Ask the Ump: The Sleeve Controversy

Question: At this point, plenty of ink has been spilled on the whole Eddings-Paul-Pierzienski controversy, so we’ll leave that alone for the moment and get to a matter that was picked up and then pretty much forgotten in the wake of these bigger events: In Game 1 of the series, Angels pitcher Jarrod Washburn wore a shortsleeved gray away jersey, and underneath it a shirt witha sleeve on his left (throwing) arm and no sleeve on his right arm. It looked pretty strange, and Lou Piniella, who was doing a guest stint in the FOX announcers booth, commented that he would have the umpire make him change it, because you have to wear a normal uni. McCarver and Buck took it on faith that what Washburn was doing was a violation. True or False?

Answer: This incident proves a few things we already knew: 1. Lou Piniella is too pedantic for his own good and cannot disguise the fact that he is, and always was, a lousy manager. 2. Tim McCarver’s ignorance of the rules remains unchallenged. 3. Games are not won and lost on the sleeve length of the pitcher. They are, however, won and lost by a catcher assuming the plate umpire voiced an out call when he did not. So, for those of you who still care what the book says about a pitcher’s underwear, here it is:

Rule 1.11 (c) (1) states that while each player can choose his own sleeve length, he should make an effort to have sleeves of approximately the same length. The book offers no help as to what "approximately" means. So, the pedantic Lou was correct in that as manager he could have insisted that the pitcher settle on one sleeve length for both arms. As an umpire, I would have told Lou that I’m giving the pitcher some leeway on this, since the need for a pitcher to regulate his arm warmth on a cold October evening seems, to me, to trump an antiquated rule that was written to keep the players from looking sloppy. I would also take revenge on Lou’s team by enforcing all sorts of pedantic rules on them, like re-touching a base after a foul ball, measuring the pine tar on their bats, and not letting them wander out of the batter’s box after each pitch.  So there.

6 comments… add one
  • In one fell swoop our guest ump shows his utter disdain for 1) managers 2) ex-players and 3) current players. Miss anyone? (and the players and managers are supposed to respect the men in blue. How about a little quid pro quo?)
    SInce he hews so closely to the book w/r/t JoshPaulgate, it would seem that there isn’t any ambiguity at all in the definition of “approximate”, as it applies in the Washburn case. One arm sheathed below the shirtsleeve, the other not sheathed. Where’s the ambiguity, exactly?
    And since when do the umpires become shepherds of the historical application or appropriateness of the rules? Isn’t a rule a rule? Their job, from what I can tell, is to observe situations and apply the rules consistently. Our resident Ump might want to practice this, lest he get dirt kicked on his shins, deservedly so.

    SF October 14, 2005, 1:02 pm
  • I’ll let our ump defend himself, but if the argument is that his post is a bit oppositional (and this is yf-vs-sf, after all), than it seems to me sf is guilty of the same crime. Utter disdain for managers and players? Perhaps disdain for Piniella and McCarver, but not necessarily all of their bretheren.
    Ease up!

    YF October 14, 2005, 2:13 pm
  • What exactly am I guilty of, YF? I don’t express any disdain for our resident ump or his brethren (I haven’t had any interaction with them in nearly 2 decades, such was the brevity of my baseball career), I only point out the actuality of our (excellent) contributor’s missive – he takes on the three categories of people I mention, openly, and he applies his own logic inconsistently in the case of Washburn. This isn’t to impugn him, but I would like his thoughts on my interpretation of his post.

    SF October 14, 2005, 2:49 pm
  • Calling Brad/SF
    From today’s New York Post
    October 15, 2005 — With the Yankees’ universe crumbling following a crushing loss in the ALDS, George Steinbrenner has made re-signing Brian Cashman his No. 1 priority.
    The bet was that Cash would be fired
    Bradsf: The Yanks making the playoffs and Cash being fired are very different odds.
    $10 on Cash not being fired.

    john yf October 15, 2005, 8:39 am
  • shouldn’t there be a bonus if Theo doesn’t return. I think john yf deserves another $10 for that. Come on, brad sf, speak up!

    Nick October 15, 2005, 1:09 pm
  • Ok SF, I hate to burst your illustions about the rule book, but it’s an imperfect instrument. Umpires need to understand the spirit behind the rule if they are to apply it correctly. I could give you examples all night, but I’ll give you one for now: batter hits a ball directly onto his toe in the batter’s box, but in the part of the box in fair territory. An out by the rule book, but a foul ball in the real world of umpiring.
    Yes, many umpires, if pressed by a pedantic manager, would have the opposing pitcher even out his sleeves. Most managers understand that when they get pedantic, there is plenty of room for the umpires and the other team to engage in revenge pedantry. I’m just saying that if I were umpiring this one, I’d tell the manager to worry about something more important than the opposing pitcher keeping his arm warm.
    Does that clear up my apparent contradictions?

    Ump October 15, 2005, 8:12 pm

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