Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Old School - West Crew Reverses Call Without Replay

In a throw-back to days before instant replay, Joe West helped Hunter Wendelstedt reverse the latter's "safe" call on the bases without going to New York.

Wendelstedt, alongside West, reverses his call.
The sequence began in the top of the 2nd inning of Monday's Angels-Rays game, when Angels baserunner R1 Nolan Fontana attempted to steal second base off of Rays pitcher Jake Odorizzi, initially ruled safe by 2B Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.

Rays Manager Kevin Cash elected to challenge the play, claiming that second baseman Michael Martinez applied a tag to Fontana prior to his arrival at the base.

As Wendelstedt and Crew Chief West began walking toward the replay coordinator's station, the two discussed the play. According to West's post-game comments to a pool reporter, "After consulting with me, [Wendelstedt] said, 'I want to change it myself. I think I erred.' I said, 'OK, it’s your call.' So he changed it." The pair then explained their ruling to chagrined Angels skipper Mike Scioscia.

Wendelstedt accepted responsibility for the initial call and described how the change came about:
I committed one of the two errors that normally result in missing a play. You have good positioning, which I had, and good timing. Most of the time you’re going to get them, most of the time, right. I had really bad timing. As soon as my hands were out, I knew that I missed it.
In its General Instructions to Umpires, the Official Baseball Rules state, "But remember! The first requisite is to get decisions correctly. If in doubt don’t hesitate to consult your associate. Umpire dignity is important but never as important as 'being right.'"

Umpires are also instructed to, "wait until the play is completed before making any arm motion...[Umpiring] is often a trying position which requires the exercise of much patience and good judgment."

In seasons past, we have seen umpires call a runner out too quickly, only to subsequently see that the fielder has dropped or failed to catch the ball, and reverse the call to that of "safe." Rarely has a "safe" call been reversed to an "out," as it was here, and even more rare is the umpire's call reversed by the calling umpire before going to replay.

But, as West and Wendelstedt came to the conclusion, it is the mechanically proper thing to do.

Video via "read more"

Monday, May 22, 2017

MLB Ejections 045-046 - Phil Cuzzi (2-3; Freese, Hurdle)

HP Umpire Phil Cuzzi ejected Pirates 3B David Freese & Manager Clint Hurdle (strike three call) in the top of the 4th inning of the Pirates-Braves game. With none out and none on, Freese took a 2-2 fastball from Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located off the outer edge of home plate and knee-high (px 1.160, pz 1.74 [sz_bot 1.589]), the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Braves were leading, 2-0.

This is Phil Cuzzi (10)'s second, third ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Phil Cuzzi now has 2 points in the UEFL Standings (6 Previous + 2*[2 MLB - 4 Incorrect Call] = 2).
Crew Chief Tom Hallion now has 2 points in Crew Division (2 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 2).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.

This is the 45th, 46th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 24th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is the 17th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Freese was 0-2 (2 SO) in the contest.
This is Pittsburgh's 1st/2nd ejection of 2017, 2nd in the NL Central (STL 3; PIT 2; MIL 1; CHC, CIN 0).
This is David Freese's first ejection since July 30, 2016 (Marty Foster; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Clint Hurdle's first ejection since September 13, 2016 (Alan Porter; QOC = Y [Interference]).
This is Phil Cuzzi's 2nd/3rd ejection of 2017, 1st since May 14 (Neil Walker; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves, 5/22/17 | Videos via "Read More"

Dangerous Precedent - GHSA Overturns Judgment Call

In a decision contradicting years of legal precedent & NFHS rules, GHSA reversed an umpire's judgment call as the result of a post-game protest filed by the losing team.

Last week, we reported the curious case of Lee County vs Johns Creek High School and the Georgia playoff game that hinged on a single appeal play ruling in the bottom of the last inning of regulation.

