never make the Hall of Fame, and as a disgrace to the game of baseball.  I mean, you can beat your wife, do illegal narcotics, and make a few decent plays and find your name in the Hall, but God forbid you gamble your hard earned money in favor of your team.

So the next time that Brett takes the mound I imagine he will remember to call time out before he does anything out of the ordinary.  I would hate for him to have a repeat of this and find himself back down in the minor leagues.