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Sunday, May 27, 2018

A’s minor league coach banned one year for ordering intentional balks

Believe it or not, the headline you just read does not include any type-o’s. We have all heard of intentional walks and we see them numerous times on a daily basis. But intentional balks? Those are far less common. Not only do they exist, but their use recently earned an A’s minor league coach a year ban from the California League.

According to Brian VanderBeek of the Modesto Bee, Class A California coach Todd Steverson — who was the acting manager of the Stockton Ports on June 23 — has been fined and suspended for an entire year after he ordered his players intentionally balk in the 17th and 18th innings of an extremely long game against the Modesto Nuts. Having already been forced to use position players as pitchers, Steverson said he was trying to avoid uneccesary injuries.

“We had a position player out there and I didn’t want to put another position player on the mound and get him hurt,” he explined. “I didn’t get any of my pitchers hurt and I didn’t get any position players hurt. So a game on June 23, 2012, well, these guys will be playing many more games more important than that.”

League president Charley Blaney does not agree. Steverson felt as though it was his job as a minor league manager to protect his players and look out for the longevity of their careers. Blaney felt that intentionally throwing the game was unacceptable — no matter what the circumstances. The president wrote the following in a statement:

“While Stockton Interim Manager Todd Steverson’s intent was to protect his players from injury … he made an error in judgment by instructing his pitcher to advance 3 base runners via intentional balk for the purpose of expediting the end of the game … Mr. Steverson’s decision to advance the opposing team’s base runners into scoring position compromised the integrity of the game, which is paramount in this great game of ours.”

As VanderBeek pointed out, forfeiting would have cost Stockton $50,000, so that wasn’t an option. There may be better ways Steverson could have gone about it — like telling his pitcher to get wild or serve up meatballs — but he obviously was looking out for the best interest of his players. It’s not like he gambled on the game. In a certain sense, the league had no choice but to punish Steverson for the decision. A year ban, however, seems extremely harsh.

H/T Big League Stew
Photo credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

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