Umpires and Judges: What does the law say?
Photo: Nancy Stahl, NYTimes
To recapitulate, with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 7th, a Johns Creek batter received a fourth ball and walk to force the apparent winning run. After a protest from defensive Lee County's head coach that Johns Creek baserunner R2 failed to touch third base, the umpires ruled the runner out on appeal, pursuant to NFHS Rule 9-1-1, and cancelled the run pursuant to 9-1-1 Note 2.

Lee County went on to win the ballgame, and Johns Creek protested that it should have won instead due to an umpires' error.

Upon receiving Johns Creek's initial protest, GHSA Executive Director Gary Phillips on Thursday ruled the umpires' decision was one of judgment and, therefore, not protestable; the ruling must stand.

Board of Trustees President Glenn White.
GHSA counsel Alan Connell disagreed and granted Johns Creek not a protest, but an "appeal."

On Friday, a GHSA Appeals Board heard the appeal and, like Phillips, declined to uphold it.

On Monday, the GHSA Board of Trustees elected to overturn the umpires' call—based on the rationale that the Board of Trustees felt that the judgment call had been incorrect.

POLITICAL SIDEBAR: The GHSA has been dealing with organizational issues, even prior to the Johns Creek & Lee County baseball incident. In February, GHSA Board of Trustees President and Model High School Principal Glenn White voted to recommended that Executive Director Phillips resign; Phillips accordingly agreed to retire at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Meanwhile, Georgia House Bill 415 and Senate Bill 2013 proposed that the state replace the GHSA with a new statewide governing body.

Georgia State Representative John Meadows in February "said he gets more complaints about the GHSA – from schools, referees, coaches and parents – than about everything else put together, 'and basically I’m sick of it.' He added, 'I don’t think they know what their job is.'”

Clearly not.

Contrary to decades of legal precedent, Trustees President White made it clear that the Trustees sustained the appeal and overturned the on-field officials' call based on a matter of judgment—not on an issue of rule interpretation:
It swayed me to believe that the wrong call was made and that it was not in the best interest of students to support that call. The bottom line is what’s right and what’s wrong, and I thought it was right for Johns Creek to go back to Lee County and play a third game. 
If it’s the second inning of a baseball game or second quarter of a football game, you’ve got plenty of time to overcome a bad call,’’ White said. ‘’This situation is a different. It’s a semifinal state playoff game in baseball, and it’s the end of the game. I just see that differently. That had lot to do with swaying my opinion. 
It’s just not practical to review every missed call and every kid that was (called) safe but was actually out. We have set a precedent, so we need to get ready because there will probably be other people coming to see us.
This is odd, as GHSA Bylaw 2.92(e) states, "The National Federation prohibits the use of video tape to review an official’s decision."

As for the legality of overturning an umpire's on-field judgment call after-the-fact, the Courts have routinely ruled, for approximately 35 years, that such practice is not legally tenable:
> 1981: Georgia High School Association vs Waddell: The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that it does not possess authority to review the decision of a high school sports official. In what was, at the time, a landmark decision to establish long-term precedent, the Supreme Court held, "We go now further and hold that courts for equality in this state are without authority to review decisions of football referees because those decisions do not present judicial controversies."

> December 2005: Brown vs. OSSAA. Referees ejected player Tucker Brown for fighting at the end of a game, resulting in an automatic two-game suspension, pursuant to state association rules. Brown's mother sued the OSSAA seeking an injunction to allow Tucker to play. In an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision, the Court opined, "It is not within our province to act as 'super referees' to alter or overturn the referee's determinations. Neither may we, because a referee does not make a call, do so for the official -- we may not 'call the game' or construe the official's failure to see every infraction as arbitrary."

> December 2005: Haverstraw Stony-Point Central School District vs NYSPHSAA. The District and high school wrestler Frank Rodriguez filed a lawsuit against the state after a referee's assessment of a two-point penalty against Rodriguez cost him his state title match. A judge refused to entertain the District's lawsuit, writing that, "To establish a precedent of reviewing and potentially reversing a referee's judgment call from the distant ivory tower of a judge's chambers would cause unending confusion in the interscholastic athletic system."

