Don Mattingly's double take: what's past is prologue *

If you are a fan of arcane rules of baseball, Tuesday's Dodgers-Giants game was a feast for the eyes. Unless you happened to be a hardcore Dodgers fan, in which case you were more likely to go Oedipus Rex on your eyes after the Giants turned a 5-1 deficit into a 7-5 win.

To sum up: the Dodgers led the Giants 5-4 starting the ninth. Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton came in and found himself in a bases loaded, one out situation with leadoff hitter Andres Torres coming up.

Enter Don Mattingly. The Dodgers hitting coach had become the teams acting manager after both manager Joe Torre and bench coach Bob Schaefer were ejected, both related to a flurry of bean balls and near bean balls involving Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, and Denny Bautista. Essentially, Mattingly was the Dodgers Nancy Pelosi, third in the line of succession. Or, if you're British, Mattingly is Prince William. For our Luxembourg readers, Mattingly is Prince Felix.

Sensing a crisis, Mattingly came out to the mound to speak to Broxton as well as gather the Dodgers infield to discuss how they would position themselves for Torres. Mattingly finished his talk and left the mound. But, as he was leaving, first baseman James Loney (who was honored Tuesday night with a bobblehead), asked Mattingly a question. Mattingly walked back on to the mound to answer Loney and returned to the dugout.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy came out to protest to the umpires that Mattingly, by walking off the mound on to the grass, and then walking back on to the mound, had, by rule, made two trips to the mound in one inning to talk to a pitcher. The rules state that a second trip to the mound require that the current pitcher has to be replaced. The umpires agreed with Bochy. Broxton had to leave the game. George Sherrill came in (with little warmup as it turned out due to some communication errors) and gave up a 2-run double to Torres. The Giants would go on to win 7-5.

Mattingly had run afoul of Baseball's Rule 8.06. The rule has two relevant parts:

8.06 (b) A second trip to the same pitcher in the same inning will cause this pitcher's automatic removal;

and 8.06 (d) with a long comment:

A manager or coach is considered to have concluded his visit to the mound when he leaves the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher's rubber.
Rule 8.06 Comment: If the manager or coach goes to the catcher or infielder and that player then goes to the mound or the pitcher comes to him at his position before there is an intervening play (a pitch or other play) that will be the same as the manager or coach going to the mound.
Any attempt to evade or circumvent this rule by the manager or coach going to the catcher or an infielder and then that player going to the mound to confer with the pitcher shall constitute a trip to the mound.
If the coach goes to the mound and removes a pitcher and then the manager goes to the mound to talk with the new pitcher, that will constitute one trip to that new pitcher that inning.
In a case where a manager has made his first trip to the mound and then returns the second time to the mound in the same inning with the same pitcher in the game and the same batter at bat, after being warned by the umpire that he cannot return to the mound, the manager shall be removed from the game and the pitcher required to pitch to the batter until he is retired or gets on base. After the batter is retired, or becomes a base runner, then this pitcher must be removed from the game. The manager should be notified that his pitcher will be removed from the game after he pitches to one hitter, so he can have a substitute pitcher warmed up.
The substitute pitcher will be allowed eight preparatory pitches or more if in the umpire's judgment circumstances justify.

In the aftermath of the game, it has been argued by some that the umpires should have ejected Mattingly and allowed Broxton to pitch to one more hitter: Torres. If the Dodgers had filed a protest (which they had to do prior to a pitch being thrown to Torres), they might have had it upheld. Or, they might not. The chief of this particular umpire crew, Tim McClelland, said before Wednesday's game that the situation in the comment only applied if a manager deliberately made two visits to force a premature pitching change. The umpires interpreted the rule to punish the Dodgers for two accidental visits. (There is more discussion here and a link to video of the situation.)

Regardless, if the Dodgers protested, the Powers That Be in MLB would have to have made a decision on a matter that may be of slightly less import than Marbury v. Madison.

Rule 8.06 went on the books in 1967, primarily to standardize differences that the American and National Leagues had in enforcing the number of visits to the mound a manager could make in one inning.

The first time I could find someone running afoul of this rule in a Dodgers game was on September 7, 1967. The Cubs, managed by Hall of Famer Leo Durocher, were in town to play the Dodgers.

In the eighth inning, Durocher brought in Pete Mikkelsen to relieve. Mikkelsen hit Lou Johnson with a pitch and then made an error on a sacrifice attempt by
Jim Lefebvre to put runners on first and second with no outs and John Roseboro due up.

