Coaches ejecting themselves

There is some NSFW or NSFC (Children) language in this clip.

The old adage is that umpires don’t eject managers, managers eject themselves. The statement is meant to convey that a manager is the one doing the acting out so the umpire is just ruling on it. Some folks think umpires are head hunters (some probably are) but for the most part, ejections are a pain in the behind.

This clip though takes the adage quite literally. Lip reading you can see Matt Williams say to the umpire “you are going to have to throw me out of this game”. His wish was granted.

I get it. Part of a manager’s job at that level is to stick up for his guys. Williams knew he was going to be run before getting to the umpire. Given mandatory suspensions at the amateur level, this type of line will be used less if any.

Side note on this clip – while the pitches looked up and the Nationals were furious. The K-zone for both showed them as strikes. Good calls.

Watch the bouncing ball

Here is an example of an interesting play with some bad luck mixed in for good measure.

The umpire did a fantastic job of seeing the ball hit the runner and calling him out. I could hardly see the ball hit the foot in slow motion. He got it in real time. Those guys are really, really good.

As far as the rule goes, the reason a runner is out when getting struck by the ball is technically he is interfering with a fielder. Interfere and you are out.

There are some exceptions to the rule. If a ball deflects off a fielder and then hits a runner, the runner is only out if he intentionally contacts the ball.

If the ball passes directly through or by a fielder (as in within a step), hits a runner, and no one else had a chance to field it, the runner is not out. The logic is the runner cannot interfere if the ball has already passed by or through a fielder.

The rule is a little different in high school. If the ball hits a runner behind any fielder (even it did not pass him within a step), the runner is not out unless another fielder had a chance to get an out. In other words, if the infield is playing in and a ball hits a runner, that runner would not be out.

In all instances and codes, the ball is immediately dead and the batter is given first base and awarded a single. In fact, a famous trivia question of how does a team get 6 hits in an inning and not score hinges on the last out being of this type.

It does not happen often. I cannot remember calling this in my time as an umpire. But, I will be prepared to rule when it does.

A ball hitting a runner is covered on page 54 of RuleGraphics.

Hands are part of what?

Without a doubt the most prevalent rule myth I hear is “hands are a part of the bat”. The argument is that if a batter is hit by a pitch on his hands, he does not get first base because the ball did not hit him, it hit his bat. Why did it hit his bat? Because the hands are part of the bat.

I have no idea why this myth exists. It is 100% false.

Rule 6.08(d) states a batter becomes a runner when he is touched by a pitched ball he is not trying to hit.

Further the definitions section defines TOUCH as

To touch a player or umpire is to touch any part of his body, his clothing
or his equipment.

It clearly says any part of his body. Last time I checked my hands were part of my body.

Now, for the stubborn out there that cannot be swayed by language, let’s sway them by looking at what happens in a game situation when the pitch hits a hand.

Our guide on this journey is Jeff Bagwell. Known for his odd batting stance and Hall of Fame numbers, Bagwell along with Craig Biggio terrorized National League pitching for the Astros in the ’90s and ’00s.

On August 10, 1994 Bagwell got hit by a pitch in a game. As this article points out the pitch actually broke his hand. What happened when he got in the hand – he got his base. The boxscore is available on baseball-reference.

Look at the play by play in the bottom of the third – Jeff Bagwell received his base.

Bagwell was having a monster year that season. The strike ended up cancelling the rest of the season after his injury and he was named MVP.

Why did I choose Bagwell when talking about this rule. Well, it happened to him in 1993. Check the play by play in the bottom of the 1st – he got his base. Unbelievably it also happened to him in 1995. Again, the play by play shows him getting a base.

Talk about bad luck to lose significant sections of three seasons on the same injury. At least his on base percentage improved after each of those at bats.

The ultimate lesson on this stroll down memory lane is don’t be one of those “hands is part of the bat” people. If the ball hits flesh, the batter gets his base (if he did not swing).

Hit by Pitch is covered on page 41 of RuleGraphics.

Amateur Umpire Blog

Umpiring is a niche business. Most of the most prominent sites devoted to umpiring (ABUA, Umpire-Empire, Steve the Ump), I have seen and visit quite frequently. In fact, if any of these three were ever blocked by my work’s firewall, I would have a seizure.

I did run across a new one today: Amateur Umpire Blog on WordPress . He was nice enough to contact me after seeing a thread on Umpire Empire about the book. He wrote a post about it.