> December 2015: Oklahoma City School District vs OSSAA. The District, on behalf of Douglass High School, filed a lawsuit against OSSAA claiming that an on-field official's judgment call caused its team to lose a game, and that OSSAA failed to allow it to replay the game so as to remedy the situation. In ruling for the OSSAA, Judge Bernard Jones wrote that "what transpired during and to some degree after the disputed quarterfinal could be considered by many as a tragedy. More tragic, however, would be for this Court to assert itself in this matter...There is neither statute nor case law allowing this Court discretion to order the replaying of a high school football game."

> November 2016: Fenwick High School vs. IHSA. Fenwick filed a lawsuit after the IHSA failed to reverse an on-field ruling. The judge ruled in favor of the IHSA, writing that it is not the court's responsibility or jurisdiction to overturn an on-field referee's call, even though Fenwick suffered irreparable harm as the result of an official's failure to properly apply a rule.

Perhaps Judge Jones wrote it best, "this slippery slope of solving athletic contests in court instead of on campus will inevitably usher in a new era of robed referees and meritless litigation due to disagreement with or disdain for decisions of gaming officials—an unintended consequence which hurts both the court system and the citizens it is designed to protect."

Thus, GHSAA Board of Trustees President and robed referee White's decision runs in direct contravention to not only years of legal precedent as specified above, but the NFHS baseball rulebook itself. Although, as we wrote, the NFHS vs GHSA allowance of protests is legally ambiguous (NFHS requires a clearly delineated protest procedure, GHSA doesn't specify one in its Bylaws), let us assume for the purpose of discussion that protests are authorized.

Rule 10-4 states, "Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as whether a hit is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final." Rule 10-5 states, "The use of videotape or equipment by game officials for the purpose of making calls or rendering decisions is prohibited."

Rule 4-5 states, "It is optional on the part of a state association as to whether protests are permitted. When allowed, protests are permitted regarding rules one through nine only."

Thus, a protest concerning the umpires' conduct (the Johns Creek complaint alleged "inappropriate conduct" on the part of the umpires)—such as a judgment call delineated by 10-4, or any other conduct related to Umpiring Rule 10—is prohibited by Rule 4-5.

Johns Creek's original protest cited Official Baseball Rule 5.08(b), as opposed to the High School rule 9-1-1, regarding runner responsibility to touch bases on a game-winning walk (OBR requires just the batter and runner from third to touch their respective bases; NFHS requires all runners to touch up).

As for the question of the appeal's validity, while OBR requires all appeals to be live ball in nature, NFHS authorizes dead ball appeals. At the end of the game, appeals may be filed at any time until the umpires leave the playing field (umpires remained on the field throughout the process).

Conclusion: GHSA Board of Trustees President Glenn White "thought it was right" to overturn an on-field official's judgment call because he felt "that it was not in the best interest of students to support [the on-field] call," which he deemed a "wrong call."

In an odd reversal of fates, Official Baseball Rule 7.04 states, "No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire," whereas NFHS Rule 4-5 does not explicitly state this (though it certainly implies it by saying that protests shall only be permitted regarding rules one through nine only), leaving it up to the state to delineate the protest procedure. The GHSA Constitution and Bylaws, however, fail to prescribe such a process for baseball protests.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Major League Debut of Umpire Ryan Additon (67)

Umpire Ryan Additon makes his MLB debut during the Royals-Twins game on Sunday in Minnesota, joining Bill Miller's crew for two games of the KC-MIN doubleheader, serving as the first base umpire alongside HP Umpire Bill Miller, 2B Umpire Kerwin Danley, and 3B Umpire Adam Hamari for Game 1, and as the third base umpire alongside HP Umpire Ryan Blakney, 1B Umpire Danley, and 2B Umpire Hamari for Game 2.

