Baseball is a game of tradition. I get it. The Yankees still wear pinstripes, the league doesn’t want to use replay, and the sport will never have two conferences with the same rules. That’s all good stuff. But when some stupid little by-law ends up costing a team a game, you start to question why baseball has such incredibly rigid rules.
Last night, the Mariners had a 7-2 lead in the 9th inning over the Red Sox, who smacked around Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen, scoring a run and loading the bases. That’s when temporary Mariners manager Robby Thompson, filling in for the ill Eric Wedge, made a big mistake.
As you can see if the GIF above, courtesy of Deadspin, while walking towards the mound to relieve Wilhelmsen of his duties, Thompson accidentally signaled with his left arm indicating a lefty pitcher. He quickly caught himself, but it was too late and the umpires forced him to bring in a lefty.
Oliver Perez came in, giving up two straight singles that made the score 7-6 before striking out David Ortiz for the first out. That’s when Yoervis Medina finally came in, the reliever that Thomspon had originally intended to put on the mound. Medina gave up a game-tying RBI single, walked the bases loaded, and then allowed a Daniel Nava walk-off single.
I think it’s safe to assume that with the preferred pitching match-ups and a four run lead, the Mariners probably would have pulled this one out instead of blowing it in the 9th. But that isn’t what happened. The umpires instead enforced a stupid technicality that punished Robby Thompson for raising the wrong arm for a split second before correcting himself.
This isn’t golf. Rules like this aren’t protecting the integrity of the game. All they’re doing is making baseball look like it takes itself too seriously and turning off fans. According to the Seattle Times, Red Sox manager John Farrell even said that he wouldn’t have argued if the umps let Thompson bring in Medina.
Why is this even a rule? Why can’t the manager just verbally express to the umpires what pitcher he wants to bring in? Why are they using hand signals like they’re an army squadron in battle telling a unit which side to flank the enemy on?
Get it together, baseball.