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Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

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Come Back in 2011 — the Reds Are Out of Order

This post has been updated to reflect that it was indeed Patterson, not Freel, who tried to bat after Ross. Original post is in strikethrough below that, lest anyone think I'm pulling a fast one.

When a team bats out of order, my first instinct is to grin at the novelty of it. My second instinct is to hide behind the couch. Because this is the string theory of baseball rules — I bet Bobby Valentine and Jayson Stark understand it, but beyond them you can count the number of people on Earth who do on the fingers of that one hand you let get a little too close to the combine that unfortunate summer on the farm.

Oh, and the late Leonard Koppett understood it, too. Which is why, when a team bats out of order, I go for Koppett's The New Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball (earlier editions are without the New). Starting on page 364 you'll find the only sane explanation of how this works that I've ever read.

The key point, as set down by Koppett: The correct batter, at any moment, is the one listed immediately after the last who completed a legal turn at bat. That's it. No exceptions.

Two secondary but critical points: “Legal” has nothing to with what number “hole” was supposed to bat. And once the team in the field pitches to a hitter, throws to a base, etc., anything done before becomes legal. It gets a bit crazy, but the spirit of the thing is that an out-of-order penalty begins and ends with a single batter, instead of having penalties stack up and result in a cascade of outs.

So. Jeff Keppinger made the final out of the 8th (K'd by Joe Smith in a confrontation that I hope sends Jorge Sosa to Never-Never Land once a roster move must be made). After Keppinger the correct hitter was Corey Patterson, occupying the spot initially occupied by Paul Bako, then kept warm by Jared Burton (a contender for the Spiezio Award for dopey-looking facial hair) and Jeremy Affeldt before it became his. Patterson's job, as far as the rules are concerned, was to hit after Keppinger. David Ross had entered the game along with Burton in the bottom of the 6th. His job was to hit after Burton — who, through substitutions, became Affeldt and then Patterson. So the correct bottom of the order for the Reds evolved from Keppinger/Bako/Cueto (beginning of the game) to Keppinger/Bako/Bray (bottom of the 5th), then Keppinger/Burton/Ross (bottom of the 6th), then Keppinger/Affeldt/Ross (bottom of the 7th), then Keppinger/Patterson/Ross (bottom of the 8th). Confusing, but the screwup was Ross's — he should have known that whomever he followed in the batting order, it wasn't Keppinger.

So here's the rub. When Ross flied out in the spot that rightly belonged to Patterson, it didn't mean anything immediately. (In fact, the umpire isn't allowed to point out that a team has hit out of order. And if the Reds had realized their mistake during Ross's at-bat, they could have sent Patterson up to inherit the count without penalty.) When the Mets protested before throwing a pitch to Patterson, Patterson was out and Ross was the correct hitter again (Patterson having completed a legal turn at-bat, admittedly of a decidedly odd nature), again with one out in the ninth. (Oh, and Ross's flyout? Never happened — it's the Armin Tanzarian of at-bats.)

Where it gets goofy is that it was Patterson, not Ryan Freel, who tried to bat after Ross — meaning the Reds were probably never going to figure out what had gone wrong. And that's where the Mets missed an opportunity — not to automatically record a second out (that's not possible), but to effectively invoke one if needed. It's a subtle distinction, but an important one.

If Feliciano had then thrown a pitch to Patterson, Ross's at-bat would have been legalized — there'd have been one out in the ninth, on the now-official flyout. If the Reds had merely skipped over Patterson and Freel was at the plate, that would have been the end of it. But Patterson was at the plate in the spot that belonged to Freel. If Willie had protested after a pitch to Patterson, as he seemed to think he should have after the game, he would have gained nothing — Ross's out would have stood and Freel would have been sent up to hit, inheriting Patterson's count. (In fact, I'd rather face Ross, Ross and Freel than Ross, Freel and Votto.)

So what it seems Willie should have done — and it's not fair to criticize him for not doing so, since this is so insane — is note the Reds' mistake and keep quiet. He would have had a free out to play with until the Reds figured out what had happened, which they probably wouldn't have done.

Ross has made the first out, hitting when Patterson was supposed to hit. One way or another — a Ross flyout or a Patterson putout by catcher — you've got that out and it's not going away. Once you pitch to Patterson, the Ross AB is legalized and the flyout stands. If Patterson then completed the at-bat and reached base, the Mets could have brought the mistake to the ump's attention, Freel would have been called out (he's supposed to hit after the now-legal Ross) and the Mets would have faced Votto with two away and everything settled.

If Patterson had completed the AB and made an out, the Mets could have stayed quiet and faced Freel with two away. Once a pitch was thrown to Freel, Patterson's AB would have been legalized — which would mean Freel was improperly hitting in Ross's spot. If Freel had made an out, the game would have been over and maybe nobody would have noticed.

OK, but there's one wrinkle left. If Freel had reached base, the Mets could have appealed before a pitch to Votto. Ross would have been called out (again, he hits after Patterson) and the game would have ended on a batting out-of-order appeal, with Ross somehow making two outs (flyout and putout by catcher for batting out of order) in an inning that only saw three official ABs. In which case we would have never stopped talking about this game. Ever.

(And if I've got that wrong, I promise there will be no further update. Because I'm already losing my mind about this one.)

Oh, and by the way: I've said some hard things about Willie Randolph in the last week, but let's compare him to Dusty Baker. The Reds have committed to three years of paying a manager who can't even get his players to bat in the correct order. Be strong, Cincinnati — 2010 is coming, but not quickly enough.

Old post below, when I gave the Reds too much credit and thought Freel was trying to hit after Ross:

When a team bats out of order, my first instinct is to grin at the novelty of it. My second instinct is to hide behind the couch. Because this is the string theory of baseball rules — I bet Bobby Valentine and Jayson Stark understand it, but beyond them you can count the number of people on Earth who do on the fingers of that one hand you let get a little too close to the combine that unfortunate summer on the farm.