Umpire Ryan Additon.
Photo: The Virginian-Pilot
Additon is on the International League roster for the 2017 season, which is his second season in the IL and second overall in Triple-A (2016 IL). He has also worked the Gulf Coast, New York-Penn, Midwest, Florida State, Arizona Instructional, Southern, and Arizona Fall Leagues, in addition to MLB Spring Training. Additon served as the plate umpire for Tim Tebow's first Grapefruit League game this March.

Additon wears the uniform number 67 at the Major League level, which was last worn by Seth Buckminster, and makes his MLB debut at the age of 31. He resides in Davie, Florida, instructs at the Wendelstedt School, and is the first new fill-in umpire to make his debut during the 2017 regular season.

Additon most recently worked the plate for an 18-inning International League thriller on Friday night between Columbus and Louisville (As in Minnesota, Saturday's game in Louisville was postponed).

"Jim & Randy Wolf Situation" Alert: Ryan's brother Nick is a pitcher in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), having previously played in Minor League Baseball with the Cardinals, Orioles, and Brewers.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

MLB Ejections 042-044 - Scott Barry (1-3; NYY, TB)

HP Umpire Scott Barry ejected Yankees Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild & Manager Joe Girardi (balls/strikes) in the bottom of the 5th and Rays pitcher Matt Andriese (Throwing At Yankees batter Aaron Judge) in the top of the 6th inning of the Yankees-Rays game. In the 5th, with one out and the two on (R1, R2), Rays batter Evan Longoria walked and batter Logan Morrison took three called balls from Yankees pitcher Giovanny Gallegos before singling on a 3-2 count. Replays indicate that of the seven ball calls eligible for QOC consideration, all seven were properly officiated (7 / 7 = 100% accuracy), with a closest all-else-equal px of -.834 and closest all-else equal pz of 1.635 (sz_bot 1.589 / MOE 1.672), the call was correct. In the 6th, with none out and none on, Judge took a first-pitch fastball from Andriese for a hit-by-pitch. Replays indicate the pitch was located significantly inside and belt-high; it was the third hit batsman of the game (second by TB), warnings had not been issued, the call was irrecusable. At the time of all ejections, the Rays were leading, 9-4. The Rays ultimately won the contest, 9-5.

This is Scott Barry (87)'s first, second, third ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Scott Barry now has 12 points in the UEFL Standings (2 Previous + 3*[2 MLB] + 2*[2 Correct] = 12).
Crew Chief Paul Emmel now has 7 points in Crew Division (4 Previous + 2 Correct + 1 Irrecusable = 7).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.

This is the 42nd, 43rd, 44th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 23rd Manager ejection of 2017.
This is the 16th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Andriese's line was 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 5 SO.
This is New York-AL's 3/4th ejection of 2017, T-1st in the AL East (NYY, TB, TOR 4; BAL 3; BOS 2).
This is Tampa Bay's 4th ejection of 2017, T-1st in the AL East (NYY, TB, TOR 4; BAL 3; BOS 2).
This is Joe Girardi's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st since May 3 (Bill Welke; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Larry Rothschild's 1st ejection since September 26, 2016 (Todd Tichenor; QOC = U [USC-NEC]).
This is Matt Andriese's first career MLB ejection.

Wrap: New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 5/20/17 | Videos via "Read More"

MLB Ejection 041 - Mike Winters (1; Bob Melvin)

2B Umpire Mike Winters ejected A's Manager Bob Melvin (base award/runner placement) in the bottom of the 2nd inning. With one out and two on, A's batter Josh Phegley hit a 0-1 fastball from Red Sox pitcher Drew Pomeranz on the ground to catcher Christian Vazquez, whose throw to first base was wild and bounded out of play by lodging in the right field bullpen.* Accordingly, the umpires awarded the batter-runner and base runners two bases from their location at the time of the pitch, pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 5.06(b)(4)(G), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Red Sox were leading, 2-1. The A's ultimately won the contest, 8-3.

