A catch for the ages

Anyone who watches SportsCenter or surfs the web for anything sports related has certainly seen this play.

Cub Anthony Rizzo goes up the tarp, on the lip and eventually into the stands to make a catch. The umpire originally ruled this play a no catch. After conferring as a crew, the play was changed to a catch and then a one base penalty.

Did they ultimately get it right? Yup – and here is the basis.

First – was it a catch?

The Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation Manual has this to say:

In order to make a legal catch, the fielder must have one or both feet on or over the playing surface (including the lip of the dugout) and neither foot on the ground inside the dugout or other out-of-play surface.

(2014-08-11). PBUC Umpire Manual (Kindle Locations 1880-1882). . Kindle Edition.

It is clear that Rizzo did not have a foot on the ground outside the field of play before catching the ball. He also had one foot in play and one foot over ground in the field of play.

PBUC further states:

A fielder may not jump over any fence, railing or rope marking the limits of the playing field in order to catch the ball. A fielder may (1) reach over such fence, railing or rope to make a catch; (2) fall over the same after completing the catch; (3) jump on top of a railing or fence marking the boundary of the field to make a catch; or (4) climb onto a fence or on a field canvas and catch the ball. In all four cases the catch would be legal, as dictated by the best judgment of the umpire. The same restrictions apply to a foul ball descending into a stand. A catcher or fielder may not jump into a stand to catch

(2014-08-11). PBUC Umpire Manual (Kindle Locations 3207-3212). . Kindle Edition.

On top of fence is fine. Established out of play is not fine. This was clearly a catch.

So what about giving the Brewers runner an extra base? This is correct as well.

Rule 5.06 (b) (3) (C):

(3) (7.04) Each runner, other than the batter, may without liability to be put out, advance one base when:

(C) A fielder, after catching a fly ball, falls into a bench or stand, or falls across ropes into a crowd when spectators are on the field;

In the end it was a great call on an even greater play.

Walkoffs, appeals, and abandonment, oh my!

To say the end of the Reds/D’backs game was interesting last night is an understatement.

Here is the play:

To recap, the bases were loaded with one out when the batter hits a ball to the OF wall. The batter touches first. The runner from third touches home. The runners from first and second don’t touch their next base.

And to add to the fun, a security guard touches the ball on the field.

A few members of the Reds stayed on the field hoping to be able to appeal but ultimately the umpires said the game was over.

I have been digging around my rule and interpretation manuals this morning. I cannot see why the Reds were not allowed to appeal.

First, here is the explanation from the umpires after the game. Larry Vanover, who is 1000 times the umpire I am, is the crew chief and had this to say.

“There are two or three different rules that come into play in game-ending type situations. Now you’re talking about appealing bases. (Rule) 4.09(b) talks about how a run scores and it also gets tied into game-ending situations.

“Let’s say the bases are loaded, and you get ball four. The guy on third has to come and score and the batter has to go and touch first. If they don’t fulfill those two obligations, someone can be called out for that, and the game continues with two outs. We didn’t have that situation, but that’s what they were asking. Then they were asking, ‘Can we throw it around and tag all the bases and get force outs?’ In that situation you can’t.

“First of all, they didn’t play the ball. The infielders were leaving the infield. The runner from third touched the plate, and the runner from the plate touched first. Those two things right there met the obligation of the rule. When that run scores and the batter has touched first, the game’s over.”

With respect to Mr. Vanover, I have some problems with this statement. In the second paragraph he states when the bases are loaded and ball four happens, the runner from third and batter have to touch-up in order for the game to be over.

I am on board with this. In fact he quotes 4.09(b) (old format) which is printed here:

4.09 HOW A TEAM SCORES.

(b) When the winning run is scored in the last half-inning of a regulation game, or in the last half of an extra inning, as the result of a base on balls, hit batter or any other play with the bases full which forces the runner on third to advance, the umpire shall not declare the game ended until the runner forced to advance from third has touched home base and the batter-runner has touched first base.

He then ends his statement in the second paragraph by saying We didn’t have that situation.”

Again, I agree. 4.09(b) applies in instances when a batter is awarded a base via walk, hit batter, or something else.

The Wendelstedt Umpire School Manual is very clear that being awarded a base in a game ending situation is different from hitting the ball. When hitting the ball all runners must advance or are liable to being forced out or called out for abandonment.

Back to Vanover’s statement. In the last paragraph he says when the runners touch home and first, the obligation of the rule is met and the game is over.

So in one instance he quotes the rule about only two runners (batter and guy on 3rd) touching up, says this play was not that situation, and then states he applied that rule to end the game. I find this very confusing.

I just don’t think this is the right rule reference that was applied.

Other media outlets are reporting that the number of outs in the situation mattered. The play happened with 1 out. They are stating with 2 outs, the Reds could have gotten a force and continued the game.

In preliminary research, I don’t see how this claim is supported either.

Rule 4.09(a) states:

A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made (1) by the batter-runner before he touches first base; (2) by any runner being forced out; or (3) by a preceding runner who is declared out because he failed to touch one of the bases.

If the third out is a force out, no runs can score. There is no mention to how many outs there are (also no mention of outs in the other rule cited above).

In fact the force out (or out at first) can happen out of order and still cancel the run. Here is a play that is in the rule book:

Example: One out, Jones on second, Smith on first. The batter, Brown, hits safely. Jones scores. Smith is out on the throw to the plate. Two outs. But Brown missed first base. The ball is thrown to first, an appeal is made, and Brown is out. Three outs. Since Jones crossed the plate during a play in which the third out was made by the batter- runner before he touched first base, Jones’ run does not count.

This sample play starts with 1 out. In it a second out is gained during the play, THEN the defense appeals the batter-runner missing first. This becomes the third out. It is a third out before the batter-runner touching first. The run is wiped off the board.

Even though per their explanation the umpires ruled the game over when the runner hit home and batter hit first, there are a few other rule theories out there to explain this. Let’s go through them one at a time.

  1. When Phillips threw the ball into the infield, the Reds touched second base first. This eliminated the force at third.

I can buy this one. With the force at third base eliminated, the runner not making it to third can be ruled out for abandonment. This however is not a force out. As long as the runner hit home before the runner abandoned, the run would count.

2. The security guy touching the ball killed the play

I only buy this one about 20%. Yes, the interference was intentional. Yes, the ball would be dead and yes, the umpires can impose such penalties (including awarding of bases) to nullify the interference per rule 3.15.

But, even if the umpires awarded touches of bases, a runner is still legally required to touch them. If a batter hits a ground rule double, he cannot skip first base!

With the play dead, the ball would have to be made live for the appeal. But, the umpires never gave the Reds a chance to do this. The Reds even stayed on the field hoping to get an appeal.

Putting all this together, I personally think the umpires misapplied a rule. As such, the Reds would be able to protest. Protests have to be made before the next pitch, play or on a game ending play, before noon the next day. The clock is ticking.

This is a strange one. If I had something similar in a game at my level, I bet with enough confidence I could talk my way out of an issue. It looks like the MLB guys did this last night as well.

But, those guys are held to higher standards because they are better umpires. I hope the league comes out with a statement on this. On its merits as of now, I am not sure they got it right.

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