It happens

I work a lot of summer ball. A lot of times in summer ball there is not a scoreboard. Coaches come up to me all the time and ask the score. I honestly don’t know. I have enough to keep track of.

I usually make a quick joke about umpires being taught only to count to 4.

The larger point to this is that there is a lot to keep track of – sometimes a guy can lose the count. This happened in a recent game.

The batter thinks he is getting  a free one and takes off to first. He has a sheepish smile coming back to the box. He almost got away with it.

This is why I usually don’t say “ball 4” after a walk. I just call the ball and let people figure it out. Sometimes less is more.

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Crash Into Me

The baseball rule book does not get additions very often. On top of that, casual fans cannot recite very many rule numbers. There is one circumstance where these two rarities become a reality: Rule 7.13 (old format).

Some folks call it the Buster Posey rule since his injury was the catalyst leading to the rule. It is the home plate collision rule.

Here it is in all of its glory:

7.13 COLLISIONS AT HOME PLATE.
(1) A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.

(2) Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.

Without reading the rule most fans believed this rule outlawed collisions – like in high school. A closer reading of the rule shows this is not the case.

What does the rule say? In a nutshell, part 1 says a runner cannot go out of his way to crash a catcher. If a catcher is set up away from the plate, a guy cannot get a cheap shot on him. The runner has to make an attempt to get to the plate.

Part 2 says the catcher cannot block the plate without possession of the ball or without fielding a throw that takes him into the baseline.

What happened in this play?

The catcher had the ball before the runner got to the plate. Once he has the ball he can block the plate. Also, the runner did not deviate from his path to the plate. He can (and actually does) touch the plate.

Since neither provision of the rule are violated this is a…wait for it…a completely legal collision. It is a baseball play. The umpires correctly ruled this is an out and the out stood after replay.

Home Plate collisions are covered on page 59 of RuleGraphics.

Puzzled

Most of the time I am not puzzled by a call (or non call) on the field. This is not the case with this play:

I cannot for the life of me see how this is not a runner’s lane infraction. Here is the rule (6.05 (k) in old format):

6.05 A batter is out when—

(k) In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he may run outside (to the right of) the three-foot line or inside (to the left of) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball;

The guys who do MLB are 800x the umpire I am. But, I read this rule and cannot figure out why the runner is not out. Give the umpire credit for good game management though. Whatever he said to the Boston manager placated him enough to get back in the dugout.

Interpretations of this rule state that a “quality” throw has to be present to get this call. That is, there can be no interference if there was no chance at an out. Maybe from his angle, the home plate umpire did not feel this was a good throw.

I would love to hear the explanation so I could learn from it.

Runner’s Lane Interference is covered along with a multitude of other topics in RuleGraphics. Find more information at our website.

Goofball fans

There are two guys who dress like umpires, sit right home plate, and mimic the home plate umpire all night. Here is a clip:

I actually think this is pretty funny. The guy on the left (from the camera)  actually looks the part a little better. The backwards hat kills all credibility for the other dude.

Mythbusting

While the main purpose of our book is to make learning the rules easier. This is done by better organization of the various rule sources. The ancillary benefit of it is mythbusting. If rules are easier to find and understand, then myths can start to die. I am probably over my skies with that dream, but I might as well aim big.

I saw this video this morning and realized it was a chance to bust two myths at once a two-fer. This play was so weird that the guys are MLB Advanced Media mislabeled it.

Here is the play:

The announcers claim it was an appealed strike three, uncaught, followed by an immediate tag by the catcher. They look at the replay and say that the Cub did not swing and the Sox got a break. Did they?

Look at the replay closely.

The ball hits the dirt and then Castro’s bat. A lot of fans think this is not legal at worst or a foul ball at best. Fact is, a player can hit a ball that strikes the ground first.

Then the ball lands on home plate. The catcher scoops it up and makes the tag. A lot of folks think that home plate is in foul territory. It is not.

Add it all up and this is a ball hit into fair territory with a tab being applied. There is no strike out as the announcers state (and how the video is labeled). How do I know the umpire did not call a strikeout?

The play by play lists this at bat a soft ground ball to the catcher.

Find out about this and other myths by visiting our website.

Gotta be interference

Check out this odd play:

If this happened on the diamonds I work, I would have a coach out asking me about interference. They figure that something this odd has to be an illegal action on the offense’s part.

So, is it illegal? Well, besides the obvious fact that the umpire did not call a second runner out, the answer is no – and it is in the book.

Rule 7.08 (old format):

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(b) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball;

Intent does not matter when a runner interferes with the fielding of the ball (either by having the ball strike him or hindering the fielder), but intent does matter when dealing with a thrown ball. It is the second word in the rule.

From my vantage point, Oritz clearly did not intentionally interfere with the throw. The no call looks to be a good one on this play.

On this famous play:

I am not so sure the interference was not intentional. But, Reggie got away with it.

 

Deflection Differences

As a runner, there are a couple of things you can do that will earn you a trip to the dugout as an out. You can be struck by a batted ball. You can interfere with a fielder making a play.

Both are odd occurrences. A lot of people (including umpires) think they are handled the same. Turns out there is one important difference in the rules – it is around deflections.