This is Mike Winters (33)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Mike Winters now has 3 points in the UEFL Standings (-1 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 3).
Crew Chief Mike Winters now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).
*According to Oakland Coliseum Ground Rules, a ball lodging on, under or in the bullpen seating area is Out of Play. A ball is considered "lodged" when, in the umpire's judgment, it is unplayable.
^Rule 5.06(b)(4)(G) states, "Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—two bases when...a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench [bullpen]...When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched."

This is complicated by the Oakland Coliseum's large playing surface.
5.06(b)(4) Approved Ruling: "The term 'when the wild throw was made' means when the throw actually left the player’s hand and not when the thrown ball hit the ground, passes a receiving fielder or goes out of play into the stands. The position of the batter-runner at the time the wild throw left the thrower’s hand is the key in deciding the award of bases. If the batter-runner has not reached first base, the award is two bases at the time the pitch was made for all runners. The decision as to whether the batter-runner has reached first base before the throw is a judgment call."
This is the 41st ejection report of 2017.
This is the 22nd Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Oakland's 2nd ejection of 2017, T-1st in the AL West (OAK, TEX 2; SEA 1; HOU, LAA 0).
This is Bob Melvin's 1st ejection since July 15, 2016 (Mark Wegner; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Mike Winters' 1st ejection since March 24, 2017 (Avisail Garcia; QOC = U [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Boston Red Sox vs. Oakland Athletics, 5/20/17 | Video via "Read More"

Friday, May 19, 2017

MLB Ejections 038-040 - Carlos Torres (1-3; MIA-LAD)

HP Umpire Carlos Torres ejected Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling (Throwing At Marlins batter Giancarlo Stanton) and Marlins Manager Don Mattingly & Dodgers Bench Coach Bob Geren (Fighting) in the top of the 9th inning of the Marlins-Dodgers game. With none out and none on, Stanton took a first-pitch fastball from Stripling for a called first ball. Replays indicate the pitch was located significantly inside, thrown behind Stanton, and waist high, resulting in a bench-clearing incident, the call was irrecusable; there were two prior HBP (one for each team); warnings had not been issued. At the time of the ejections, the Dodgers were leading, 7-0. The Dodgers ultimately won the contest, 7-2.

This is Carlos Torres (37)'s first, second, third ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Carlos Torres now has 7 points in the UEFL Standings (1 Previous + 3*[2 MLB + 0 QOCU] = 7).
Crew Chief Dana DeMuth now has 4 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 3 Irrecusable Call = 4).

This is the 38th, 39th, 40th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 15th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Stripling's line was 0.2 IP, 0 ER.
This is the 21st Manager ejection of 2017.
This is LA-NL's 2nd/3rd ejection of 2017, 1st in the NL West (LAD 3; COL, SD 1; ARI, SF 0).
This is Miami's 5th ejection of 2017, 1st in the NL East (MIA 5; NYM, PHI, WAS 1; ATL 0).
This is Ross Stripling's first career MLB ejection.
This is Don Mattingly's 4th ejection of 2017, 1st since May 9 (Andy Fletcher; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Bob Geren's first ejection since May 27, 2011 (Angel Campos; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Carlos Torres' 1st ejection since September 10, 2016 (Hernan Perez; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Miami Marlins vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 5/19/17 | Video via "Read More"

MLB Ejection 037 - Nic Lentz (1; Mike Matheny)

HP Umpire Nic Lentz ejected Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny (ball four call) in the top of the 7th inning of the Giants-Cardinals game. With two out and one on, Giants batters Brandon Belt and Buster Posey both walked. Replays indicate all eight pitches from Cardinals pitcher Matt Bowman to Belt and Posey were located outside of the strike zone (the closest-to-a-strike px value with proper pz was -1.15 , and the closest-to-a-strike pz value with proper px was 1.494 [sz_bot 1.535]), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Giants were leading, 3-2. The Giants ultimately won the contest, 6-5.

This is Nic Lentz (59)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Nic Lentz now has 5 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 3 AAA + 2 Correct Call = 5).
Crew Chief Tom Hallion now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.

