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August 18, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

What a bizzare weekend. On Friday, Aaron Boone hit a three-run home run to win the game, and on Saturday, Jack Cust fell down on the way to an unguarded home plate to end the game. Today, the weekend was capped with the most bizzare thing of all: Alfonso Soriano walked. Unintentionally. It boggles the mind.

Actually, today was just about the perfect day for the Yankees. They released Designated Game-Shortener Todd Zeile, swept the Orioles, got a complete game shutout out of their ace, resting their spent bullpen, and with Seattle's 3-1 win, they extended their lead in the AL East to five games--six in the loss column. All of the sudden, things are looking really, really good, even though Aaron Boone's OPS looks like a bad SLG, the Yankees' right fielders hit like second baseman, and Alfonso Soriano hasn't been a good player since April. It's still looking good.

The dropping of Zeile from the roster comes after he complained that he no longer had a role on the team, but more importantly, after the Yankees bullpen was spent over the weekend. Needing to add an arm for long relief, the Yankees considered Zeile to be the most expendable player on the roster, and cut him loose to make room for Jorge DePaula, who will likely be sent down soon and replaced by GIDP Jesus, Juan Rivera--likely Rivera's last shot to prove himself to be a major league quality ballplayer.

I was thinking at work today about the lineup rules, and I realized a couple of ways a team could exploit another team's failure to understand the rules. The key part of the rule to me is that the proper batter is always the batter whose name appears in the lineup after the last proper batter, regardless of the order in which previous batters have come to the plate. It is obvious that Joe Torre did not know this, and I'm not sure if anyone else noticed this either, specifically that the proper batter to follow Batista in the bottom of the first was Fordyce, and the proper batter to lead of the second was Batista.

Exploit 1:

This one will probably require deception, and probably ruin a manager's reputation among other managers. It would take someone like Billy Martin to pull this off, someone who doesn't care what anyone else thinks about him, just winning. And, of course, there comes a sizeable risk with it, so it might not be worth trying.

The problem with yesterday's game seemed to arise from the Orioles lineup posted in the clubhouse being wrong, and the press recieving the wrong lineup, which led to Batista and Gibbons batting out of order in the first. A manager could intentionally decieve the other team and the press (or perhaps, if it's a home game, have the scoreboard operator in on the plan), by presenting them with this lineup before the game.


But then, hand the umpire this lineup:


Now, in the bottom of the first inning, Jeter and Johnson bat, and lets say that Jeter grounds out and Johnson walks. Now you send up Giambi, and after him, you bat Williams. Since the scoreboard says that it's the proper order, and the lineups courteously exchanged ahead of time say that it's the proper order, there's a chance that the other team won't notice this. Once a pitch is thrown to Williams, the at bat by Giambi is legal, and there's almost no chance that a manager not wholly familiar with the rules will be able to derail this exploit. Now, if Giambi gets on base, and there is an appeal before Williams sees a pitch, you've wasted an out, and Giambi getting on base is negated (and Johnson goes back to the base he was on before Giambi put the ball in play). Are you following me so far? Well, wait a second, it gets trickier.

After Williams' at-bat, if the inning is still going, you send Posada up to the plate. Now, if Giambi is on base, well, then your plan failed to do anything of substance, and you let Posada bat. But if Giambi is NOT on base, well, you send Posada up with explicit orders to TAKE THE FIRST PITCH. No matter how good it is. After that pitch, Bernie's at-bat becomes proper, and you call time, tell the umpire you accidentally batted out of order, and send the proper batter up to the plate..............Giambi.

(If Williams made the last out of the inning, you don't have to do the whole Posada thing, Giambi is the proper batter as soon as a pitch is thrown in the top of the second, but if you send Giambi up in the first, well, that'll arouse suspiscions, they'll appeal Bernie's AB, Posada will be called out, and Soriano will be up).

Now, of course the opposing manager will raise holy hell about this, and probably appeal the game. A sensible Commissioner would throw out the appeal, but Bud Selig would probably go the MacPhail route, say the ruling was "not in the spirit of the rule", change it, and uphold the appeal. Of course, the rule specifically say that this is the spirit of the rule, that if you don't pay attention, you have to pay the penalty for it. Not that it would stop Bud, he'd be much more concerned about fans who don't know anything about the rules who "think" it's unfair--after all, a guy batting two out of three times CAN'T be right--and he'll change it.

Now here's the second exploit, which does not involve deception, or much risk, merely the right circumstances and confidence that the opposing team doesn't know the rule. If a manager was to try this, and get away with this, they would be properly viewed as a genius.

Exploit 2:

It's the bottom of the 8th inning, and your team is trailing. There are two outs, nobody on, and your seventh hitter is coming up to bat. Your seventh hitter sucks. Your eighth hitter is worse, and your ninth hitter is Bill Bergen. In all probability, you'll go to the ninth with your eighth hitter and ninth hitters leading off, and likely get to your leadoff man with two outs and nobody on.

You could pinch-hit for these guys, or you could try this strategy: Send your ninth hitter up to bat for the seventh hitter. What's the worst that could happen? The umpire can't say anything--he's forbidden by rule. If the other team says something before he bats, then your seventh hitter comes up, and nothing has changed. Send him up with explicit orders to make an out. The other team will probably let him bat, preparing to appeal it if he does something other than make an out, but if he makes an out, they'll probably let it slide. If they do appeal before the top of the ninth, then all that happens is the seventh hitter is called out, and you're in the situation you expected to be in anyway. But if they don't appeal, then in the bottom of the ninth the proper batter to start the inning guessed it...Frank Stallone! No wait, it's the leadoff hitter! And there's nothing the other team can do about it, you've successfully jumped over two of the worst hitters in your lineup without penalty, getting to your best hitters when you needed them up the most. And you're almost certain to get away with it, too.

Really, I'm surprised that nobody has ever tried these strategies...have they?