MLB says cheat sheets aren't foreign substances after Joe West debacle

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

This may come as a shock to diehard Major League Baseball umpire aficionados, but it appears Joe West was wrong about what constitutes a foreign substance on the mound.

OK, so it’s not a shock.

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When West confiscated a cheat sheet card from Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Austin Davis on Saturday, the umpire claimed that “his hands were tied” because of a rule that’s meant to ban pitchers from having any gels, salves or the like while in the field.

Umpire Joe West confiscates Phillies pitcher Austin Davis’ cheat sheet on the mound. (AP Photo)
Umpire Joe West confiscates Phillies pitcher Austin Davis’ cheat sheet on the mound. (AP Photo)

Except his hands weren’t tied. The cards are legal. And MLB confirmed as much with a note sent to all teams today announcing that they could continue to let their pitchers and fielders carry the note cards onto the diamond:

Pitchers taking out cheat sheets is nothing new. It’s not like the cards can make anyone throw harder, anyways. Instead, it helps keep quick scouting reports on hand so pitchers know how to attack certain batters.

It’s the kind of thing you’d never notice, and hardly question, since baseball has long been giving players tips on the field. Except using signs and signals has rarely caused a stir.

Joe West, however, was having none of that. In his mind, confiscating the card from Davis was the umpire being lenient.

“I know all the players now carry a cheat sheet like this,” West told the media after the Phillies 7-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. “Until the office tells me, I can’t let the pitcher do it. I can’t let him do it. I saw him take it out and I went, ‘What the heck is that?’ I said, ‘You can have it back after the game, but you can’t have it now.’ I didn’t want to throw him out. I know it’s foreign, but he’s not trying to cheat.”

Well, the office appears to have spoken. West can rest assured that these small note cards aren’t meant to help players cheat. They’re meant to help make the game more competitive by making sure players are challenging each other.

If West wants to hang on to the confiscated card, though, it might help him officiate the game better. Now that he knows where to expect pitches, calling balls and strikes should get a lot easier.

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Blake Schuster is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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