As Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant approached the plate in the eighth inning on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Austin Davis quickly pulled out his cheat sheet out of his back pocket.
Bryant hit a single, and the game moved on.
Then, as Addison Russell came out to the plate for the next at-bat, Davis did it again. That’s when umpire Joe West approached the mound.
“I saw him take it out and I went, ‘What the heck is that?’” West told the Associated Press after the game.
West cited Rule 6.o2(c)(7), which states that a pitcher may not “have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance,” and confiscated the card.
“I told him we don’t allow him to carry anything on their glove, person or clothing except in some cases where there’s a rain situation we allow them to put a rosin bag in their pocket,” West told the Associated Press. “Other than that they can’t have anything on the pitcher.”
“Cheat sheets” like this are nothing new in baseball. Players use them all the time on defense to help better position themselves for certain batters, and catchers often use them when calling out pitches. It’s not an effort to cheat the system, but for players to simply better use the information given to them in the scouting report before the game.
After West took the card from Davis, though, Philadelphia manager Gabe Kapler came out to the mound to argue with West for several minutes. He didn’t get why West took it away.
“Austin Davis is pulling the card of his pocket on the mound using it as a reference how to attack the hitters,” Kapler told the Associated Press. “I think it’s actually a really good thing for baseball. I don’t really quite understand this one.”
West, who has served in the MLB since 1976, said it’s not his fault, and that his “hands are tied” in the matter based on the rule book. He did, though, call the league office after the game and admitted that the use of the card “may be in a gray area,” according to the report.
“I didn’t want to throw him out,” West told the Associated Press. “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 now. Right now, until the office says it’s OK to carry this, he can’t do it.”
Davis, who was drafted in the 12th round of the 2014 MLB draft, has pitched in 22 games for the Philles this season and currently holds a 4.13 ERA.
And even though it didn’t really work on Saturday — as the Cubs cranked out 11 hits in their 7-1 win over Philadelphia — Davis said the information the analytic department gives the team is extremely helpful out on the field and when pitching to different opponents, and he doesn’t see anything wrong with using it.
“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,” Davis told the Associated Press. “And if I have an answer to get a guy out, I want to know what that is.”
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