Alex Sanabia Might Be In Trouble For Spitballing

Let me preface all of this by saying that it’s always possible that a quick video replay could be missing necessary context and misrepresenting what actually happened. There is some uncertainty when viewing events from afar, especially in a narrow timespan. It is possible that what you’re about to see isn’t what it looks like.

But, uhh, it sure looks like Alex Sanabia was caught on video spitting all over the baseball after allowing a home run to Domonic Brown tonight. As pointed out by one of our commenters, you can see the video here, and pay attention at around the 13 second mark.

Or, if you’d rather, just watch this helpful GIF, care of Jeff Sullivan.


If you’re curious, here’s the relevant portion of the MLB official rules:

8.02    The pitcher shall not—

(a)          (1)  While in the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher’s plate, touch the ball after touching his mouth or lips, or touch his mouth or lips while he is in contact with the pitcher’s plate. The pitcher must clearly wipe the fingers of his pitch- ing hand dry before touching the ball or the pitcher’s plate. EXCEPTION: Provided it is agreed to by both managers, the umpire prior to the start of a game played in cold weather, may permit the pitcher to blow on his hand.

PENALTY: For violation of this part of this rule the umpires shall immedi- ately remove the ball from play and issue a warning to the pitcher. Any sub- sequent violation shall be called a ball. However, if the pitch is made and a batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a hit batsman or otherwise, and no other runner is put out before advancing at least one base, the play shall pro- ceed without reference to the violation. Repeat offenders shall be subject to a fine by the League President.

(2)     expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove;

(3)     rub the ball on his glove, person or clothing;

(4)     apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball;

(5)     deface the ball in any manner; or

(6)     deliver a ball altered in a manner prescribed by Rule 8.02(a)(2) through (5) or what is called the “shine” ball, “spit” ball, “mud” ball or “emery” ball. The pitcher is allowed to rub the ball between his bare hands.

PENALTY:   For violation of any part of Rules 8.02 (a)(2) through (6):

(a)      The pitcher shall be ejected immediately from the game and shall be sus- pended automatically. In National Association Leagues, the automatic suspension shall be for 10 games.

(b)     If a play follows the violation called by the umpire, the manager of the team at bat may advise the umpire-in-chief that he elects to accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and no other runner is put out before advancing at least one base, the play shall proceed without reference to the violation.

(c)      Even though the team at bat elects to take the play, the violation shall be recognized and the penalties in subsection (a) will still be in effect.

(d)     If the manager of the team at bat does not elect to accept the play, the umpire-in-chief shall call an automatic ball and, if there are any runners on base, a balk.

(e)      The umpire shall be sole judge on whether any portion of this rule has been violated.

Rules 8.02(a)(2) through 8.02(a)(6) Comment: If a pitcher violates either Rule 8.02(a)(2) or Rule 8.02(a)(3) and, in the judgment of the umpire, the pitcher did not intend, by his act, to alter the characteristics of a pitched ball, then the umpire may, in his discretion, warn the pitcher in lieu of applying the penalty set forth for violations of Rules 8.02(a)(2) through 8.02(a)(6). If the pitcher per- sists in violating either of those Rules, however, the umpire should then apply the penalty.

Rule 8.02(a) Comment: If at any time the ball hits the rosin bag it is in play. In the case of rain or wet field, the umpire may instruct the pitcher to carry the rosin bag in his hip pocket. A pitcher may use the rosin bag for the purpose of applying rosin to his bare hand or hands. Neither the pitcher nor any other player shall dust the ball with the rosin bag; neither shall the pitcher nor any other player be permitted to apply rosin from the bag to his glove or dust any part of his uniform with the rosin bag.

(b)         Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance. For such infraction of this section (b) the penalty shall be immediate ejection from the game. In addi- tion, the pitcher shall be suspended automatically. In National Association Leagues, the automatic suspension shall be for 10 games.

(c)          Intentionally delay the game by throwing the ball to players other than the catcher, when the batter is in position, except in an attempt to retire a runner.

PENALTY:   If, after warning by the umpire, such delaying action is repeated, the pitcher shall be removed from the game.

(d)         Intentionally Pitch at the Batter.

If, in the umpire’s judgment, such a violation occurs, the umpire may elect either to:

  1. Expel the pitcher, or the manager and the pitcher, from the game, or
  2. may warn the pitcher and the manager of both teams that another such pitch will result in the immediate expulsion of that pitcher (or a replacement) and the manager

If, in the umpire’s judgment, circumstances warrant, both teams may be officially “warned” prior to the game or at any time during the game.

(League Presidents may take additional action under authority provided in Rule 9.05)

Rule 8.02(d) Comment: Team personnel may not come onto the playing surface to argue or dispute a warning issued under Rule 8.02(d). If a manager, coach or player leaves the dugout or his position to dispute a warning, he should be warned to stop. If he continues, he is subject to ejection.

To pitch at a batter’s head is unsportsmanlike and highly dangerous. It should be—and is— condemned by everybody. Umpires should act without hesitation in enforcement of this rule.

And, because no one uses the word “expectorate” anymore, here’s the dictionary definition: To cough or spit out phlegm from the throat or lungs.

It sure looks like Alex Sanabia “expectorated” all over that baseball, doesn’t it? I don’t know how else you would possibly describe that action.

It’s worth noting that the Marlins won this game, and that Brown’s home run was the only run Sanabia allowed all night. Sanabia has been a replacement level pitcher this year, but tonight, he shut down the Phillies. I would think this is probably not the last you’ve heard of this story.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Harold Reynolds
10 years ago

just part of the game.

Don't Call My Namemember
10 years ago

He had The Will To Win tonight.

10 years ago

The Will to Phlegm.

Ok, that’s awful.