Oakland A's roving hitting instructor Todd Steverson was suspended for a year by the California League for his actions during the Stockton Ports game on June 23rd against the Modesto Nuts. What did Steverson do that was so egregious? He ordered the pitcher on the mound to commit three intentional balks in the 17th and 18th innings of the game in an attempt to end the game.
Steverson was managing the game for the Ports, since manager Webster Garrison was on vacation. Each team ran out of pitchers, and were using position players to pitch late in the game. The three balks were commited by Josh Whitaker, an outfielder for Stockton who was an organizational All-Star for the A's in 2011, and was also a class-A All-Star last season. The 23 year-old Whitaker was a 25th round pick by the A's in 2010, and he has 13 homers and an .827 OPS on the season.
Now, I understand Steverson's logic here. Wins and losses don't mean a thing in the minor leagues. And at the same time, it's not as if Steverson just threw in the towel once a runner got on base. In the 17th, Whitaker balked twice, moving the runner up to third base….he then got the final two outs of the inning. And in the 18th, Whitaker balked the runner from second to third before allowing a walk-off single.
I think California League president Charlie Blaney is being a little silly here. Banning Steverson for a year does nothing but hurt the players of Stockton who he could help with their hitting. It's not as if Steverson is in charge of managing the team on a day to day basis. This was an isolated incident, and looks like a massive overreaction.
[h/t: Modesto Bee]