I spent some time on the site and found lots of other great worthwhile material. In particular, he posted some instructional videos from clinics in his area. Both (plays at the plate and covering steals from “B” position) resonated with me. As I stated in a previous post, I am more of a rules umpire for now.

Hearing how others explain these mechanics will help my game considerably. He also posted some quick videos on specific rules. They are well done and worth your time as a refresher.

Lastly, he has some nice links worth checking out.

It was a nice find on a Sunday night.


Hidden Ball Trick

I was browsing Amazon today looking at other baseball books besides RuleGraphics. Spring is an awesome time for new baseball books.

I came across an entire book on the Hidden Ball Trick. I am certainly intrigued by this and will probably pick up a copy at some point.

I love the hidden ball trick.

Here is one example:

This play is tricky for a couple of reasons. One is the ball has to remain alive. If the ball becomes dead (if time is called for instance), the ball cannot become alive again until the pitcher has the ball on the rubber.

The other complicating factor is those pesky balk rules. Where a pitcher can stand without the ball is different depending on code.

  • Pro baseball – pitcher cannot be astride the rubber without ball
  • College – pitcher cannot be on mound (dirt) without ball
  • High School – pitcher cannot be within approximately 5 ft of the rubber without ball

I actually have never seen this done in a game I have umpired.

This type of balk is covered on page 23 of RuleGraphics.

The rules versus the “rules”

I already posted about the runner’s lane once this week. As a reminder, here is the high school rule (8.4.1 (g)):

The batter-runner is out when:

g. he runs outside the three-foot running lane (last half of the distance from home plate to first base), while the ball is being fielded or thrown to first base;

1. This infraction is ignored if it is to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field the batted ball or if the act does not interfere with a fielder or a throw.

2. The batter runner is considered outside the running lane lines if either foot is outside either line.

Since I returned to umpiring 2 years ago (this is the beginning of my third), I have worked about 120 games. I have called this only once. I worked a scrimmage this week and as chance would have it called a player out due to this.

The runner was well outside the running lane. A throw hit him in the back. Sounds like an easy call right?

Except there was a wrinkle. After more research and discussing with other umpires, i realize this wrinkle made my call incorrect.

The play started with an uncaught third strike. The ball bounced into the foul territory down the first base line. The catcher throwing from foul ground to the first basemen set up in foul ground hit the runner running in fair ground. The ball crossed the line to hit him. In other words, the throw was not true.

Going back to the rule book, the language in the exception 1 says the infraction is ignored “if the act does not interfere with a fielder or a throw”. The runner did not interfere. He just got hit by a bad throw.

Each call on the field is a function of two things: rules and judgement. On this call my rules knowledge was fine – I know the runner’s lane rule. But, my judgement was horsecrap. Part of the bad judgement came from a very common cardinal umpiring sin – bad timing. I saw the ball hit the runner and threw up my hands to kill the play too quickly.

That painted me into a corner. Taking an extra split second to think about all components of the play (especially the relationship of the runner to where the throw was coming from would have helped). The good thing is I am a member of an association  that takes the time to teach new guys these skills.

The book Outliers hypothesized to master a craft 10,000 hours of experience needs to be logged. Given my day job, it is going to take me time to get to 10,000 hours of reps on the field. My strategy is to make up for that by becoming really good with the rules. Someone can learn the rules at home through effort – it is a little harder to find a game to ump all the time.

This is a reasonable strategy. But, taken to the extreme I might become what they call a “rule book Charley”. That is someone who applies rules blindly without exercising good judgement around the intent of the rule. Of course good judgement comes from experience and experience is built from bad judgement. And experience is what I continue to get taking all the games I can get and supplementing it with clinics and scrimmages.

Lots of lessons learned in this one through the discussions here and on my association’s FB page. At the end of the day, my goal is the same as it is for life in general.  When a mistake is made – figure out why and don’t make the same mistake again.

I kicked this one. I am not happy about it but cannot linger on it either. If this is the worst thing I do all season – that is a hell of a season.

The CEO of the company I worked for a few years would end each speech with a quote that is apt here – “only the humble improve”. That is certainly apt in umpiring where you see something new each game.

Runner’s Lane Interference is on page 45 of RuleGraphics. 

Play blowing up

If I had this play, I think I would have to vomit before making the call. This is a high school play.

NFHS rule 2-22-3 states obstruction happens when

The fielder without possession of the ball denies access to the base the runner is attempting to achieve.

