By referring to the rule book, defining a balk in Major League Baseball can be as difficult as figuring out the tax code. Strictly going by visuals, a balk also tends to be something that you know when you see it. Usually.
Daniel Bard of the Boston Red Sox doubled his balking displeasure Tuesday night in Kansas City, where he was called for a balk twice during the same Chris Getz at-bat in the second inning. Throw in a wild pitch later in the inning, in which the Royals scored three times, and it was a pretty damaging few moments for Boston, which fell 6-4.
Bard seemed generally bewildered about the whole thing, even after the game when explaining his side to reporters. As quoted in the Boston Herald:
"The balks is a fluke thing. I can't remember the last time I balked, ever," Bard said. "I don't think I've done it in the big leagues."
As reporter Michael Silverman points out, Bard's memory is a little hazy as he also balked in 2011 and 2009. But two in the same game? And same inning? Same at-bat? That's new territory for Bard. That would be new territory for most pitchers.
With runners at the corners, one out and a 1-1 count, Bard failed to remove his back foot from the rubber when he took a small step with his lead foot, wheeled around and threw to first. It looked odd and plate umpire Chris Guccione called it a balk immediately, which allowed Eric Hosmer to score from third. NESN analyst and former pitcher Dennis Eckersley concurred on TV. Bard tried to explain:
"The third-to-first, (the umpire) originally said I went toward home with my front foot first, but I knew I didn't," Bard said. "I tried to do a smaller step, not a full lift. Basically what ended up happening is I didn't clear my back foot, which, I thought if you just made a movement toward third it was OK."
See what I mean about the tax code?
With Getz still batting and a 2-2 count, Bard balked again. This time, Bard lost his balance as he tried whirling around to second base to keep Mike Moustakas in the neighborhood of the bag. The hop at the end cost him. Bard, knowing a balk when he saw one (this time), didn't argue. Manager Bobby Valentine didn't argue either. Managers are not allowed to.
"On the third-to-first, he didn't think he balked, and on second, he didn't think he balked,'' Valentine said. "Those are both kind of interpretation rules. You see both moves sometimes not called, but they were close enough to call.''
Eckersley complained that Bard was paying too much attention to baserunners and not the batters. Well, after the balking inning and until the eighth, the Royals didn't score, so Bard was focusing correctly. Unfortunately, he made too many mistakes early and late to help the Red Sox win.
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