Adam Jones, Changing a Ruling, Teammate Relations

A Change is Gonna Come – Just Not at the Expense of Your Teammate

Buster Olney, in his ESPN blog today, relates the following:

The concern among rival talent evaluators about the Orioles is that constant losing is shaping the mindset of the team’s young players. For example, after the Orioles lost an early lead Sunday in San Diego and wound up getting crushed 9-4, sources say Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones directly lobbied for his first-inning bouncer to be changed from an error to a hit. The scoring on the play was changed, hours after the fact, and Jones got his hit, but for a player to make a direct appeal — especially in the aftermath of a one-sided loss — isn’t exactly conventional.

At issue, of course, is players becoming more concerned about their own numbers than the success (or, in Baltimore’s case, lack thereof) of their respective teams. (Scorers have a 24-hour window during which to alter a ruling.)

Should the inverse circumstance be invoked—a fielder lobbying to turn an error into a hit—the unwritten rules come into play on an especially prominent level. Maintaining respect among teammates can be vital, but such a decision, while it helps the fielder, offers nothing positive for a pitcher.

Take an instance in 1992, when Boston’s Wade Boggs—upset at what had been ruled his 16th error of the season—lobbied the official scorer to change the play to a hit, which he did. Boggs helped his own cause, but in the process turned the table on his pitcher, Roger Clemens, boosting the Rocket’s ERA as he gunned for the AL’s lowest mark in that category.

Needless to say, Clemens and a number of other Boston players did not take it well.

On the flip side of the equation, after a 1984 game against the Red Sox, Dave Stieb lobbied for opposition hits to be changed to errors. It was Stieb’s second-to-last start of the season, and he had given up six runs in a single frame. He was battling Mike Boddicker for the league’s ERA title, and the outing crippled his chances.

Such post-fact success, of course, would have come at the expense of his teammates’ fielding percentages. (Stieb’s request was denied, and Boddicker beat him, 2.83 to 2.79.)

“One thing I’ve noticed over the years, when a team is going badly, that’s when players get extremely selfish and want everything to go their way,” said longtime Red Sox official scorer Charlie Scoggins, in a Baseball Digest article by Larry Stone from 2004. “I find that when a team is in a pennant race, they hardly ever question my calls.”

Jones may well be innocent of all charges (at the very least, his lobbying did nothing to hurt the record of a teammate), but Scoggins description could fit the Orioles pretty well.

– Jason