What Is A Balk?

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A balk is an illegal motion that a pitcher makes that are designed to deceive base runners - making them they believe the pitcher will pitch when he has no intention of doing so (this is overly simplistic, but the full explanation is below).

If a pitcher balks, base runners are awarded one base.

The MLB record for most balks in a season is 16 by Dave Stewart of the Oakland A’s in 1988. The season record is 90 by Steve Carlton. And Bob Shaw of the Milwaukee Brewers had five in one game against the Cubs on May 4, 1963 - a MLB single-game record.

Here’s what a book looks like:

Finally, here’s the balk section of the MLB rule book:

If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when —

(a) The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery;

Rule 8.05(a) Comment: If a lefthanded or righthanded pitcher swings his free foot past the back edge of the pitcher’s rubber, he is required to pitch to the batter except to throw to second base on a pick-off-play.

(b) The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first base and fails to complete the throw;

(c) The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base;

Rule 8.05(c) Comment: Requires the pitcher, while touching his plate, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base. If a pitcher turns or spins off of his free foot without actually stepping or if he turns his body and throws before stepping, it is a balk.

A pitcher is to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base but does not require him to throw (except to first base only) because he steps. It is possible, with runners on first and third, for the pitcher to step toward third and not throw, merely to bluff the runner back to third; then seeing the runner on first start for second, turn and step toward and throw to first base. This is legal. However, if, with runners on first and third, the pitcher, while in contact with the rubber, steps toward third and then immediately and in practically the same motion “wheels” and throws to first base, it is obviously an attempt to deceive the runner at first base, and in such a move it is practically impossible to step directly toward first base before the throw to first base, and such a move shall be called a balk. Of course, if the pitcher steps off the rubber and then makes such a move, it is not a balk.

(d) The pitcher, while touching his plate, throws, or feints a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play;

(e) The pitcher makes an illegal pitch;

Rule 8.05(e) Comment: A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

(f) The pitcher delivers the ball to the batter while he is not facing the batter;

(g) The pitcher makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch while he is not touching the pitcher’s plate;

(h) The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game;

Rule 8.05(h) Comment: Rule 8.05(h) shall not apply when a warning is given pursuant to Rule 8.02(c) (which prohibits intentional delay of a game by throwing to fielders not in an attempt to put a runner out). If a pitcher is ejected pursuant to Rule 8.02(c) for continuing to delay the game, the penalty in Rule 8.05(h) shall also apply. Rule 8.04 (which sets a time limit for a pitcher to deliver the ball when the bases are unoccupied) applies only when there are no runners on base.

(i) The pitcher, without having the ball, stands on or astride the pitcher’s plate or while off the plate, he feints a pitch;

(j) The pitcher, after coming to a legal pitching position, removes one hand from the ball other than in an actual pitch, or in throwing to a base;

(k) The pitcher, while touching his plate, accidentally or intentionally drops the ball;

(l) The pitcher, while giving an intentional base on balls, pitches when the catcher is not in the catcher’s box;

(m)The pitcher delivers the pitch from Set Position without coming to a stop.

PENALTY: The ball is dead, and each runner shall advance one base without liability to be put out, unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk.

APPROVED RULING: In cases where a pitcher balks and throws wild, either to a base or to home plate, a runner or runners may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled at his own risk.

APPROVED RULING: A runner who misses the first base to which he is advancing and who is called out on appeal shall be considered as having advanced one base for the purpose of this rule. Rule 8.05 Comment: Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner. If there is doubt in the umpire’s mind, the “intent” of the pitcher should govern. However, certain specifics should be borne in mind:

(a) Straddling the pitcher’s rubber without the ball is to be interpreted as intent to deceive and ruled a balk.

(b) With a runner on first base the pitcher may make a complete turn, without hesitating toward first, and throw to second. This is not to be interpreted as throwing to an unoccupied base.

Which Team Has The Most All Star MVPs?

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Mike Trout (of Millville, New Jersey!) won the most valuable player award for the All Star Game tonight, as the American League beat the National League 5-3 to secure home field advantage in the World Series.

Trout is the fourth Angel to be named the MVP (Leon Wagner, 1962; Fred Lynn, 1983; Garret Anderson, 2003).

The Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants each have six All Star Game MVPs, followed by the Reds and Dodgers with five (MLB started naming MVPs for the All Star Game in 1962):

Giants: Willie Mays (1963, 1968), Juan Marichal (1965), Willie McCovey (1969), Bobby Bonds (1973), Melky Cabrera (2012)

Orioles: Brooks Robinson (1966), Frank Robinson (1971), Cal Ripken Jr. (1991, 2001), Robert Alomar (1998), Miguel Tejada (2005)

Reds: Tony Perez (1967), Joe Morgan (1972), George Foster (1976), Ken Griffey Sr. (1980), Dave Concepcion (1982)

Dodgers: Maury Wills (1962), Steve Garvey (1974, 1978), Don Sutton (1977), Mike Piazza (1996)

A complete list of MVP winners can be found here.