This is the 37th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 20th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is St. Louis' 3rd ejection of 2017, 1st in the NL Central (STL 3; MIL 1; CHC, CIN, PIT 0).
This is Mike Matheny's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st since April 23 (John Tumpane; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Nic Lentz's first career MLB ejection.

Wrap: San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 5/19/17 | Video via "Read More"

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ask the UEFL - Protested Game-Ending Appeal Force Play

A runner declared out for failure to touch a base cancelled a run on appeal, prolonging a tied ballgame and sending it to extra innings as the apparent winners filed a protest over the call. How will that protest play out?

Such is the question posed in this edition of Ask the UEFL, concerning a recent Federation playoff game between Lee County and Johns Creek High Schools in Georgia.

Executive Summary: The rules-related controversy stems from, what else, but an attempt to apply professional baseball rules (OBR) to a high school game, which is subject to National Federation of High School (NFHS) rules. The umpires enforced the NFHS rule correctly; this protest should be denied.

From the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) website:
The controversy arose during the seventh inning of the second game of the Class 6A semifinal doubleheader in Leesburg Wednesday. Lee County won the first game 7-4, but Johns Creek appeared to even the series at one game apiece when the Gladiators received a bases-loaded walk with the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning of the second game.
Lee County coach Brandon Brock approached the umpires with the contention that the Johns Creek runner on second base had not completed the play by touching third base. After a lengthy discussion, the umpires ruled that Brock was correct and, therefore, the winning run was disallowed.
The game then proceeded into extra innings and Lee County won 5-3 to apparently sweep the series 2-0 and advance to next week’s state championship.
Play Summary: B7, tie game, two outs, bases loaded. B1 walks to force all runners, scoring R3 for the apparent winning run. Prior to the umpires leaving the field, defensive manager files a dead ball appeal asserting that R2 failed to touch third base. Umpires declare R2 out for this base-running error and game proceeds to an eighth inning.

The Primary Protest: The Johns Creek HS complaint relies on a so-called NFHS Rule 5.08(b) [4.09(b)], which allegedly states, "When the winning run is scored in the last-half inning of a regulation game...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."

NFHS vs OBR. Click image for larger view of the two rules.
The only problem is, naturally, that the NFHS is not formatted as Number.Number(Letter). That's the professional rule's formatting (and yellow is our color for OBR's highlighting), and right there is the problem. Furthermore, the fact that two numbers are listed (5.08(b) and 4.09(b)) is a tell-tale sign this is a professional rule, as OBR changed its rules numbering in 2014, and keeps both the new and old citations on file for reference.

Yes, OBR 5.08(b) states exactly what has been cited regarding the runner forced to advance from third touching home base and the batter-runner touching first base, but that's not the high school rule.
Related: Arizona walks off with 4-3 win when security guard touches live ball in outfield (8/10/15).
Related: Jaksa/Roder Manual: time play criteria do not apply to forced-to-advance runners (6/30/13).

Table of specified Baseball Rule Difference, OBR vs NFHS.
The High School Rule: The equivalent of OBR 5.08(b) in High School is Rule 9-1-1 Note 2, which states, "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 loaded which forces the runner on third base to advance, the umpire shall not declare the game over until all runners have advanced to the next base."

See the difference? OBR talks about "the runner forced to advance from third" and "the batter-runner," whereas NFHS refers to "all runners."

NFHS Rule 9-1-1 EXCEPTION is even more detailed: "A run is not scored if the runner advances to home plate during action in which the third out is made as follows...when a third out is declared during a play resulting from a valid defensive appeal, which results in a force out (this out takes precedence if enforcement of it would negate a score)."

Primary Conclusion: Because of Johns Creek's failure to parse the difference between OBR Rule 5.08(b) and NFHS Rule 9-1-1 Note 2, the high school mistakenly believes a rule was misapplied, when, in fact, the rule was properly enforced. This is a slam dunk decision and should never have risen to the level of protest, which GHSA recently stated is prohibited by bylaw unless specifically authorized by the NFHS rulebook for the applicable sport. The NFHS baseball rulebook, naturally, says a protest only is authorized if the State allows for it. Talk about an infinite loop of "don't ask me, ask them."

