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Bo Porter wasn’t trying to pull a fast one. He actually didn’t know the rules. And neither did the umps.

May 10, 2013, 8:19 AM EDT

Bo Porter

Still kinda amazed at that weird pitching change fiasco in the Astros-Angels game last night in which Bo Porter pulled his reliever for another before the first one ever faced a batter.

When I first read about it I figured that Porter was trying to pull a fast one and call in a different pitcher without anyone really noticing. Because while, yes, there are some rules in the book that are obscure, the one about pitchers having to face a batter before being lifted barring injury is pretty well known. But Porter’s post-game explanation of it shows that he either (a) actually did not know that; or (b) was going to great lengths to explain away his gamesmanship:

Q: Can you walk us through the pitching change in the seventh inning?

A: “My understanding of the rule, and I was fortunate enough last year to sit in with [Nationals manager] Davey [Johnson] when they changed the rule of a pitcher having to face a batter. But at the same time, if you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

Well, nope. Not at all. There is no “pinch hitter exception,” for the simple reason that if there was managers would delay a game for an hour constantly changing pitchers and hitters to get the platoon advantage. Tony La Russa probably lobbied hard for such an exception back in the day, but it’s not the rule.

So, OK, a major league manager is simply ignorant of a rule that governs his primary in-game job. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the umpires, no? How on Earth did they not know this relatively basic rule? Porter again:

Once I made sure that he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit, then I started towards the mound. The home plate umpire, he kind of stopped me. He said, ‘Whoa, Bo,’ and then Scioscia started yelling he has to face a hitter. I just calmly explained to him my interpretation of the rule is ‘Yes he has to face hitter ,as long as it’s the hitter that’s scheduled to hit.’ The hitter that was scheduled to hit had now been pinch-hit for, which now gives me the right to bring a pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

So the ump bought it even though it was his first impulse to not allow the switch. Is Porter a Jedi? Is he able to talk anyone into anything? Is home plate umpire Adrian Johnson and his crew — consisting of him, Fieldin Culbreth, Brian O’Nora and Bill Welke – that unsure of the rules that a calm, seemingly rational yet totally erroneous explanation of why such is not the rule enough to rule the day?  In the next game these guys ump, should a batter simply call time out after strike three and say “from my understanding of the rule, the batter is allowed four strikes, so I am going to continue batting”?

In some ways this is way worse than Angel Hernandez’s bad call on the home run the other night. This is simple umpire ignorance which was pointed out to them at the moment it occurred and which they ignored. They literally could have pulled out a rule book at that moment to consult it but didn’t.

Major League Baseball has to address this with more than a cursory statement from Joe Torre.

  1. flamethrower101 - May 10, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    The day umpires get punished for this kind of ignorance is the day I become a millionaire. Never gonna happen

    • rmcd13 - May 10, 2013 at 11:00 AM

      How does that work? Do Vegas casinos allow bets on umpires being punished?

    • zacksdad - May 10, 2013 at 7:00 PM

      Well I guess today you get to be a millionaire. They have suspended the umpire for two games.

  2. mybrunoblog - May 10, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    I’m embarrassed for Porter and his staff for not knowing the rule. I’m outraged that the umpires blew this one. How does that happen? It’s not even some obscure rule, it’s a rule that seems pretty basic. Wow.
    Can’t wait to hear what action Torre and Uncle Bud take.

    • flamethrower101 - May 10, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      Uncle Bud’s snoring in his desk and Joe Torre’s busy getting his panties on.

      • historiophiliac - May 10, 2013 at 11:12 AM

        Why do you hate panties?

    • stex52 - May 10, 2013 at 9:34 AM

      There is no IQ test for Field Manager. You fill out a lineup card, you make flowery statements to the press, you ask your pitching coach who is ready, you try not to screw up the switches. Incredibly overrated job. And when a person messes it up, they start talking about “Intangibles.”

      What a racket!

      • stex52 - May 10, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        And clearly, as we have seen over the last few days, there is no IQ test for umpire.

      • apmn - May 10, 2013 at 9:56 AM

        You forgot their most important function: getting fired after a bad season.

      • jeffa43 - May 10, 2013 at 4:48 PM

        Bo: These are the new pitching rules…
        Crew chief: we have new pitching change rules.

