I have found a gaping hole in the rules and laws of baseball. When you know the flaw, you won’t be able to ignore it, and you will wonder why teams haven’t tried to exploit this, just once. It all has to do with equipment regulations, or more specifically, baserunning equipment regulations. It’s brilliant (if I say so myself) and something I had to keep a secret, otherwise there would be madness on the basepaths.
In boxing, the competitors wear shorts with rather large waistbands. This is because any shot below the waistline is classified as “below the belt” and therefore an illegal hit. I don’t pretend to know boxing or the rules (I despise fighting sports), but this is one I’m pretty sure about. It probably leads to points deductions or a fine or a yellow card or a sinbin (imagine a two-minute penalty box in boxing, with one opponent dancing around the ring on his own… anyway…). Essentially, hitting below the belt is bad, so boxers try and maximize the size of their waistband and try to pull their shorts as high as possible.
In baseball, there are regulations on the size of a bat, the size of a glove, the way players and coaches dress themselves, their conduct during play, and the distance between the pitchers mound and home plate (thankfully the field dimensions are a recommendation and not specified like NFL/NBA etc, which allows for great and different ballparks to be made), and they are all laid out for everyone to see.
There is a piece of equipment that doesn’t have a set of dimensions or regulations. This small and insignificant bit of swag is the baserunning mitt, the single oven glove, the nubbin, the sock puppet, whatever you call it. It’s the thing you see those folks who like their fingers not to be treated to a studding from the baseman’s cleats wear while running the bases. It fits over one of their hands, and they use that hand to lead when sliding head-first into the bases.
While watching a game in the postseason, I noticed a hitter reach first base and be handed one of these mitts by one of the equipment guys. As he placed the device onto his hand, I couldn’t help but notice the size of it. It looked considerably bigger than the others I had laid eyes on previously. It then made me wonder, what length of mitt could you get away with before umpires start noticing? Clearly the ideal solution would be to have a 90-foot mitt on the end of your hand and simply tap the next base while being stood at your current location. Clearly this would attract a lot of attention, as the equipment guy comes out of the dugout, holding it horizontally over his two arms, bumping into umpires and players on the way out to second base.
But there is no rule in baseball defining the length of these mitts, so you could do it and potentially get away with it. Imagine if you saved your hidden 90-foot baserunning mitt for the most important moment of the game you manage.
It’s Game Seven of the 2017 World Series, the score 1-0 to the Astros, in the bottom of the 9th, and Chase Utley has made it to third base (after breaking the legs of the first and second baseman on the way round), you have one out left, all you need is a single to tie the game and keep the World Series alive. But with the 90-foot mitt, you don’t need a single. You just need an opportunity to steal home. Picture the scene, as Yasiel Puig is at the plate, Justin Verlander is on the mound attempting to make the final out and achieve a complete game shutout. In the corner of the screen, you can see a bright blue mitt hovering over home plate, just waiting for Verlander to pitch. Verlander throws across to third, but Utley is standing completely still on the base, his mitt still hovering over home plate. It would be crazy (and funny), but nothing in the rules can stop it right now.
Clearly this would never happen, but I thought it would be fun to reveal the biggest flaw in the rules since “The Skunk In The Outfield.”
You’re welcome baseball, I’m saving you from madness but denying fans a moment of hilarity.
This post originally appeared on my site Bat Flips and Nerds in 2017. It’s a bit silly but has seemed really popular for us.
British, a lover of baseball.