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On Mitch Williams' horrible non-balk explanation

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ID:	1491For Twins fans who were fortunate enough to tune into last night's Twins-Rangers broadcast on FOX, they were treated with the soothing baritone of former pitcher Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams.

Turns out, Williams is the new Joe Morgan of saying semi-crazy things on the air.

In the top of the first, Denard Span on first base and discussing Texas's starter Derek Holland return from the disabled list, Williams said that he "does not believe in the slide step" - the abbreviated leg kick in which a pitcher expedites his throw home in order to keep the runner from stealing a base. His reasoning behind that was that it "leads to injuries". Interesting. I had not heard that theory from anyone, anywhere.

The kicker of the evening which forced me to head to the bar and watch the game without any volume was his explanation of the non-balk call on Holland once Ben Revere reached first.

Here is the video (forgive the quality of the video, it is shot of the TV from my camera phone).

During the play, you will hear Williams emphatically deny that Holland's move to first to pick off Revere is not a balk. (Also, in the background you will hear FOX's microphones picking up Ron Gardenhire's choice words towards the umpiring crew for their miss on that call.) Williams' central argument revolves around the landing point of Holland's front foot - that it "has to be in the middle between home and first". Prior to that, he tells the viewing audience that Holland's foot does not come "closing to crossing" and that he is at least "45 degrees".

The problem with Williams' call is twofold: (1) It was not what the Twins had beef with and (2) by MLB's rule, it was almost certainly a balk.

According the MLB's rule, section 8.05:

8.05
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.
What you see in the clip is Holland's lead foot crossing his body during the leg kick - indicating that he is going to pitch to home plate or, as per the rules, it was a "motion naturally associated with his pitch." Revere breaks on this movement convinced that Holland is going towards the plate. That is what Gardy and the team is so worked up about. Holland's motion clearly was an attempt to deceive the runner.

Needless to say, the balk rule is pretty muddled and open for interpretation. However, Williams, who is, again, a former pitcher and a part-time broadcaster, is completely unfamiliar with the balk rules. Nowhere in the written rules do they discuss a "45 degree" angle in which a left-handed pitcher's foot must land. Much like some imaginary line in which a batter crosses when check-swinging for a strike, this also does not exist in the rules.

Hopefully before his next national broadcast somebody at FOX gives Williams a copy of MLB's rules to read.
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  1. ltwedt's Avatar
    Agreed - Mitch Williams was an idiot when he played, and not much has changed.

    Only one I can't listen to more is Tim McCarver. - (Did that sentence make sense?? If it did, then you would do very well as an interpreter in today's world!)
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