In this video, the catcher was clearly in the runner’s path without possession of the ball. In pro ball, the fielder can be in the path as he is fielding a throw. An argument could be made that this would not be obstruction under that definition – but this is a high school game. This is clear obstruction.

The runner slides into the catcher and then the catcher reaches out, catches the ball, and tags him.

The penalty for obstruction is the umpire placing runners where he/she feels they would obtained minus the obstruction. In high school, there is a minimum one base reward.

The penalty is pretty clear in this case – the runner gets home.

I like how the official consulted with his partner to make sure the call was right. I also like how they controlled the field as they had their conference. Also, I love how the base umpire did not throw his partner under the bus when the coach came to argue the final ruling. He clearly is telling him to go to the calling official.

One minor thing that would have saved the umpire some grief was the original call of out. He does signal out and then immediately signal the obstruction and award. If he would have just signaled the award first, there would have been less confusion.

The fans can be heard arguing “but you called him out”. Of course this does not matter in the final outcome, but it would saved some grief.

Lastly, I loved the umpire’s timing on this. He was very calm, poised and got the call right in the end.

In professional baseball, this could be Type A obstruction. This is covered on page 63 of RuleGraphics.

History Lesson – Balk

I saw this come across the Twittersphere today:

Said another way “once a pitcher makes a move towards the plate he cannot throw to a base”.

As discussed before balks are very confusing, but balks where a guy starts pitching and just stops are pretty easy to see and call. Cue Mr. Jake Peavy:

This is what we call an elephant balk – so big and obvious it cannot be missed.

I thought the Tweet was cool because it shows how long this rule has been on the books. That is the beauty of baseball – many of the original rules remain in place with limited changes.

Balks are covered on pages 21, 22 and 23 of RuleGraphics.

Stay in your lane

Runner’s lane interference is a controversial call. The problem with this call is that usually it happens as the ball is bouncing away from the fielder. One team is all excited thinking they will get more bases on an overthrow only to have a umpire killing the play.

Rule 6.05(k) covers runner’s lane interference. In a nutshell, the runner has to be on the foul side of the line when running the last half of the distance to first. That is why that “lane” is on the field.

To be considered in the lane, both feel have to be it. A foot on the line counts as being in the lane. If a runner is not in the lane and interferes with a throw, he is out and the ball is dead.

The one sticking point against this rule is that the base is in fair territory. How can a runner be expected to run in foul territory if his destination is in fair? The rule interpretations allow for the last step to be outside the lane to get to the base. This is only allowed if the runner had been in the lane up to that point.

This rule is pretty much the same in all codes. One small difference is the quality of the throw. In MLB, the throw has to have a “reasonable expectation” to get the runner. This provision is not in the high school rules.

Few other things about this play:

  • Awesome hustle and call by the home plate guy. He was right on top of it, made a strong call and sold it well.
  • The announcers were on top of this as well. They pretty much nailed the explanation. This is a rarity.
  • Notice the first basemen also was on top of it. He immediately points out the interference as it happens. Again a bit of a rarity.
  • Not sure why the manager got ejected. This was a textbook example of a pretty easy to understand rule. I think sometimes managers think they need to be tossed on something controversial to stick up for their team.

This play does not happen much, but it is something that umpires should always be looking for. I did a scrimmage game last night and actually had this play.

Runner’s lane interference is covered on page 45 of RuleGraphics

A not so typical 8-7-4 DP

Check out this crazy high school play.

The ball bounced off the center fielder’s head directly to the left fielder. He caught the ball and got a double play.

Fun question – was this a legal catch. It sure was.

High school rule 8-4-1(b) says a batter is out if:

his fair hit or foul (other than a foul tip which is not a third strike) is caught by a fielder, or such catch is prevented by a spectator reaching into the playing field;

If you look in the definition of catch (2-9-1) this appears:

A catch is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a live ball in flight and firmly holding it,

The added emphasis in the rule was by me. This brings up the question what does “in flight” mean?

From 2-6-1:

A batted or thrown ball is in flight until it has touched the ground or some object other than a fielder.

This play meets all of those criteria – in flight ball secured by a fielder.  Isn’t it crazy you have to find three different sections of the rule book to answer something that is known by most?

Now, let’s flip it a bit. What if with no one on base a line drive hits the umpire, goes in the air, and is gloved by the shortstop. Is it a catch?

The answer is no! Once the ball touched the umpire it had touched some object other than a fielder. The shortstop would have to throw this batter-runner out at first base to complete the play.

This rule is the same in the majors and covered on page 28 of RuleGraphics.