MLB decides pitchers can have 'cheat sheets' on mound
Ump confiscated scouting card from Phillies rookie reliever on Saturday
Major League Baseball has told teams that it's perfectly OK for pitchers to carry the kind of scouting cards that umpire Joe West confiscated from Philadelphia reliever Austin Davis on the mound this weekend.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said he'd been informed the cards were legal. They are, provided they don't delay games, MLB advised clubs in clarifying the policy.
"I think it's great that our pitchers are able to have their game plans on them," Kapler said Sunday's 8-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs. "I think it takes a lot of mental focus, takes a lot of bandwidth to get out the best hitters in baseball. And when you can just take a little of that off your mind and put it on a card, I think that's helpful for pitchers and good for baseball."
It has become common in the age of advanced baseball analytics to see outfielders and infielders pulling info cards from their pockets to check on proper positioning. But the sight of a pitcher doing it on the mound caught a lot of attention at Citizens Bank Park.
The unusual situation occurred Saturday night in the eighth inning of the Chicago Cubs' 7-1 win at Philadelphia.
The NL Central-leading Cubs were ahead 5-1 as Addison Russell approached the plate. Davis took the reference card from his back pocket, checked the scouting report on Russell, and then put it away.
West, in his 41st season as an umpire, came in from third base and took the card. He said it was illegal under Rule 6.02(c)(7), which states that the pitcher shall not have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance.
Kapler and Davis said the left-hander was looking at the card merely for information on the Cubs hitters. The 25-year-old rookie said he's used them this season.
"I think usually it's a quick glance and go. I was waiting for whoever it was to get in the box. So I think it took an extra second or something and caught his eye. But I don't know," Davis said after the game.
"Our analytics department works really, really hard to come up with this stuff for us and I want to use it because they work all day to come up with stuff to help get guys out. And if I have an answer to get a guy out, I want to know what that is," he said.
Davis said he made the card himself.
"This is something I create. We have our meeting where we go over the hitters. I take that information and put it on a card so I don't have to try and memorize it and use my mental energy to get ready for the game," he said. "Then I just take a glance and go."
West kept this card.
"I saw him take it out and I went, `What the heck is that?"' West said.
West called the league office after the game for a ruling.
"I didn't want to throw him out," West said postgame. "I know it's foreign but he's not trying to cheat. Maybe he's trying to get an advantage because he's reading the scouting report, but it wasn't pine tar, it wasn't an emery board, it wasn't whatever.
"In the long run, maybe they'll let him [have the card]. Right now, my hands are tied until they say yes or no. Right now, until the office says it's OK to carry this, he can't do it," he said.