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Steverson Earns One Year Cal League Ban

July 3, 2012

The California League has decided to ban A’s roving hitting instructor Todd Steverson for a year from the dugouts of the Cal League for his actions in a June 23rd contest with the Stockton Ports in Modesto against the host Nuts. Steverson’s transgression? Ordering intentional balks from his “pitcher” outfielder Josh Whitaker. It is interesting that Whitaker was the position player pitching as I have been impressed most by his arm of any fielder in the numerous games I’ve seen the Ports play in this year, but regardless in the 17th and 18th innings he was on the hill. Steverson wanted the game to end, and serving as acting manager, he instructed Whitaker to intentionally balk until the game ran to its conclusion.

The Cal League president said that this was tantamount to throwing a game – it absolutely was – and issued the ban. The question is though is this really a game that is about winning or losing? Certainly at the Major League level it is, but at the minor league level the primary responsibility of clubs like Stockton and of leagues like the California League are to develop players. The A’s surely are not trying to develop Whitaker as a pitcher. The Nuts and their parent club the Colorado Rockies are certainly not looking to develop their hitters by having them hit off of High-A outfielders, so I really didn’t have a problem with Steverson’s decision. But, at the same time, people paid to watch a baseball game, and a baseball game that should be played to win regardless of whether or not the outcome in any way truly matters. I think a suspension may have been warranted. Perhaps end the game by throwing some BP type pitches or being more discreet in one’s attempts to throw the game, but in the end what Steverson did was in the best interests of the organization. It is amazing that such a dramatic response occurred and I have mixed feelings about it. At least now I know when I see the Ports tomorrow in Bakersfield and Saturday in Lancaster they will be playing to win all 27 outs or all 54 if it comes to that.

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