When Was The First All Star Game?

The first MLB All Star Game was held July 6, 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

The American League won 4-2, with Lefty Gomez earning the win - and Yankees teammate Babe Ruth hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the third to provide the winning margin.

Aside from the baseball, the “Game of the Century” - as it was known - featured three players named Lefty (Gomez, Grove and O’Doul), one named Pie (Traynor), a Chick (Hafey), Oral (Hildebrand), General (Crowder) and Pepper (Martin).

What Is Patriot’s Day?

Every April around this time, the Boston Red Sox mess up fantasy baseball owners’ lineups by playing a game that starts at 11:05 on Monday morning … because Patriot’s Day.

The Red Sox play at home on Patriot’s Day, coinciding with the Boston Marathon. It’s a big deal up there.

But what is Patriot’s Day?

Patriot’s Day is a holiday that commemorates the start of the American Revolution (April 19, 1775). While the date is etched in stone, the holiday is celebrated on the third Monday in April.

USA Today tells us what happened on that day:

On the night of April 18, 1775, about 700 British troops stationed in Boston set out for Concord, Mass., approximately a 20-mile march, to seize military supplies. It was rumored the stockpiles in town could arm 15,000 colonists, Wood said.

Early in the morning on April 19, on the way to Concord, the soldiers encountered colonial militiamen in Lexington and fired upon them, killing eight. The British troops “actually gave a cheer and moved on to Concord,” Wood said.

In Concord, the first shots fired by the colonists against the British occurred on North Bridge. The phrase “shot heard ‘round the world” — a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1837 poem, Concord Hymn — refers to the gunfire exchanged in that town.

The British retreated back to Boston and were “on the road for 15 hours and under fire almost continually,” Wood said.

So … in short, get your lineups in place.

(Getty Images)

Who Is Tommy John - And What Is His Surgery?

Tommy John - a native of Terre Haute, Indiana - is a former big league pitcher who played for six teams over 26 years. He won 288 games, was a four-time All-Star and was the runner-up to Steve Carlton in Cy Young Award voting in 1977.

John is more famous, however, for the surgery named after him. Baseball Reference provides a useful, succinct explanation:

Tommy John surgery, more properly known as ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (or UCL), is a surgical operation in which a ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body (often from the forearm, hamstring, or foot of the patient). The procedure was developed by Dr. Frank Jobe in 1974 for pitcher Tommy John, for whom the surgery is named.

The injury results from repetitive use of the elbow during the violent motions involved with throwing a baseball. In the surgery the new tendon is implanted and woven in a figure-eight pattern through holes drilled in the humerus and ulna bones.

A torn elbow ligament was the most common cause of what was simply called “dead arm injury” during most of the 20th century.

The once miracle surgery has now become routine. Dozens of pitchers undergo the surgery each year, and chances of a complete recovery are now 85 to 90 percent.

How Do You Become An Umpire?

Need a job? Want to be a professional baseball umpire?

It isn’t easy - and it doesn’t happen quickly, according to this comprehensive MLB.com post on how to become an umpire that lays out five steps.

1. Go to umpire school. There are three schools operated by former big league umpires that have Professional Baseball Umpire Corp. approval. They operate in January and February and last four to five weeks.

2. “Get noticed.” This step seems rather imprecise, but they say they are looking for “confidence, a strong presence on the field” - and good judgment and character.

3. Finish at top of umpire school class. About 300 would-be umpires enroll each year, and they take about 50 to attend something known as an evaluation course.

4. Start in lower leagues. Like many baseball players, they start in Rookie and short season A ball and work their way up.

5. Wait for the call. With 68 major league umpires and 225 in the minors, there isn’t much turnover, so it can take seven to 10 years in the minors before an umpire gets a shot in the majors.

Oh, before all that, you also need:

  • A high school diploma or G.E.D.
  • 20/20 vision (with or without glasses or contacts).
  • Reasonable body weight.
  • Good communications skills.
  • Quick reflexes, good coordination.
  • Some athletic ability.

(Getty Images)

What Is The Minimum MLB Player Salary?

The minimum salary for players who play a full year in the major leagues in 2014 is $500,000 - up from $400,000 in 2009 and $200,000 in 2000.

Last year, the average MLB salary was $3.4 million.

