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Rays Pitcher Forced to Remove Silicone Wedding Band

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Bizarre scene in the second inning of yesterday’s Rays/Pirates game, as umps threatened Tampa pitcher Zach Eflin with ejection unless he removed his wedding band from his glove hand. The thing is, it wasn’t a metal ring — it was one of those silicone rings that have become popular with athletes over the past decade. You could actually see it stretching as Eflin removed it:

Eflin put the ring in his back pants pocket. This ESPN article mentions that he later put it on his necklace, but I couldn’t find a photo or camera angle showing that. (Anyone..?) After the game, Eflin explained what happened, and also provided some background context (transcript after the embed):

“This was the first crew that was really giving me trouble about taking the ring off. I’ve told every umpire that’s asked me to take it off, I’ve said, ‘Hey, I respect what you guys do, but I’m gonna keep it on. It’s very important to me.’ Most umpires are cool with it, and they’ll kind of let MLB take care of it if they need to. But this umpire crew was a little different. They seemed a little on edge, but it’s part of it. I said, ‘If you’re gonna eject me out of the game, then I’ll take it off.’ And that’s what they ended up coming out and telling me on the mound, was that they were gonna toss me out of the game if I didn’t take off my rubber ring. So I took it off.”

I have to say, this all sounds completely ridiculous. Is a pitcher really going to scuff or doctor the ball with a silicone ring? Whatever rule is being enforced here, it needs to be updated to allow for this type of wedding band.

As it happens, I wrote a fun ESPN piece back in 2011 about athletes wearing their wedding bands on the field/court/ice. You can check that out here.

(My thanks to our own Anthony Emerson for bringing this one to my attention.)



Substack Reminder

In case you missed it yesterday: For this week’s Premium article on Substack, I interviewed Maria Villotti, whose pandemic project was to create an embroidery sampler of all 32 NHL team logos. It’s a fantastic piece of work, and I really enjoyed discussing it with her.

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paying subscriber to my Substack (which will also give you access to my full Substack/Bulletin archives). Thanks!



Raffle Reminder

Purple Amnesty Day is now just 11 days away (you can see the rundown of this year’s festivities here), and reader Ron Ruelle has upped the ante by generously donating funds for a purple-inclusive Uni Watch membership card.  The lucky winner will be able to order their card only on May 16, and the card must include purple.

This is the second and final day to enter this raffle. No entry restrictions. To enter, send an email to the raffle in-box by 8pm Eastern today. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner on Monday. Big thanks to Ron for sponsoring this one!



Cans of the Day

I came across these two the other day and was struck by their similarities: same color schemes, both for lubricants, both with two-character 3D-lettered logos. Also, I love how No. 13’s slogan is “Unlucky for Rust.”



What Paul Did Last Night

The Scene Is Now (top photo) and Antietam (lower photo) both released their first albums in 1985 — nearly 40 years ago! I’ve seen both of them innumerable times since then, but I don’t think I’d ever seen them on the same bill until last night at Union Pool. Bumped into lots of friends, which is how a rock club is supposed to work (it’s called a “club,” after all). A swell night out.

Comments (27)

    The (almost) exact situation also happened last year. link

    According to rule 6.02(c)(7) in the MLB rulebook, a pitcher “may not attach anything to either hand, any finger or either wrist.” Umpires determine if it should be considered a foreign substance, “but in no case may the pitcher be allowed to pitch with such attachment to his hand, finger or wrist.”

    That rule has been on the books for a while, but it wasn’t until recently that blue began cracking down.

    The rule may seem silly (and it might be time to reexamine it), it is on the books. Until it’s not, blue were just doing their jobs.

    That’s all well and good, but so many of these rules are enforced differently by different crews. Since so many umpires recognize that a silicone ring isn’t a competitive advantage and let slide, this umpire enforcing the rule to the letter seems a bit like a power trip. It reminds me of a small town cop who pulls someone over for going 48 in a 45.

    I don’t disagree that selective enforcement is sub-optimal, but the rule is (and has been) on the books. Unless or until the rule is changed or amended, I can’t fault the umps for enforcing the rule(s) as written. Selective enforcement recently cost Mad Max Scherzer 10 games, and while I disagree with the call (10 game suspension), it’s incumbent on Scherzer not to flout the rules.

    To use a similar analogy: I’ve never been pulled over for doing 75 mph in a 55 mph zone, even after passing a cop with radar. But do I have the right to complain about it if I suddently get pulled over despite having never been done so before? That’s selective enforcement. The answer is NOT in demanding cops suddenly start enforcing the rules (they should ALWAYS do this), but in raising the speed limit to a more reasonable number. Until this rule is changed, the umps should enforce it at all times.

    Can’t wait until an ump enforces the MLB rule against fraternization (rule. 4.06), which among other things states that “Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform.”

    Hey, it’s on the books!