Here is the rule for a batted ball hitting a runner (old format):

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(f) He is touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball has touched or passed an infielder. The ball is dead and no runner may score, nor runners advance, except runners forced to advance. EXCEPTION: If a runner is touching his base when touched by an Infield Fly, he is not out, although the batter is out;

Here is the rule for interfering with a fielder:

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(b) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball;

The rule for interfering with a fielder mentions nothing about a deflection. Ergo, a runner who hinders a fielder fielding a ball after it is deflected is still out. Want proof – check out this play:

If the ball would have struck this runner, he would not have been out (unless the interference was intentional – like kicking the ball) because the ball touched another fielder. A small but important difference to how these plays are called. These are the types of things that an umpire never expects to call – but they do happen.

Check out the book RuleGraphics for more examples of the rules made easier.

 

Reminder: umpires are good

There is a group of umpires who like to make up ridiculous situations to test rule knowledge. These are called 3rd world plays. There is another group of umpires who get annoyed at this practice. They figure those plays won’t happen.

Well, odd plays do happen. Check out this one from the Cubs game last night.

Let’s recap what happened. With runners on second (R2) and third (R3) the batter attempts a squeeze. He misses hanging R3 out to dry. In the rundown, R2 comes over and takes 3B. As R3 is returning to 3B, he overruns the base and goes into foul territory.

The Cubs catcher tags both guys (original guy from 2nd now on 3rd along with the guy now behind the base). Umpire signals 2 outs. Umpires then huddle and rule R3 out and lets R2 stay on 3rd. The Cubs continued arguments for two outs was denied.

The big question – did they get it right. I think they nailed it.

Lots of moving parts on this one. Let’s break them down one at a time.

Should Murphy (R2) have been out for passing Tejada (R3)?

 Rule 7.08 (h) in the old format says:

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(h) He passes a preceding runner before such runner is out;

It does not matter who does the passing (in other words the runner ahead can run behind and still cause an out). It certainly looks like Murphy got ahead of Tejada, so he should be out, right?

Turns out the answer is no.

The Rules and Interpretation Manual from the Wendelstedt school has the following illustrations:

IMG_0021

The Mets play is similar to the “not passing” image

IMG_0023

If the guy on 3rd, heads home, then you have passing

(Side note, all serious rules students should buy the Wendelstedt manual. It is not available in the online store right now, so watch for when it is being released again. It is absolutely money well spent)

Although not stated in the rules, the interpretation is that a runner is out if passing “along the baseline”. When Tejada passed 3B, he did so in foul territory (not in the baseline), so Murphy never passed him. If Tejada made a step towards second or Murphy headed home, we would have passed him and been ruled out. None of these happened.

Shouldn’t Murphy have been out since he was tagged and 3B did not belong to him at the time?

Rule 7.03 covers this situation:

7.03
(a) Two runners may not occupy a base, but if, while the ball is alive, two runners are touching a base, the following runner shall be out when tagged and the preceding runner is entitled to the base, unless Rule 7.03(b) applies.

(b) If a runner is forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner and two runners are touching a base to which the following runner is forced, the following runner is entitled to the base and the preceding runner shall be out when tagged or when a fielder possesses the ball and touches the base to which such preceding runner is forced.

The people who want an out for this are missing the key point. Look at the phrase I bolded in the rule. There was never a point where Murphy was tagged when both men were touching the base. As long as both were not touching a base at the same time, it does not matter who technically has right to that base.

OK, I buy that Murphy is not out for these two reasons, then why was Tejada called out?

I can answer this question 2 ways – a very simple way and a very technical way.

The simple was is rule 7.08(c)

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(c) He is tagged, when the ball is alive, while off his base. EXCEPTION: A batter- runner cannot be tagged out after overrunning or oversliding first base if he returns immediately to the base;

In the most basic way to think about this, Tejada was tagged with the ball while not on a base. He is out.

The more complex way to get an out is through abandonment and Rule 7.08(a)(2):

7.08 Any runner is out when—

(2) after touching first base, he leaves the base path, obviously abandoning his effort to touch the next base;

Tejada thought he was out and took steps away from the base path abandoning his efforts to run. He is out.

From Twitter, this is what the umpires ultimately ruled.

I think the explanation is fine although the umpire mentions a couple of times that it was Murphy’s bag once Tejada was out. While correct, this point does not matter since they were never tagged while both being on the base.

I seriously think they could have ruled Tejada out for simply being tagged while off the base. This makes things pretty cut and dried as well. Nothing else on the play puts Murphy out so the result is the same.

In the end, the only thing the umpire could have done better was not signal two outs when the play happened in real time. Give the umpire credit though, he immediately calls time and kept Murphy on the base. He knew the play had to be hashed out and did not want the extra complication of a guy mistakenly coming off the base due to an umpire call. Overall a great interpretation of the rules and call.

The rules get tricky at times. This is why we wrote RuleGraphics. It is a new way to visualize and learn rules. All the key points of a rule are covered on one page. The pages are laid out in a simple fashion making finding things a breeze. Find out more at our website. 

Abandoning base paths is on page 53. Passing a runner is on page 50. Finally, two players occupying one base is on page 49.

The great thing about baseball is that there is something new to see every night.