        Bo: I will now bring in another pitcher, and go about our business.
        Crew Chief: Bo is making another pitching change, make the change Bo, make the change!

        Bo knows the force…

    • dowhatifeellike - May 10, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      It’s not just the manager and the umps, either. How did the pitchers not speak up?

      “Hey, coach, if I come in I have to pitch to a guy.” High school pitchers know this rule.

      The catcher didn’t say anything. The bullpen coach didn’t say anything. The pitcher being brought in didn’t say anything. The infielders didn’t say anything.

  3. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 10, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    This one could actually be successfully protested though, right? It is my understanding of the protest rule that a game can only be protested when there is a misinterpretation (or flat out ignorance) of the rules by the umpiring crew. This clearly falls into that category.

    Of course, the Angels won anyway, so the point is somewhat moot (not mute), but I suppose this is the difference between the angel Hernandez blindness and the umps just not knowing their schizznit

    • dondada10 - May 10, 2013 at 8:43 AM

      I think MLB will fall on their sword here and admit fault, but the Angels will drop their appeal seeing that they won the game.

      • blacksables - May 10, 2013 at 11:01 AM

        Why would they appeal a win? The hypocrisy of you complaining about the umpire not knowing the rules when you don’t know them yourselves is amazing. They screwed up. I know exactly why the screwed up. Doesn’t make.it right, but its more than you know .

  4. TIF - May 10, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    You’re right. This situation is worse than the one from the A’s-Indians game. There, the umpires knew the rules and correctly consulted instant replay, but Hernandez (almost inexplicably) didn’t get the call right. Here, the umpires were ignorant of the actual rule and permitted a team to violate the rules. This is much worse than a blown judgment call. I don’t know if it’s hubris or what, but why didn’t they consult a rule book? This is inexcusable and baseball needs to actually discipline the umps and hold them accountable for not knowing a rule I think a majority of fans knows. There needs to be some transparency with how this situation is handled.

  5. randygnyc - May 10, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    MLB MUST bust the umpire’s union if any substantive changes are ever expected to be made. Period.

    • flamethrower101 - May 10, 2013 at 8:55 AM

      MLB metaphorically fines you for blatantly “dismissing the human element of baseball” or something.

      • mc1439 - May 10, 2013 at 9:55 AM

        The Integrity of the Game! err (vomitting reflex then tripping over own shoelaces).

    • baccards - May 10, 2013 at 10:54 AM

      No – MLB should bargain with the union to solve the issue of poor umpiring – To “bust” the union would allow MLB to hire the lowest paid, not necessarily the best, umpires available. There would be a steady turnover of umpires. If you think the inconsistency is poor now – go ahead and bust the union and see what happens…

  6. boredfriday - May 10, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    Bo, you don’t know Diddley!

    • sabatimus - May 10, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      Nice shoes!

  7. MyNameIsWilliamBillForShort - May 10, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    Johnson: “You can’t change the pitcher now, Bo. He has to face one batter”
    Porter: “They brought in a pinch-hitter”
    Johnson: “They brought in a pinch-hitter”
    Porter: “You can change the pitcher now”
    Johnson: “You can change the pitcher now”
    Porter: “Move along”
    Johnson: “Move along…move along”

    • raysfan1 - May 10, 2013 at 9:23 AM

      Jedi mind tricks only work on the weak minded…

      • vallewho - May 10, 2013 at 10:19 AM

        Don’t underestimate the power of the Force.

      • Francisco (FC) - May 10, 2013 at 10:24 AM

        Clearly, Scioscia is anything but weak-minded.

      • gerryb323 - May 10, 2013 at 11:10 AM

        and umpires….oh right, you already said that

  8. bwillychu - May 10, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    Torre will say it was a “judgement” call…. too much protection for the umps!

    • blacksables - May 10, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      Exactly how is he going to say a rule interpretation is a judgement call? Or is it that you don’t know the rules?.

  9. bmfc1 - May 10, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    What’s the point of paying these idiots hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, including vacation weeks, and one game off if you work homeplate during a doubleheader, if they don’t know the rules, can’t see what is clearly shown on TV, and refuse to move to the right position to see the play? Fire them all and start over.