The judgment call of whether the runner actually touched third base, naturally, cannot be protested or appealed. Rule 10-1-4: "Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as whether a hit is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final." Rule 4-5: "It is optional on the part of a state association as to whether protests are permitted. When allowed, protests are permitted regarding rules one through nine only."

The Secondary Protest: Though one agency reported the Johns Creek protest concerned non-existent NFHS "Rule 5.08(b)," a competing news organization reported that the protest concerned the umpire's allowance of a dead ball appeal.

Apparently, GHSA Coordinator of Officiating Ernie Yarbrough told local WALB-TV that, "The National Federation of State High School Associations rules do not address this type of situation directly. Johns Creek is appealing that no Lee County player ever tagged third base, meaning the runner should not be called out."

The late Carl Childress published Baseball Rules Differences
It looks like Carl is sorely needed in Georgia.
Again, this is an attempt to apply a professional baseball rule to a high school game. Under OBR, only live ball appeals may be entertained. Under high school rules, a dead ball appeal may be lodged verbally and without actually holding the baseball.

NFHS Rule 8 concerns baserunners, and Section 2 is titled, "Touching, Occupying and Returning to a Base." 8-2-1 requires the runner to touch every base, in order, including any awarded bases. The penalty for violation of 8-2-1 authorizes an appeal, which may be made during a live ball immediately following the play, or a dead ball. We're specifically looking at the final play of the game, for which the procedure states: "A dead-ball appeal may be made by a coach or any defensive player with or without the ball by verbally stating that the runner missed the base or left the base too early...On the last play of the game, an appeal can be made until the umpire(s) leave the field of play."

Rule 8-2-6-j states, "If any situation arises which could lead to an appeal by the defense on the last play of the game, the appeal must be made while an umpire is still on the field of play." 8-2-9: "All awarded bases must be touched in their proper order."
Related LinkCase Play 2017-5 - Dead Ball Missed Base Appeal [Solved].

Secondary Conclusion: It is absolutely baffling that (1) a team can confuse professional rules with high school rules and rely on the professional rule when filing a formal protest whose submission theoretically requires the team to cite the rule they are protesting, (2) the state officiating coordinator's comments are paired with a situation that is clearly addressed by NFHS rule, and (3) that GHSA is actually entertaining this seemingly meritless appeal wherein their bylaws supposedly do not allow for protests.

At the end of the day, the appeal decision to declare baserunner R2 out was a judgment call not subject to protest, and all NFHS rules were properly administered, including the dead ball appeal procedure.

The only thing about this play that could possibly be subject to protest would be if the umpires had left the field (and thus their jurisdiction ended) prior to the defensive coach's appeal. Only under this circumstance would the call be improper.

Gil's Call: It is very sad to see that a school—and a state association—is advocating a protest based upon rules that do not exist for the level at which the game is played, and that these actors are furthering the miscommunication and dissemination of materially incorrect information at a level of scholastic play whose purpose is not revenue nor popularity, but instead is education.

My prediction is that the Appeals Board will allow Lee County to keep its extra-inning win, and Johns Creek will feel cheated out of a chance to play for the Georgia State Championship.

*Update 5/19*: As predicted above, GHSA's Appeals Board has denied the appeal; game stands as called.
*Update 5/22*: GHSA Trustees break precedent & affirm appeal; explicitly cite judgment as rationale.

Video via "Read More"

Permissible Conduct - Multiple Bench Clears in Atlanta

"What you permit, you promote" is an officiating axiom that may apply to bench clearings, as yet another rhubarb took place in baseball, this time between the Blue Jays and Braves in Atlanta.

Like the first bench clearer of Wednesday—Dodger vs Giants Bench-Clearer and Division of Halves—the twilight edition in Atlanta featured a batter upset with the way a pitcher threw a pitch, and both teams responded by encroaching upon the playing field, as they did for a second time just one inning later when one team took umbrage at a batter celebrating a home run.

