When Pigs Fly
Angel Hernandez ... got a call right?
When MLB umpire Angel Hernandez's name is trending on social media, it almost always means he's gotten a call catastrophically wrong, or simply thrust himself into the spotlight for no reason at all. And by almost always, we really mean always.
What happened on Tuesday night appeared to be exactly that - Hernandez making himself the story with an absolutely ridiculous call that no one understood. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Yusei Kikuchi licked his fingers while on the rubber and didn't wipe them off in order to get a better grip on the ball on a cold Boston night. Hernandez saw this, called Kikuchi out on it and awarded Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez first base. Wait, what?
Here's the thing: Hernandez was right. Kikuchi broke rule 6.02(c) in the MLB rulebook, which states that a player may lick their fingers while off the mound, but must wipe them off before toeing the slab:
c) Pitching Prohibitions
The pitcher shall not:
(1) While in the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher’s plate, touch the ball after touching his mouth or lips, or touch his mouth or lips while he is in contact with the pitcher’s plate. The pitcher must clearly wipe the fingers of his pitching hand dry before touching the ball or the pitcher’s plate.
PENALTY: For violation of this part of this rule the umpires shall immediately remove the ball from play and issue a warning to the pitcher. Any subsequent violation shall be called a ball. However, if the pitch is made and a batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a hit batsman or otherwise, and no other runner is put out before advancing at least one base, the play shall proceed without reference to the violation. Repeat offenders shall be subject to a fine by the League President.
The problem is that most MLB fans were either not familiar with this rule or simply had never seen it enforced before, hence why it's become a huge topic of discussion. But again, and we cannot stress this enough, Hernandez was correct. Hell hath frozen over.
Now, having said that, you'll still see pitchers go to TOWN on their hands tonight, tomorrow night, the next night and the next night after that, and it probably will go unnoticed/not enforced. One of them unspoken agreement things baseball players are so fond of. But Hernandez hasn't gotten famous (er, infamous) by not enforcing the rules, even when he's comically wrong. Keep doing you, Angel.