    • flamethrower101 - May 10, 2013 at 8:56 AM

      MLB metaphorically fines you for blatantly “dismissing the human element of baseball” or something.

    • klingonj - May 10, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      fire them all and start over??????? that iis what the NFL basically tried to do. another extreme over reaction

  10. lyon810 - May 10, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    As Craig mentioned, this whole thing could have been averted had they just consulted their rule book. But no. The ego of the modern day umpire has become too inflated to the extent that they are willing to risk humiliation rather than consult a rule book, which in their eyes, is more embarrassing. Pathetic.

  11. chill1184 - May 10, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    Man and I thought the Stanley Cup playoffs officiating was bad. Over/Under on how many “human element” excuses we get from MLB and Commrade Selig’s defends today?

  12. unclemosesgreen - May 10, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    Dear God, it’s me Unk Moses – please convince Jeff Luhnow to sign Pat Venditte. I never ask you for anything – please let this happen. Uhhh, thanks.

  13. largebill - May 10, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    Is that rule really necessary? You only have 25 players on the active roster. Basically, Porter decided to play with a 24 man roster. If the rule didn’t exist teams would quickly find out that attempting to play that game hurts their team more than it is likely to help.

    • rmcd13 - May 10, 2013 at 11:02 AM

      It would also unnecessarily delay the game by allowing two pitchers to warm up.

  14. sfm073 - May 10, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    I like his version of the rule. It would be fun to see position players pitching by the 7th.

  15. bdh23 - May 10, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Query: Is Tony LaRussa today hailing Bo Porter as a pioneer or bitter that he didn’t think of this himself?

  16. Old Gator - May 10, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    Joe Torre is working awfully hard at being flaccid, noncommittal, status-quo-protective – in other words, useless. I see a commissionership in his future.

  17. term3186 - May 10, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    From Bo’s explanation it sounds like he thought they changed the rule last year, and that what he was trying to do was now allowed. I figure that maybe this rule change was DISUSSED last year, but not actually implemented. Which accounts for the umpires allowing the change – they heard the same proposal, but didnt realize it wasn’t implemented. No excuse, obviously, but it seems like a plausible explanation.

  18. yahmule - May 10, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Fieldin Culbreth is such a great baseball name.

  19. adenzeno - May 10, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Who did not know that rule at age 14??? Amazing

  20. steve7921 - May 10, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    Dear Adrian Johnson, Fieldin Culbreth, Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Angel Hernandez,

    Don’t you guys worry, I am lurking here in the shadows just waiting for the right time to take the limelight back!

    Sincerely,

    Country Joe West

  21. rbj1 - May 10, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    “A: “My understanding of the rule, and I was fortunate enough last year to sit in with [Nationals manager] Davey [Johnson] when they changed the rule of a pitcher having to face a batter”

    Um, my copy of the MLB rules has 3.05(b) which says the substitute pitcher has to face a batter. And it’s from 2004. This isn’t a new rule.

  22. osbornesmith - May 10, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    I’ve seen folks on other sites citing rule 3.05(d), as opposed to (b), as Porter’s justification. 3.05(d) clearly applies to a pitcher already in the game starting a new inning, but it was modified this past offseason. Still, I do not see how ANYONE, but especially a professional umpire, would try to apply this rule to the situation in last night’s game. Incredible.

    “3.05(d) If a pitcher who is already in the game crosses the foul line on his way to take his
    place on the pitcher’s plate to start an inning, he shall pitch to the first batter until
    such batter is put out or reaches first base, unless the batter is substituted for, or the
    pitcher sustains an injury or illness which, in the judgment of the umpire-in-chief,
    incapacitates him from pitching.”

    Here’s the “modification” that was put in place for this year: “If the pitcher ends the previous inning on base or at bat and does not return to the dugout after the inning is completed, the pitcher is not required to pitch to the first batter of the inning until he makes contact with the pitcher’s plate to begin his warm-up pitches”

  23. schm1471 - May 10, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    I really love the line: “I calmly explained my interpretation of the rule.” I’ve always felt baseball could use more courtroom drama in its games.

  24. ermur22 - May 10, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    Joe Torre is obviously completely inept at his job! Retire already

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