How Ubaldo’s suspension turned into a joke

Ubaldo Jimenez was reportedly hit with a fine — amount undisclosed — in addition to his five-game suspension for throwing at Troy Tulowitzki in the final week of spring training. The fine, it turns out, will be his only punishment.

The five-game suspension will have no effect on Jimenez or the Indians.

Had the suspension taken effect at the start of the regular season, as intended, Jimenez would have missed the Indians’ first five games, costing him a start. But players can suspend a suspension by filing an appeal, and Jimenez did just that, never intending to follow through with the appeal.

Still, the maneuver served its purpose. It allowed him to take his regular turn, second in the Indians’ rotation, on Saturday, when he pitched 5 2/3 innings of perfect baseball against Toronto, lost his no-hitter, shutout and lead on one pitch in the seventh and exited without a decision. The Indians ultimately lost in 12 innings.

He dropped his appeal immediately after the game, meaning he will begin serving his suspension on Sunday, when the Tribe’s No. 3 starter, Derek Lowe, pitches. Because the Indians have an off-day Thursday, Lowe will be able to pitch out of order on his regular rest Friday, and Jimenez will be eligible to pitch Saturday, having sat out the required five games.

So the Cleveland rotation for the first ten games of the season: Justin Masterson, Jimenez, Lowe, Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, Masterson, Lowe, Jimenez, Tomlin, Gomez.

Ubaldo never misses a start; he just switches places in the rotation with Lowe. That meaningless flip-flop is the suspension’s sole effect.

Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd declined comment Saturday, saying the club was moving on.

By suspending Jimenez, the league office made it clear it believed he hit Tulowitzki intentionally in a Cactus League game last Sunday after the Rockies shortstop made comments critical of his former teammate earlier in the spring. And yet, other than whatever weight comes out of his wallet, neither he nor the Indians will be penalized for it.

Ubaldo’s manipulation of baseball’s disciplinary process makes the league office look stupid, and not for the first time during the Bud Selig regime.

Baseball has at least two ways to fix its process:

1. Adjudicate appeals immediately — say, within 24 or 48 hours — by use of video conferencing. Had this been done in Ubaldo’s case, his appeal would have been heard and presumably denied before the season began, meaning his suspension would have been served during the season’s first five games, as intended.

2. If the intent is to suspend a starting pitcher for one start, make the suspension eight games instead of five. That way, whenever it’s served, the pitcher’s team has to skip him in the rotation one time.

Ubaldo manipulated the system because the system let him. If the league office is paying attention, it should make sure it doesn’t happen again.

About Dave Krieger

Dave Krieger is a recidivist newspaperman. View all posts by Dave Krieger

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