The Balk Rule Strikes Again

Umpire Nick Lentz and Astros pitcher Justin Verlander had a brief  philosophical discussion about the balk rule last night at MMP.


“It led to three more runs,” Justin Verlander said. “And we lost by two.”

Verlander’s reference to the importance of home plate umpire Nick Lentz’s call on him in the top of the 2nd inning pretty well sums up the eventual impact of that one play in the game last night between the Astros and the visiting Mariners, who ended up winning, 8-6.

At first, it appeared that Verlander had successfully executed an inning-ending pickoff of Mitch Haniger. Had the play stood up as the out call it harvested, the Astros would have headed to bat, down 3-0, but that escape was quickly erased by Lentz’s balk call, and the Mariners managed to push over 3 more runs as their extra chance dividend.

Then Verlander, who was way off his game anyway, got tossed after he continued to argue the balk call from the dugout going into the bottom of the 2nd.

I’ve spent my life, as little more than a kid player and lifetime fan, trying to understand the balk call ~ and now I’m hearing from one of the greatest players in the game that he doesn’t get it either!

Ouch! ~ What can be done to either clarify the rule so that it’s not so fuzzy and game-altering for very unclear reasons. As it now stands, it’s probably the most potentially powerful abusive rule in the game, beyond the call of ball or strike on each pitch ~ and those too are still based on each umpire’s personal perception of where the strike zone is located.

Too bad we can’t find a group of 28 MLB umpires and all the other 28 MLB managers and let them each privately watch a recording of the Verlander pick-off play at 2nd base and then render their own decision about the play. Without mention of the balk call to a third group of people, who did not know of the actual call that overturned the third out pick-off play in the 2nd inning of the game, we have to wonder ~ how many, if any, would see the balk motion that many of us, including Justin Verlander, could not see at all on the pick-off play?

Personally, I love baseball’s variability of outfield sizes and configurations. I just don’t like rules that are entirely left open to abuse by the variability of human perception in matters of subjective discernment.

In other words, if you cannot universally score an action by some clearly measurable and/or observable review of what happened on the field, don’t attach a rule to it.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle




One Response to “The Balk Rule Strikes Again”

  1. Larry Dierker Says:

    I thought it was the correct call. He touched his left foot down in front of the rubber. If he had stepped directly toward second base, it would have been a good move.

    I didn’t not think he was off his game as much as the box score suggests. Sometimes they hit all the mistakes and some of the good pitches. That’s when it’s just not your day. Sometimes they foul off your mistakes or don’t swing at them. A good day.

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