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.

Catching Up

Like a lot of folks, I took some time off this weekend. It was nice to recharge and refresh heading into tournament baseball. From an umpiring perspective, two stories have dominated.

The first was the ejection of Bryce Harper by umpire Marvin Hudson.

Here is the clip:

Couple of thoughts: while writers want to jump on the #umpshow bandwagon and decry Hudson for the act, Harper was certainly not blameless. As a matter of black letter law, you cannot argue balls and strikes which both Harper and Williams were certainly doing. Also, when asked to get in the box, sticking only a toe in was clearly showing the umpire up. He is smart enough to know how this would end.

As to Hudson, he does look like the aggressor in this situation after ripping his mask off. No matter what happened before or after, he was going to come off looking boorish. Umpires are taught to shut down sniping quickly, so I don’t blame him for his actions.

The thing that cracks me up is all the people out there saying umpires should “expect” the treatment and “knew what they were getting into”. Bologna. You can argue in a civil manner. Players know the line and the consequences. Harper choose to leave the game by his actions.

Harper actually learned early some of the things he cannot do to umpires.

I thought Rob Neyer’s article was the most reasoned look at the situation.

The other big story is the second ejection of a pitcher for using a rosin/sunscreen mixture to improve grip.

The rules say you cannot apply a foreign substance of any kind. Offenders face ejection and suspension. There is a groundswell to change this rule to allow a substance that improves grip without being able to effect how a ball moves. Either this or a new type of ball will probably be employed soon.

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.

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


Without a doubt the rule that confuses most fans is balks. I will admit balks are among the toughest things for me to call as well. Why are they hard to call? A couple of reasons including:

  • They usually happen very quickly
  • They usually look awkward but awkward is not illegal – an extra second is needed to process what happened
  • If the call is not made right away, the “moment” is lost
  • There are a lot of borderline cases
  • Fans and coaches think almost every pitcher move is a balk

I thought the above video was interesting for one reason – I think the manager is legitimately seeing a balk that is not called. He believes the pitcher is violating the step rules of the bulk.

A review of the rule book sees that a pitcher must “step directly to the base before throwing”. A pitcher also cannot throw or fake to an unoccupied base if no play is being made.

What is this pitcher doing? It looks like he is taking a slight step to 3rd with his front foot before turning and throwing to 1st.  That would be a balk.

Again being totally honest, I did not see it until the super slow mo replays. I am very impressed the manager saw it (or maybe he saw it on video previous to the start). I also don’t fault the umpires because it happened so quickly.

The pitcher, David Phelps, has been called for 3 balks in his 87 major league games. He also got nabbed for 7 in his 93 career games. Funny thing is he got called for 3 in 17 games at AA. This must have been when Mr. Phelps was perfecting his “move”.

Given their complexity, balks get three pages in RuleGraphics (21, 22 and 23).

Let’s Talk Obstruction

Or as Tim McCarver and 85% of baseball announcers say “interference”. Obstruction is one of the most misunderstood rules in the game. in reality it is not all that difficult. The problem is that on most of these plays, the runner looks out only to be called safe creating confusion.

Lots of stuff in this video starting with the obstruction. Quite simply, obstruction is when the fielder impedes the runner when he does not have the ball (or is in the act of fielding a throw). Further, obstruction can happen when a play is being made on a runner or when there is not a play (think of a first baseman tripping a runner going for a double with the ball in left field). These instances are handled differently.

The play above is classic obstruction on a runner when a play is being made. The ball is dead immediately. The runner is awarded a minimum of one base beyond his last achieved base no matter which way he was running at the time.

In this play, the runner was obstructed, must be given a base, started out at first base, so his award is second. While it looks odd, this was an easy call.

Since that was easy, let’s move on to the announcers. First of all they know nothing about the rule. Dunn is clearly in the way of the runner without the ball. The runner has to change his path. One of them says that “usually this is not called without contact”. Contact is not part of the definition.

Lastly there is an ejection at the end of this play. Ejections usually occur when a player or coach violates one of the “Ps” in that they are Personal, Profane (more at high school level and below) or Prolonged in their argument. Sure, a player or coach will get tossed for showing up an umpire as well but in general the ejection comes after they have broken one of the rules above.

I thought the umpire did a good job of explaining his call and letting the manager argue it. After a certain point it was clear they were discussing the same points over and over again. Argument became prolonged and it was time to end it. The ejection did not even happen with much fanfare. Sometimes the situations play themselves out.

All in all this is a pretty interesting play and a great example to show for obstruction. This rule is covered on page 63 of RuleGraphics.


Ejection, Bump, Suspension

Things get heated on the diamond.  We all get that, but bumping an umpire is a no-no.

Before talking about the ejection, let’s talk about the play.  This was a college game, but the rule in the pros and high school is very similar.  In professional baseball batter interference with a catcher is Rule 6.06(c).  It is one of the few interference calls that results in a delayed dead ball.

In my opinion, the umpire nailed all aspects of this one.

First, the interference is spot on.  Look at how the batter leaves the batter’s box and crosses in front of the catcher.  That is the hallmark of interference.

Second, the umpire waits until the play at second is concluded.  If the throw from the catcher would have put out the runner, the interference is disregarded.  In this play, the runner beats the play so the interference is called.  Many people mistakenly think the runner is out, but it is the batter that is out (unless the interference happens with a runner coming home and less than 2 outs).

As for the ejection and suspension, as the old adage go, coaches don’t get ejected but they eject themselves.  Throwing the hat pretty much made the ejection automatic.  The bump makes the suspension automatic.

This play is covered on page 42 of RuleGraphics.