A game, fair or unfair, is never accomplished without any rules. Rules are what make a game even more exciting, on the field, as well as for viewing purposes. Now, talking about rules, if you balk the rules, it is no good. Interestingly, in baseball, there is a rule referred to as balk. Baseball fans who follow the game closely would be having a fair idea as to what it is. But for those who do not know, or for those kids who have just started playing baseball, here goes.
What is a Balk?
Simply put, a balk refers to an unacceptable action in a baseball game, mostly in connection with pitching. In other words, you can also call it a foul. A balk calls for a penalization in the game. Interestingly, it had got a mention going way back in Alexander Cartwright's Knicker Bocker Rules in the year 1845. However, it was not defined as to what exactly it was. The definition came later.
One of the definitions given in 1884, in 'Playing Rules of the American Association of Baseball Clubs' is, A motion made by the pitcher to deliver the ball to the bat without delivering it, except the ball be accidentally dropped, or the ball being held by the pitcher as long as to delay the game unnecessarily, or any motion to deliver the ball, or the delivering of the ball to the bat by the pitcher when any part of his person is upon ground outside the lines of his position. When after being once warned by the umpire, the pitcher continues to deliver the ball with his hand passing above his shoulder. Now, this seems too unwieldy, even though the explanation is fairly simple, right? No problem, we have a strike here! Coming up is bit more detail on the balk in baseball, and the actions considered as balk.
Actions Considered a Balk
Most of the time, the poor pitcher is at the helm of affairs when it comes to a balk. It revolves around the pitching positions and a specific set of movements for the pitcher.
- If the pitcher changes his pitching position from the windup to the set, or the other way round, without disengaging the rubber in the correct manner.
- On the rubber, when the pitcher makes a motion as if he is going to pitch, and does not get on and finish the delivery.
- From the stretch to the set position, the pitcher's failure to make a complete stop with the hands together, prior to initiating the pitch
- A throw from the mound to a base without stepping toward and covering distance in the direction of that base by a pitcher.
- When a pitcher steps or feints, or does a deceptive movement from the mound to first base, sans finishing the throw.
- In case the pitcher delivers with the intention of catching the batter off-guard or defenseless.
- Mimicking a part of the pitching motion while not in contact with the rubber by the pitcher.
- An unnecessary delay of the game by the pitcher.
- Pitches by the pitcher facing away from the batter.
- A throw by the pitcher when the first baseman is not able to make a play on the runner there because of the distance from the base.
This is what is primarily included in the term balk in baseball. The whole objective of this rule is to prevent the pitcher from deceiving or confusing the batter. Of course, there are other ways to do it, but they are within the legalities of the game. Balk, however, is accountable to penalty. A common misconception though, is that a pitcher has to step off the rubber prior to doing a pick-off. The actual deal is that a pitcher can pitch, throw to a base which is not occupied, and eventually step off while he is still in contact with the rubber.