Cubs pitching coach Joe Becker (who had been fired as a coach by the Dodgers along with Durocher after the 1964 season) came out to talk to Mikkelsen and give rookie lefthander Jim Ellis time to warm up. Becker left the mound and headed back to the bench. But Durocher told Becker that Ellis was warmed up and sent Becker back to pull Mikkelsen and Ellis came in.

Dodgers manager Walter Alston then came out of the dugout to tell homeplate umpire Tony Venzon that Mikkelsen couldn't come out of the game because Becker had already made a trip to the mound and left and he had to stay in to face one more batter. The umpires realized their error and ordered Mikkelsen back into the game. And Mikkelsen was able to get Roseboro to hit a grounder to second base that Glenn Beckert
ran to first base on his own after Ernie Banks fell out of the play and Johnson and Lefebvre moved up.

Now Durocher decided that he wanted Chuck Hartenstein to relieve. But Venzon declared that Ellis had to come in to pitch since he was already brought in. Becker and Durocher argued with Venzon about this and Becker got ejected. And Ellis had to pitch to Ron Fairly, who walked. Finally, Hartenstein was allowed to come in. Third baseman Bob
Bailey lifted a fly ball to Cubs right fielder Bob Raudman, who threw out Johnson at the plate for a double play to end the inning.

Newspaper accounts state that Durocher and Becker's arguments took 30 minutes. The Cubs were down 2-1 coming into the 9th, but tied it up and won in 12 innings.

Bochy had caught the Dodgers in a similar situation when he was managing the San Diego Padres. I will let the play-by-play from Retrosheet explain the gory details from August 23, 2006. Dodgers manager Davey Johnson protested the actions of Bochy in a game on June 27, 2000 when he felt that Bochy made two trips to visit pitcher Kevin Walker during one at bat without removing him. The Dodgers won the game, so the protest was withdrawn.

When Tommy Lasorda managed the Dodgers, he seemed ready to protest managers making too many visits whenever he could. Lasorda got the umpires to force Cubs closer Lee Smith to leave the game with two outs in the ninth in a July 1, 1984 game. Lasorda noticed that Chicago manager Jim Frey had yelled instructions from the dugout to first baseman Keith Moreland, who relayed them to Smith. As it turns out, managers can't use an intermediary to get around the two visit rule. (It really is, it's detailed above.) It didn't help as Warren Brusstar came in and held on for a 4-3 Cubs win. [The LA Times article of the game, which I can't link, has quotes from a Cubs P.R. official: Ned Colletti.]

(For the record, some of these games I remembered, although I checked newspaper accounts to double check my memory. Having a memory that retains such matters is a curse, not a blessing.)

Mattingly's mistake on Tuesday was used as ammunition by some to show that he doesn't have what it takes to manage. (Warning that link is to a Bill Plaschke column. Surprisingly, Plaschke does not blame the loss on either Paul DePodesta, or, the sports world's greatest monster, Lindsey Jacobellis.) That doesn't seem to be the case. It seems more of a case of multiple things going wrong at the same time. It's not as if managers practice making trips to the mound in spring training to make sure they do it correctly. It's just a matter of Mattingly making a mistake, just like the players making a mistake in the field or on the basepaths. It's possible that even the umpires made a mistake.

On a night when Dodgers left fielder Xavier Paul dropped a fly ball that set up a three-run inning for the Giants, and Joe Torre sent Clayton Kershaw to the mound to deliberately hit a batter and get kicked out, and Broxton walked a batter who was trying to sacrifice, that there were plenty of mistakes to go around.

And how did the Dodgers fare the night after Mattingly's double take on the mound? They beat the Giants 2-0 as Chad Billingsley tossed a shutout. The acting manager for the game: Don Mattingly.

* Lasorda was guilty of the same mistake as Mattingly, et al., in an April 29, 1989 game in St. Louis when he walked out to the mound to calm down pitcher Alejandro Pena after pitching coach Ron Perranoski was ejected. Perranoski had already visited Pena, so Pena had to leave the game after he finished pitching to the current batter, Willie McGee. Ray Searage came in to finish the game.


More by Bob Timmermann:
"It's Time for Everton Football"
UCLA starting to make Omaha a regular destination
LACMA mounts an exhibition that may be the best thing hardly anyone sees
Baseball's International Final Four comes to California
UCLA stumbles, falls, wanders around, and wins the Pac-12
Previous Native Intelligence story: Angeleno Datebook- July 21, 2010

Next Native Intelligence story: Don't look for citizen journalism in the next Bell

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