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.

Our book Rulegraphics attempts to take the complexity of the rule book and boil it down to the essentials. Find out more at our website.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

Check, check, 1, 2

Check swings have been getting more heat this year than I remember in years past. This is one that happened recently leading to an ejection.

Not sure why folks cannot remember the rule on this one. If it is called a strike by the home plate guy, it is a strike. If it is called a ball, then he can grant an appeal. That is not the umpire’s choice – it is the rules.

In this video at about the 1:07 mark, you can see the umpire mouth something to the effect “I don’t make the rules”.

I wonder if this issue is getting enough heat to bring about a rule change.

Umpires and history

Fans say umpires are at their best when they are not noticed. Most umpires don’t like to inject themselves into the game. The goal is to let the players decide the outcome.

Washington fans wishes the umpire would have injected himself more into Max Scherzer’s game over the weekend. For people that missed it, Scherzer was perfect through 8 2/3rds. He was one strike away from history when this happened:

Here is the rule that covers this (old format):

6.08 The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when—

(b) He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (2) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball;

What happens when the umpire rules the batter made no attempt to avoid the ball. The ball is dead, the pitch is called a strike or ball depending on where it is in relation to the strike zone, and then the game is moved on to the next pitch.

Was this the right call? Well, I think it certainly was a tough call. I think this in situation I would have also given the batter first.

A couple of points to consider:

  1. The ball comes at the batter very fast. Most movement is actually just reaction and not attempts to take a pitch. Sure, some guys lean in but I think this is more rare than people think
  2. The elbow does not move laterally. A lot of batters have elbow movement up and down at the plate
  3. The pitcher goofed up. The catcher wanted it low and away. The pitch was a cement mixer that was well inside. The batter (and ball) was no where near the zone when it hit him.

My rule of thumb on this (and I remember I am no where near the quality of a MLB umpire) – unless it is blatant by the batter, he gets the benefit of the doubt and the base. To put a number on it, I would say I am giving the base 97% of the time.

The announcers were quick to ask the question “did the batter attempt to get out of the way?” followed by the statement “well, that never gets called”.

While not calling this is a way for the umpire to not needlessly inject himself into a game, there is some precedent for making this call in significant situations.

Check out this box score from May 31, 1968. In the 9th inning, the Giants had the bases loaded and no outs. The box score shows Dick Dietz flew out to left field. But, this is only part of the story.

Dietz was actually hit with a pitch earlier in the at bat. This would have scored a run, pulled the game closer, and ruined Don Drysdale chance for a 5th straight shutout. None of this happened because Harry Wendelstedt ruled Dietz did not attempt to avoid the pitch. The Giants manager was eventually tossed from the game. The Giants got no runs in the inning and Drysdale went on to set a record for consecutive scoreless innings.

As fate would have it when Orel Hershiser was attempting to break Drysdale’s record, he would benefit from an unique call. On September 23, 1988 the Giants had runners on 1st and 3rd and only 1 out. The next ball was an attempted double play that the Dodgers could not turn. Hershiser’s streak appeared to be over.

But, umpires (and I say umpires because some sources say 2B umpire Bob Engel while others say 3B Paul Runge) called interference. This changed the outcome to a double play with no run scoring. Hershiser would go on to break the record.

What does this all mean? Well, I think it means that umpires while trying to be anonymous on the field realize they have a job to do. If the play warrants a call, they will make the call regardless of the historical implications.

Scherzer (for his part knew he messed up and did not argue the call) still gets his name in the record books with a dazzling no hitter.

Hit by pitch is covered on page 41 of RuleGraphics. 

 

Worst Nightmare

Nothing is more scary for an umpire than taking one off the head. Look at what happened in a MLB game the other night.

It seems as if the default when this happens is to now get the guys off the field. I think this is a great development. You only get one head in life. Safety should always be the driving factor.

Now, I will take issue with the description of the post from MLB Media. It says “Umpire takes foul tip…”

He did not. He took a foul ball off the mask. By definition a foul tip cannot go directly from the bat to the mask.

Foul tips (and just the tips) are covered on page 10 of RuleGraphics.

From out of…right field

Umpires expect to get hit with the ball from time to time when working the plate. It is just part of the job. Of course, it does make it hurt any less. We also know on occasion a ball might get is in the field from the batter. Again, part of the job.

What is not expected is to take one in the back from the bullpen.

If I am lip reading correctly he says, that ball “flipping smoked me” – except pretty sure he did not say flipping.

That is bad news for the first base umpire. He was not even looking when the ball hit him.

Not a good night at all.

Week of full moons

There must be something in the air or water of baseball players and managers this week. There have been some pretty epic blow ups.

Yesterday Torii Hunter did not like the strike 2 and 3 calls of the home plate umpire. He was ejected and proceeded to start taking off clothes and equipment.

I am sure the score and the fact the Twins are struggling a bit had nothing to do with the ejection. As far as ejections go, this one was easy. You cannot argue balls and strikes. The umpire gave him a chance to walk away, he did not, he was run.

Hunter’s blow up was nothing compared to Lloyd McClendon.

Again, the umpire puts up a stop sign and gives the manager a chance to stay in the game. Managers don’t get ejected rather they eject themselves.

He has it out with three umpires on one ejection. The thing I really like about these is the calm demeanor of the umpires. The famous phrase is “silence cannot be misquoted”. By staying calm, they really, really make Lloyd look aggressive and out of control – which he was.

Last thing – why do announcers always make a point to say “he is getting his money’s worth” when there is an ejection. The manager certainly did not pay any money. What worth is he going after. They usually just look more like jackweeds when they carry on like this. Just silly.