Hidden Ball Trick. Fair or Foul?

I’ve read or heard lots of opinions on the old baseball hidden ball trick. It seems you either think it is ok or you think it is bush league. Wait, what does bush league mean you might be asking. Well, it is just a baseball term that refers to things like the hidden ball trick that “has no place in the game” (to paraphrase). This FAM writer falls on the side of being ok. Let me tell you why and also talk about what brought it up.

In the video below we have Brewers prospect Lucas Erceg pulling off the play and getting the out on Astros prospect Kyle Tucker. Lucas pulls off the long con which is even more impressive. He stuck to his guns and in the end he was rewarded.

To set the stage a bit the Carolina Mudcats were up 2-0 in the top of the 7th over the Buies Creek Astros. The Astros had runners on first and second with one out.  The Astros just pulled off a perfect double steal to move both runners into scoring position. After Lucas Erceg receives the throw and attempts the tag he casually pretends to toss the ball back to the Mudcats pitcher. Now, it’s actually illegal for the pitcher to toe the rubber without the ball. That would have drawn a balk scoring one run and moving the other over to third but let’s move on. I only mention it to let you know that the pitcher has to sort of “be in on it” as well. He will need to move closer to the rubber because as a base runner, you are taught to never take your lead until the pitcher does indeed place cleat to rubber. You know, to avoid things like this. The Mudcats pitcher plays his part to perfection and Kyle Tucker starts to take his lead all the while Erceg is meandering around casually as if he’s thinking about what he will have for dinner later that night. Once Tucker makes his move, Erceg makes an even better move and gets the out.

 

That brings me back to my original question, is that fair or foul? In my humble opinion, all is fair in love and baseball. Several things I’d like to point out. The third base coach dropped the ball (some pun intended). He was looking right at the third baseman when he faked the throw back to the pitcher. It is his job to help the runners watch the entire field. The runner should have known better as well. You are taught from little league to always know where the baseball is at all times. Sure the Mudcats deceived the Astros and got the out but last time I checked, deception is not against the rules. It’s your job not to get fooled. If you believe this is bush league I am thinking you will always think this is bush league and we are going to agree to disagree but I just want to point out just how wrong you really are!

Oh, and the Astros manager ended up getting ejected after the play. He argued the pitcher did indeed toe the rubber so obviously if he broke the rule to get the out and the umpires missed the call then all of this is a different story. A discussion on how umpires are incompetent is meant for another day!

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