ST. PETERSBURG, FL: Outfielder Sam Fuld #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays catches a ball against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Sam Fuld made the highlight reels last season for his fielding gems. But he might make the history books for a new rule on the books in 2012.
It's been about 140 years, and managers are still coming up with ways to bend baseball's rules, which is why Baseball's still refining those rules. From the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
Maybe this should be the Joe Maddon Rule.
A season after the Tampa Bay manager put outfielder Sam Fuld to the mound to warm up for the sole purpose of giving a reliever extra time in the bullpen, Major League Baseball closed the loophole.
MLB has amended Official Baseball Rule 3.05 regarding such shenanigans. The change will "prohibit a manager from sending his current pitcher out to warm up with no intention of having him pitch because a relief pitcher is not ready to enter the game."
Last June in this game against the Brewers, Fuld pinch-hit for reliever J.P. Howell in the top of the eighth inning. At that moment, the Rays were ahead 5-1 and Maddon planned on replacing Fuld in the lineup with reliever Joel Peralta. But moments later, Evan Longoria made it 8-1 with a three-run home run and Maddon wanted to go with reliever Cesar Ramos instead of Peralta.
Just one problem: It all happened so fast that Ramos wasn't warmed up enough to start the bottom of the eighth inning. So Maddon sent Fuld to the mound to "warm up" while Ramos kept working in the bullpen. This delayed the game by (presumably) an extra few minutes. Hence, the "Joe Maddon Rule" ... as Maddon suggested with a laugh, the "Sam Fuld Rule".
Maddon does raise an interesting question about all this:
How do they know the intentions are not to pitch him? How would you know that? You could easily leave him in there for one hitter if you had to. My concern would be you could still send out your previous inning's pitcher to warm up and then pull him out of the game before the first batter. That's still OK, correct?
What if the Rays, instead of being up 8-1, were down 11-1? Would the umpires have simply assumed that Fuld wasn't actually going to pitch in a game that was essentially lost? It seems to me the umpires can't know a manager's intention until the manager actually makes the move for the guy in the bullpen. At which point it's too late to do anything about it.
So while the Sam Fuld Rule makes sense in theory, I don't quite understand how it's going to work in practice. And I'm not at all surprised that Maddon immediately spotted the problem.
Rule 3.05 isn't the only change in the book this year:
The rules committee, composed of executives, former players and an umpire, recently made a few other adjustments, none major.
Bats with a scooped end on the barrel can have an indentation of 1 1/4 inches, up from 1 inch. And the word "baseline" has been replaced in spots by "base path."
Also, the process for appealing an official scorer's ruling has been changed. In the past, a team's public relations employee would often ask the scorer to review a call. Now, a player's agent will work with the union to appeal, then there will be a process between MLB and the union to reach a decision.
Base path? With a space? I mean, I'm all for restoring hyphens and inserting spaces and windmill-tilting, but that's a losing battle, my friends. We'll see if it survives the final editorial process; if so, hats off to Commissioner Bud.*
* You think I am kidding. I am not.
That last bit is going to make a lot of official scorers all kinds of happy, I'll bet. Have you ever dealt with a teenager who wanted his way, no matter what? Now give that teenager $10 million and all the pretty girls in sight, and see how belligerent he can be.
They're not all so bad, but major-league baseball players routinely say terrible things to official scorers with whom they disagree. You're not going to make the players grow up. So simply eliminating the scorers from the appeal process was the only solution, and long overdue.