    I’m sure we can find lots of *silly* rules still on the books. But the answer isn’t to selectively enforce them…it’s to change them.

    There was once a time when I would have agreed with this “no fraternizing” rule…probably pre-Curt Flood. Just like there was a time when I agreed with many of the unwritten rules (like, if you celebrate hitting a homer off me, next time you’re up you’ll get one in your earhole). I think we can all agree that’s probably not going to end well. Manfred and Selig have done their best to take the fun out of the game…and (to my surprise and actual delight) the game is becoming somewhat fun again. I loved watching (for example) the WBC and the pride many of the Caribbean nations took in representing their nation. Despite my closer being a celebration-casualty, I loved how team PR all dyed their hair blond and celebrated after taking down powerhouse DR.

    Let’s go through the rulebook and get rid of all the BS rules that no longer apply and start enforcing ALL the rules that make sense. Fraternization should be the first to go…

    I think you’re right that the only real solution here is for MLB to just fix this rule. But in the meantime, I can’t blame Eflin for being a bit miffed about this: other umpires have seen the ring, they’ve talked about it, and have concluded that it’s not a means for him to doctor the baseball. It’s fair for Eflin to assume these umpires will conclude the same thing.

    I think you’re right that the only real solution here is for MLB to just fix this rule. But in the meantime, I can’t blame Eflin for being a bit miffed about this: other umpires have seen the ring, they’ve talked about it, and have concluded that it’s not a means for him to doctor the baseball. It’s fair for Eflin to assume these umpires will conclude the same thing.

    “Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform.”

    What’s the potential penalty for this, both teams get disqualified and get an L (and the game scored as 0-0)?

    My first reaction was to clown the umps for this, but after reading Phil’s comment, I agree completely with him. The rule is on the books. If you don’t like the rule, get it changed. But until it is, you live with it.

    I don’t think it will be changed, however. First, there’s no reason to change it. Second, if they did, pitchers would start doing all kinds of things with rings and such and it would be a mess.

    It is not an onerous rule, ant it is not difficult to comply with. So be an adult about it and leave the rings in your locker.

    As much as I use (and abuse!) the phrase in my own life, there really is no such thing as “the rules as written.” Words only have meaning in the context of how they are used – in the context of the sentence in which they’re used, and the other nearby sentences, and of the text in which they appear as a whole, and of the external social/political/functional contexts in which the text is created.

    As an extreme example, the rules of MLB do not specifically say that an outfielder may not bring a sniper rifle onto the field and shoot baserunners dead to prevent them from advancing to the next base. Rule 8.04 specifically mentions assault of an umpire as an offense against the rules, but the rulebook is silent on assaulting opposing players with deadly force. So if we apply the implicit model of “the rules as written” being argued here, then it’s perfectly legal for Bryce Harper to bring a 7.62 rifle out to right field and use it to gun down any runner trying to reach second base.

    Which is obviously absurd. But why? The “rules as written” do not actually say Bryce can’t do that. But they don’t have to, because everywhere MLB is played, the criminal law already bans that sort of deadly assault with a firearm. Murder, as The Clash teaches us, is a crime. Shooting people with a sniper rifle doesn’t just violate criminal law, it violates nearly universal cultural standards and expectations, such that if weever saw a set of sports rules that had an overt “no murder with sniper rifles” rule, most of us would laugh at it.

    And another broadly shared cultural practice and expectation in North America is that married adults wear a wedding ring, usually on their left third fingers, and they wear it all the time when in public. In light of that nigh-universal custom and expectation, any rule on hand ornamentation that doesn’t specify that it applies to wedding rings will be assumed by most reasonable people not to apply to wedding rings. In order for most people to read a rule on the subject as applying to wedding rings, the rule must specify that it applies to wedding rings.

    Another sports related example to clarify the question of rules interpretation and context. Many North American jurisdictions maintain broad bans on gambling outside of state-run lotteries and permitted casinos. Even if we host a neighborhood poker game in the basement, we understand that this is gambling and thus technically illegal. But any wager, particularly a wager with something of material value at stake, is gambling. So in a “rules as written” sense, staking anything on the flip of a coin is a wager, and thus gambling, and thus obviously a crime. But you’ll be hard pressed to find any reasonable person who looks at the coin toss before a championship football or cricket or curling game, where the winner gains a meaningful advantage worth real actual cash money, and says, “That right there is a wager, and so it’s gambling, and so the District Attorney should step in and charge these miscreants with felonies.” Coin flipping is just a universally accepted part of our culture, to the point that the same government that outlaws gambling uses a coin flip to settle tied elections. So unless the local anti-gambling statute specifically says that it applies to coin flips, few if any reasonable people will read the anti-gambling rule as applying to coin flips. Even when, as is usually the case, a context-free, literal reading of the “rules as written” plainly and obviously apply to coin flips. Because there are no “rules as written.” Intent and context always matter to any ruleset.