Is it getting ridiculous or is it entertainment? We'll discuss that in a minute, but first, here are the plays:

O'Nora tries peacekeeping after Pillar's action.
With two out and none on in the top of the 7th inning of an 8-3 ballgame, Blue Jays batter Kevin Pillar prepared to face 0-2 pitch from Braves pitcher Jason Motte, which came as a swinging strike cutter for the third out of the frame...except that Pillar was upset with Motte's accelerated cadence in delivering the pitch, and verbalized some complaint to that effect, causing Motte to walk towards the plate and Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki to attempt a confrontation of his own as Pillar turned away in a "I want the last word" type of maneuver.

As far as quick pitches are concerned, Ramon De Jesus recently (on April 23) ejected Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons for objecting to his illegal pitch, automatic ball call. For that situation, replays indicated that the batter was not ready to receive the pitch when Gibbons' pitcher delivered it, while in Atlanta, Pillar did appear set to face Motte's pitch—Pillar just did not expect Motte's cadence to be so quick.

The field naturally is halved after Pillar's K.
The key distinction lies in Rule 6.02(a)(5) Comment, which states, "A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted."

Thus, because Pillar was reasonably set in the batter's box when Motte effected his delivery, the pitch was legal and, by rule, not a "quick pitch." Thus, HP Umpire Brian O'Nora—who passionately motioned to the Atlanta bench to return to the dugout—allowed it, and the strikeout stood.

Benches clear a second time in Atlanta.
Just one inning later, Blue Jays batter Jose Bautista hit a solo home run off pitcher Eric O'Flaherty to bring Toronto to within four runs, and flipped his bat in celebration. Upon his arrival at home plate, he became engaged in a verbal entanglement with Braves catcher Suzuki, who, already displeased with Pillar's conduct, wasn't happy that Bautista had celebrated his home run in such fashion. Earlier in the home run trot, Braves first baseman Jace Peterson had attempted to confront Bautista, but Bautista ignored him.

Again, the benches cleared, again the umpires broke up the fray, and again no ejections resulted.

Toronto's most recent bench clearing incident occurred on September 26, 2016, and resulted in four ejections.
Atlanta's most recent bench clearing incident occurred on September 14, 2016, and resulted in one ejection.

Did the benches really need to clear for this?
Prior to this, the Blue Jays fought the Texas Rangers on May 15, 2016, while the Braves fought the Brewers on September 25, 2013 (also as the result of a catcher unhappy with a batter's home run celebration).

Last year, we discussed Psychology & Marketing - Why MLB Discipline is Weak. The premise of the  discussion concerned MLB's aloof attitude regarding discipline for misconduct: without question, a bench clearing incident in high school or college will likely result in at least one ejection, if not an outright forfeited game. In the Majors, however, bad behavior is theatre, and nothing stirs up ratings quite like two entire teams out of their dugouts (and bullpens).

We also discussed authority to impose discipline:
An umpire derives his/her authority from a league office, assignor, conference, UIC, etc., who entrusts said official with carrying out the umpire's duties on game day. Thus, the umpire's decision to dismiss a disrespectful player/coach who has violated the game's rules, logically, must be supported by the office/assignor/conference/UIC, lest the umpire's (and any other umpire's) jurisdiction be diminished and his/her ability to officiate compromised.
If the League itself doesn't particularly care to punish teams who needlessly delay the game with unsporting acts, then its umpires are not in a position to do so either, unless absolutely necessary. In conclusion, "baseball tacitly encourages ejection-able behavior [and bench clearing incidents] through its weak penalties because, as a business—as the American pastime hoping to retain relevance in the new era—it must."

In conclusion, whether this counts as entertainment or a ridiculous mockery of baseball, one thing is for sure: Repeated bench clearing incidents aren't good for baseball's vaunted pace-of-play dilemma. Video via "Read More"