Interestingly, agents are only rewarded if they get their clients more than the MLB minimum. From the MLB Players Association website:

The agent cannot charge a fee unless the player’s salary negotiated exceeds the Major League minimum (currently $490,000). If the salary negotiated does exceed the minimum, any fee charged may not, when subtracted from the salary negotiated, produce a net salary to the player below or equal to the minimum salary. Bonuses constitute salary only if earned.

So, if an agent gets a player $501,000 this year, the agent would get $100 - if the agent’s cut is 10 percent (purely for hypothetical math purposes).

Players also receive money from licensing deals cut by MLB, including shirts, hats, pins, video games, pennants and the like. And it’s chopped up evenly:

Players receive a pro rata share of licensing revenue regardless of popularity or stature. Each player share is determined by his actual days of Major League service in a given season.

That’s a great deal for Justin Ruggiano. Lousy deal for Derek Jeter.

What Games Are Blacked Out On MLB At Bat?

MLB is very proud of its live-streaming games on the Internets - both on traditional computers and mobile devices.

But there is much grumbling about the blackout rules, which basically prohibit fans in, say, Philly from watching the Phillies over the tubes.

What does the rule say?

From MLB.com:

Regular Season Local Live Blackout: All live games on MLB.com At Bat™ are subject to local blackouts. Such live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club’s home television territory (except for certain home television territories for which MLB.com At Bat™ may offer in-market subscription services). If a game is blacked out in an area, it is not available for live game viewing. Games provided through MLB.com At Bat™ may be available approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the game as an archived game (archived games are blackout free).

In addition, note:

  • These blackout restrictions apply regardless of whether a Club is home or away and regardless of whether or not a game is televised in a Club’s home television territory.
  • All live Toronto Blue Jays games are blacked out throughout the entire country of Canada.
  • Additional teams may also be subject to blackout in parts of Canada based on their region.
  • All live games will be blacked out in the U.S. territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands during the MLB regular season.
  • Select condensed games may be made available on MLB.com At Bat™. Condensed games are blackout free.

The blackouts are in place to protect local TV revenues, as networks have paid huge dollars to broadcast games over the air - and expose fans to those well done local television ads.

But what about fans in Iowa, Las Vegas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Buffalo and other areas with multiple-team blackouts? According to this Yahoo story, it needlessly punishes them.

Why Is There Ivy At Wrigley Field?

Workers plant the ivy at Wrigley Field in 1937. (h/t Remember Wrigley Field)

The ivy was added to Wrigley Field in 1937 as part of a larger renovation that included the addition of the iconic center field scoreboard. There is some, however, over whose idea it was to plant the ivy.

Bill Veeck is widely credited with coming up with the idea - and planting it. A Bloomberg story in 2004 says Veeck came up with the idea in 1927, when he was 13 years old:

He was born on Feb. 9, 1914, in Chicago. His father, Bill Veeck Sr., was a Chicago Cubs beat writer for years before being hired as a team employee and eventually becoming Cubs president. By the time he was 13, Bill Jr. was selling popcorn, showing patrons to their seats, and checking turnstile numbers. He even had the idea, as a teenager, to plant ivy on the walls at Wrigley Field.

The ivy was planted in 1937, when Veeck was a team official for the Cubs, and it has been there ever since.

But Parade says the ivy “was the brainchild of P.K. Wrigley, then the owner of the club" as part of the 1937 renovation.

We’ll go with Veeck.

Fun fact: If a ball gets stuck in the ivy, it is ruled a ground-rule double

Ivy crime: Two men were arrested in September 2013 for breaking into Wrigley Field at three in the morning to steal some ivy as a souvenir.

Horticulture corner: The ivy is Boston Ivy.

When Did Players Start Wearing Batting Helmets?

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Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman died a day after being beaned in a game against the Yankees in 1920 - the only player to die of injuries suffered in an MLB game.

So did this lead to big league players being required to wear helmets? Not even close.

Baseball Reference provides an excellent history of batting helmets, including:

1941: The Brooklyn Dodgers became the first team to wear batting helmets after Pee Wee Reese and Joe Medwick had suffered beanings to the head. They were basically regular baseball caps with a hard liner.

Early 1960s: Players improvised their own ear flaps.

1964: Tony Gonzalez wore the first helmet with a molded ear flap as part of the helmet.

1971: MLB made batting helmets mandatory, though players could be “grandfathered” out of wearing them. Players who opted out included Norm Cash.

1983: MLB required players to wear helmets with ear flaps, though allowed players who had not been wearing them to continue to do so. Tim Raines was the last player to wear a flap-less helmet, though he eventually switched over.

(AP Photo)