Walk Off Balk!
The Reds were batting in the bottom of the tenth with the score tied 1-1 on July 8, 2022. Tyler Naquin was facing Matt Wisler with runners on first and third and one out when Edwin Moscoso called a balk on Wisler. Mark Kolozsvary, the runner on third, scored the winning run on the play.
Rays’ manager Kevin Cash questioned the call.
- I support Moscoso’s balk call because Wisler carried his glove from the side of his hip to the front. By doing so, he interrupted his motion to his Set Position.
- This questionable act occurred Preparatory to Coming Set. The rule stipulates that the pitcher shall Go To His Set Position WITHOUT INTERRUPTION AND IN ONE CONTINUOUS MOTION. See rule 5.07 (a) (2).
- Wisler carried his glove around which gave the appearance of preparing to go into his Set.
- Did Wisler intend to deceive the runners? Intent in most cases does not factor into the balk rule. But rule 6.02 (a) (comment), reads, “If there is doubt in the umpire’s mind, the “intent” of the pitcher should govern.” But the way the balk rule is umpired, in most cases that section of the rule book holds little water.
- Umpires are trained to call the slightest flinch a balk. I’m not sure if that’s good for the game-but to maintain consistency, and some pitchers attempting to circumvent the rule, you can make the argument that it’s a necessary evil.
- The way the balk rule is umpired, for the most part, the hands of the umpires are tied in exercising common sense.
Editors Note: While this balk call is supported by a majority of rules experts, there are several MLB umpires and former MLB umpires that disagree with the call. Balk calls are subjective and open to umpire interpretation. All agree, however, that had Wisler legally stepped off the rubber, this controversy would have been avoided.
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As much as I appreciate Rich’s rules knowledge, I cannot agree with his analysis of this balk call. The moment I saw the pitcher move his glove I assumed he wanted the catcher to roll though the signs again. To call a balk on this is completely against the theory of the spirit and intent of the rules. Also, intent has very much to do with calling a balk or not. It’s interesting that rules can be used to support a correct ruling. It’s also interesting that rules can be used in an effort to support an incorrect ruling.
I found the call of a balk to be unsupported by both common sense, practice and the OBR. How often have we observed pitchers hold their glove on the front of their non-pivot foot, i.e., front leg in anticpation of receiving the sign from their catcher. And how often have we observed pitchers utilize that glove to “shake-off” a catcher’s sign prior to accepting a sign and delivering the pitch? The numer of times this has occurred are too numerous to count. Moreover, I assert this conduct – as was that of Wisler – is impliedly, if not expressly, authorized by the third sentence of Rule 5.07 (2): ‘”Before assuming Set Position, the pitcher may elect to make any natural preliminary motion such as that known as “the stretch.”‘ Wisler’s glove “shake” was clearly a “preliminary motion” of the type so often utilzed by pitchers for the purpose I have described. I would not have called a balk.
Please comment on the pitcher continues to move his none pivot foot before coming set…