View Full Version : A's hitting instructor banned from California league for balks

07-03-2012, 06:18 PM
Yup, you don't see this everyday.

A bizarre storyline in Stockton on June 23 has left A's roving hitting instructor Todd Steverson with a year-long suspension from the California League.
Steverson was banned from the Class A Advanced Stockton Ports' dugout for a year after he admitted to ordering his pitcher to intentionally balk runners into scoring position in an effort to lose a lengthy extra-inning game against Modesto last month.

Steverson, who was filling in for vacationing Stockton skipper Webster Garrison, said he didn't want to risk injuring his players in a game that lasted more than five hours and led to position players taking the mound for both teams. The Cal League questioned Steverson's decision and the resulting impact it would have on the circuit's integrity.

On Monday, league president Charlie Blaney announced Steverson had been fined an undisclosed amount and banned from the Ports' dugout for a year.

"While Stockton interim manager Todd Steverson's intent was to protect his players from injury in the 17th and 18th innings of the Stockton vs. Modesto game on June 23, 2012, he made an error in judgment by instructing his pitcher to advance three base runners via intentional balk for the purpose of expediting the end of the game," Blaney said in a statement.

"The game ended properly with a base hit to score the winning run, but Mr. Steverson's decision to advance the opposing team's base runners into scoring position compromised the integrity of the game, which is paramount in this great game of ours.

"Therefore, Mr. Steverson has both been fined and is banned for one year from being in the dugout during any Cal League game effective June 24, 2012. The Oakland A's organization and Mr. Steverson have been very cooperative, apologetic and accepting of this decision."

The game, a 7-6 win by Modesto in 18 innings, was a marathon contest and forced both managers to send positions players to the mound after using up their bullpens. Stockton third baseman Tony Thompson pitched a pair of hitless innings before outfielder Josh Whitaker took the mound in the 17th frame. That inning, Whitaker issued a one-out walk to Modesto's Kyle Parker and then, under Steverson's orders, intentionally balked twice to send the 2010 first-round pick to third base. The Nuts failed to convert when Jared Clark, a first baseman who himself pitched the final three innings for Modesto, struck out and Jayson Langfels popped up to end the inning.

Stockton went down in order in the 18th, and after Dustin Garneau hit a leadoff single for Modesto in the bottom of the inning, Whitaker balked for a third time, moving Garneau into scoring position for Helder Velazquez, who connected on a walk-off single to right with the infield and outfield pulled in. The game lasted five hours and five minutes, 18 innings and featured 30 strikeouts and 22 walks.

Steverson defended his decision earlier this week, arguing that the development of his players and their health is more important than the outcome of a June game.

"We had a position player out there and I didn't want to put another position player on the mound and get him hurt," Steverson told the Modesto Bee. "I didn't get any of my pitchers hurt and I didn't get any position players hurt. So a game on June 23, 2012, well, these guys will be playing many more games more important than that."

The situation has presented an interesting debate among fans and media members -- is the well-being and development of prospects more important than winning and losing a mid-summer game in a Minor League? The game had been a sellout, with 4,781 fans marking the second-largest crowd of the season for Modesto, but only about 800 remained by the final inning.

Steverson is an accomplished manager and coach, leading the Triple-A Sacramento RiverCats to the Pacific Coast League championship in 2008 after reaching the playoffs three times with Vancouver and Stockton from 2004-06. He served as Oakland's first base coach from 2009-10 and returned to Sacramento last season before moving over to a roving instructor roll this year. He began his coaching career as a hitting coach in 1999.

07-03-2012, 06:25 PM
I've often thought that sometimes its better to give up an extra-innings game before it stretches out. Short term pain vs. long term gain.

07-03-2012, 06:25 PM
I am with him. At that point, I have no issue with it.

I know minor league fans won't like it, because they want their team to win. But the team isn't there to win (they don't want to lose, but wins and losses are secondary to development).

George Anderson
07-03-2012, 06:32 PM
I think Steversons intentions were good but he was stupid to admit what he did. Had he kept his mouth shut no one would have known what he did. Having said that the league was right to suspend if not for his stupidity of admitting it but for the integrity of the game.

07-03-2012, 07:33 PM
The league was right. I never want to see pro's throw a game.

07-03-2012, 08:07 PM
If you are charging fans real money you owe them a real game.

07-03-2012, 08:22 PM
In the grand scheme of things, how is this much different than an intentional walk with runners on 1st and 2nd? Or conceding a run? His judgement was in the right place, execution was sort of odd.

07-03-2012, 10:17 PM
In the grand scheme of things, how is this much different than an intentional walk with runners on 1st and 2nd? Or conceding a run? His judgement was in the right place, execution was sort of odd.

It is different because he was trying to lose the game on purpose.

07-03-2012, 11:37 PM
Maybe there should be a point where they suspend minor league games until a later date, same as they do when it's caused by weather, so they don't have to put them in that situation?

07-04-2012, 01:54 AM
I'd hire him as soon as his suspension was up. He made a stand for his players and he took the rap He didn't lie. He stood up. That is so rare these days. Say what you want, agree or disagree about his decision (I agree with his principle but disagree with how he decided to implement it having his pitcher intentionally balk) but admitting what he did and standing before the league and giving full account. Well - look at our society. This is a man of integrity. I don't call that stupid or say he should have kept it quiet. I applaud him. Maybe what he did was a mistake. What he did afterwards was a mark of his integrity. I want him in my organization.

George Anderson
07-04-2012, 02:35 AM
but admitting what he did and standing before the league and giving full account..

Steverson did not stand before the league and give a full account of what he did as you so claim. He admitted what he did to a reporter and the league took action. Let's not try to make him out to be a beacon of honor and virtue when it very much appears he simply got caught doing something pretty stupid and then foolishly admitted it to a reporter.


07-04-2012, 03:23 AM
He admitted it to a reporter, yes, because he did not lie about it, and when the League took action he was called about the incident by the league President and as the President said Steverson cooperated fully and explained what he did and why he did it. He did not try to weasel out or lie. I do hold him up as a beacon of virtue. He acted through the entire matter in an honorable way at no point seeking to hide or cloak his actions. I also don't think it was "something stupid". The rule to keep an 18 inning game going in the minors when kids risk their pro careers pitching when they are position players is "something stupid".

"Mr. Steverson have been very cooperative, apologetic and accepting of this decision." Charlie Blaney. League President. Statement made to the press. Could not have been cooperative or apologetic if he didn't talk to the league officers could he? And as your own article points out neither side really handled this very well.

07-04-2012, 08:41 AM
You should probably never purposefully throw a game.

That said, the California league could loosen up a bit when it comes to promotions. Lets get a little creative people.

07-04-2012, 11:12 AM
The punishment is excessive considering he was honest about it and his intentions were good.

07-04-2012, 11:29 AM
I think it's something the league had to do. You never want to condone throwing a game. Yet it brings to mind the things that get done because every game is not the seventh game of the World Series: Sunday Special lineups, a schlub of a long reliever taking one for the team, etc. That's especially true in the minors, where your first priority is to develop players for the majors, not to win pennants.

I wonder what the reaction was to the first-ever intentional walk?