Oh, and the late Leonard Koppett understood it, too. Which is why, when a team bats out of order, I go for Koppett's The New Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball (earlier editions are without the New). Starting on page 364 you'll find the only sane explanation of how this works that I've ever read.

The key point, as set down by Koppett: The correct batter, at any moment, is the one listed immediately after the last who completed a legal turn at bat. That's it. No exceptions.

Two secondary but critical points: “Legal” has nothing to with what number “hole” was supposed to bat. And once the team in the field pitches to a hitter, throws to a base, etc., anything done before becomes legal.

So. Jeff Keppinger made the final out of the 8th (K'd by Joe Smith in a confrontation that I hope sends Jorge Sosa to Never-Never Land once a roster move must be made). After Keppinger the correct hitter was Corey Patterson, occupying the spot initially occupied by Paul Bako, then kept warm by Jared Burton (a contender for the Spiezio Award for dopey-looking facial hair) and Jeremy Affeldt before it became his. Patterson's job, as far as the rules are concerned, was to hit after Keppinger. David Ross had entered the game along with Burton in the bottom of the 6th. His job was to hit after Burton — who, through substitutions, became Affeldt and then Patterson. So the correct bottom of the order for the Reds evolved from Keppinger/Bako/Cueto (beginning of the game) to Keppinger/Bako/Bray (bottom of the 5th), then Keppinger/Burton/Ross (bottom of the 6th), then Keppinger/Affeldt/Ross (bottom of the 7th), then Keppinger/Patterson/Ross (bottom of the 8th). What I gather happened to the Reds was that when David Weathers and Patterson came in in the 8th, they got confused about who was hitting sixth and who was hitting eighth. How the answer became “neither of us” is one for those two gentlemen and Dusty Baker to explain. Ross, for his part, should have known that whomever he followed in the batting order, it wasn't Keppinger.

So here's the rub. When Ross flied out in the spot that rightly belonged to Patterson, it didn't mean anything immediately. (In fact, the umpire isn't allowed to point out that a team has hit out of order. And if the Reds had realized their mistake during Ross's at-bat, they could have sent Patterson up to inherit the count without penalty.) If Feliciano had then thrown a pitch to Ryan Freel, Ross's at-bat would have been legalized — one out in the ninth, Freel up. When Willie protested before that point, Patterson was out and Ross was the correct hitter again (Patterson having completed a legal turn at-bat, admittedly of a decidedly odd nature), again with one out in the ninth. (Oh, and Ross's flyout? Never happened — it's the Armin Tanzarian of at-bats.)

If I followed the top of the ninth properly and am interpreting Koppett correctly (and if I'm not on either score, my fault), there was no advantage to waiting for something else to happen. Ross's at-bat would have been legal once a pitch was thrown to Freel, and the Reds would only have faced rules jeopardy if someone other than Joey Votto had followed Freel. (Which is by no means impossible, considering the above.) In fact, the Mets got the best situation possible: You'd rather face Ross, Ross and Freel (what happened) than Patterson, Ross and Freel (what should have happened) or Ross, Freel and Votto (what would have happened if Willie had made no protest).

The key to the rule is that out-of-order penalties begin and end with a single batter, instead of stacking up and resulting in a cascade of outs. Which, considering how long it took to sort out this afternoon's mess, is a blessing — if Willie had come out after a first pitch to Freel, in hopes of somehow getting two outs, the Mets and Reds and the umpires might still be out there.

Oh, and by the way: I've said some hard things about Willie Randolph in the last week, but let's compare him to Dusty Baker. The Reds have committed to three years of paying a manager who can't even get his players to bat in the correct order. Be strong, Cincinnati — 2010 is coming, but not quickly enough.

10 comments to Come Back in 2011 — the Reds Are Out of Order

  • Anonymous

    Howie Rose actually seemed to have a handle on it, if a confused handle.
    I dunno, Maybe Willie (or someone else on the bench) should've known the rule, but considering no one did, saying something as soon as you see the other team make a mistake is usually the right way to go.

  • Anonymous

    I'm still confused. I blame Dusty Baker.

  • Anonymous

    Dammit, now I'm confused: Which Cincy hitter was walking up to the plate after Ross's phantom flyout — Patterson or Freel? I didn't notice during the brouhaha, and different sites are saying different things.
    If it was Patterson, the Mets would indeed have been better served by waiting — they could have let Patterson bat, appealed if something good happened, and Freel (the correct hitter once Ross's AB was legalized) would have been called out, leaving Votto to hit with two outs. Or if Patterson made the second out and Freel came up and HE did something good, they could have appealed that — because with Patterson's out legalized the proper batter was Ross, meaning Ross would have been out (again) and the game would have been over.
    Weirdly, this means Ross would have made two outs in separate at-bats in an inning that had only three ABs.
    In other words, IF Patterson was the one trying to bat, the Mets could have had a free out to call in — unless the Reds got wise to their mistake and corrected it. If Freel was trying to bat, on the other hand, they got the most advantage they could.
    I think I need to lie down.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, it gets better — Dusty is a serial offender. Jesus.

  • Anonymous

    Happy Birthday to all the Moms out there!!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, haha…not only did Baker do it twice as a manager, he did it once as a player! What the heck is in those toothpicks of yours, Dusty?

  • Anonymous

    I'm 99% sure that the Reds were sending Patterson up, not Freel. So, Gary Cohen was right that Willie blew it.

  • Anonymous

    Yes. Post updated.

  • Anonymous

    I don't get it.

  • Anonymous

    You live six blocks away — I'll walk you through it if you buy me a beer.