You've heard of a pitcher intentionally walking a pitcher for strategy purposes—so how about a team asking its pitcher to intentionally balk to end a long extra inning game?
Todd Steverson, who is a hitting instructor inside the Oakland A's organization, has been suspended by Minor League Baseball for intentionally asking his pitcher to balk. This advanced two runners into scoring position to end the longest game in the California League this season.
This was with the Stockton Ports and, as a result, Steverson has been banned from the Stockton dugout for the next year. The Ports are a High-A affiliate of the A's.
League President Charlie Blaney was clearly displeased toward Steverson's decision.
"While Stockton interim manager Todd Steverson's intent was to protect his players from injury in the 17th and 18th innings of the Stockton vs. Modesto game on June 23, 2012, he made an error in judgment by instructing his pitcher to advance three base runners via intentional balk for the purpose of expediting the end of the game," Blaney said in a statement."
Steverson was the interim manager on June 23 while everyday skipper Webster Garrison was on vacation. Minor League managers need a break every so often, right?
The game lasted over five hours against the Modesto Nuts and went 18 innings. Modesto scored in the 18th inning, thanks to a Helder Velazquez single that ended the marathon. Velazquez went 3-for-7 on the night.
Josh Whitaker was the pitcher who was told to commit the balks. As a matter of fact, he had three separate balks—two in the 17th and the final one in the 18th that set up the final score.
The Ports are 4-8 in the second half of the Cal League.