    The umpires are plainly in the wrong here. MLB should update the wording, or interpretive notes, of the rules. But not because the rules as they are now are vague or ambiguous, but because some umpires are behaving in a clearly unreasonable manner.

    You know I love you Scotty, but the umpires are not wrong. Period. Full stop.

    Regardless of the custom of wearing a wedding band, and no matter how foolish the rule as it applies to said device, it is still clearly in violation of the rules. That doesn’t make the rule right — and I 100% think it needs to be eliminated or rewritten to clearly exempt (or include) wedding bands — but blue are merely enforcing a rule that’s on the books. As I learned in civics class (or maybe it was on Schoolhouse Rock), there are three branches at play: Legislative (thems that makes the rules), Executive (thems that enforce the rules) and Judicial (thems that decide guilt or innocence based on the rules). The umps fall into the Executive category…they’re enforcing the rules as written (not as interpreted, but as written). Could the umps “let it slide” (much the same way highway patrol permit speeding)? Sure, but just because they do, it doesn’t mean a speeder isn’t still in violation of the law. The least effective rules are those that are selectively enforced. This one needs changing, but the umps are enforcing a rule. They may look like dicks but they’re not wrong. Just because there had been “complaints” about the umpiring, doesn’t mean they were out of line here.

    To use another analogy: if I am speeding (say, 75 in a 55) and pulled over, a cop may let me off with a warning…which is essentially what the pitcher got. He was told to remove the ring or face ejection. He may decide to give me a ticket (and he’d be within his right). He’d also be within his right to bust me for a broken tail light and for my having a lapsed inspection. That’s selective enforcement. But that doesn’t make me any less in violation of the law. He would not be within his right to search my trunk for drugs unless I give him probable cause. Maybe the umps *had* had a bad series and were looking for an excuse to warn/eject the pitcher. That’s pretty much the same thing as a cop pulling me over for speeding, ticketing me for that AND then finding other violations along the way. A dick move, to be sure, but within his rights to do so, and my fault for speeding in the first place.

    The umps have enough to worry about without having to police wedding bands. Change the rule so they don’t have to. But don’t leave the rule on the books so they’re actually negligent in NOT enforcing said rule. Maybe they could have “looked the other way” but they’re not wrong to enforce the rule as written.

    Raffle should be updated to say by 8pm Eastern today instead of tomorrow.

    Paul and Phil, I point you to the device linked below
    This is a more advanced band, however there are more and more silicone rings, and cheaper rings with similar functionality being created and brought to market. What is to stop a pitcher from receiving different vibration patterns to the ring from the dugout? Now, I am not suggesting this is what was happening, it all seems innocuous enough, but, how often will ump’s need to check once someone does cheat this way?

    The Oura ring is metal, not silicone. This would fall under the same standard as all other metallic rings.

    There are more and more silicone smart rings becoming available, legit the 2nd part of what I had said

    Love the drop shadow on No. 13 can.
    A lot of complaints about the ump crew in Tampa for that series, so not surprised they stepped out of line with others regarding the ring.

    FWIW, there’s additional backstory on the ring. There was a lot of chippiness between the Pirates and the umpiring crew throughout the 3 game series, including some ejections for arguing. The crew may have felt that they needed to be extra by-the-book for the last game. This was covered well by the following post and especially the video in the page:


    Enough about rings! Paul, did anyone from either band play that ginormous saxophone in front of the stage?

    That umpiring crew had a ROUGH series. Strike zone was wildly inconsistent, botches of the pitch clock, etc.

    If the umps want to enforce a rule on the books, how about calling a proper (letters to knees, as wide as the black of the plate but no further) and a consistent strike zone?
    Then they can worry about other stuff.

    Totally understandable that this rule is in the books and that they were just enforcing it. I still remember that one pitcher not too long ago who got a cut on his finger on his pitching hand like the day before he was scheduled to start and was just bleeding all over the ball because he couldnt put bandage or anything on it. Eventually they took him because it was getting too gross and ridiculous how much he was bleeding on the ball. I wonder if the blood affecting the movement of the ball at all?

    Change the rule in an even more absurd way: you are only allowed to wear a wedding ring of any material if you have had as many marriages as MLB teams that you have played for. Otherwise you will have to take it off.

    The wedding ring kerfuffle reminds me of the Rockies-Expos game on 5/17/03, when Expos pitcher Zach Day suffered a nasty cut on his hand, and the trainer used superglue to close it. Unfortunately for Day, it started coming loose during an inning while he was pitching, and he was ejected. Plate ump Bill Miller was sympathetic, saying that he knew Day wasn’t trying to cheat, but that rule is there, and it’s clear that the pitcher can’t have anything on his hand. It was one of the most low-key ejections I ever saw. Frank Robinson was the manager, and he got tossed too. Robinson said after the game that he understood the reasoning, and had nothing against the umpiring crew, but he wanted to fire up the team, so he let loose with a pretty good tirade to get ejected.

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