Sunday, May 8, 2011

Umpire Odds & Ends: Hitting the Umpire

In baseball, as in basketball or football, the arbiter's purpose is to officiate and uphold the integrity of the game. Sometimes, however, the umpire can't help but get involved. It happened twice today, a pitched/thrown/batted ball hit an umpire. Reviewing the In Play rules tells us what to do when an umpire has the misfortune of getting hit by a baseball. First up is Rule 5.08.
5.08 If a thrown ball accidentally touches a base coach, or a pitched or thrown ball touches an umpire, the ball is alive and in play. However, if the coach interferes with a thrown ball, the runner is out.
For an example of 5.08, we turn to 1B Umpire Andy Fletcher, who also had an ejection today. But besides Andy's disciplinary action, he was also involved in a play where Rule 5.08 had to be invoked: Ump gets hit low on pickoff throw. During this play, in which Fletcher was unfortunately hit by the thrown baseball, the crew properly kept everything alive as specified in Rule 5.08.

Next up, in reviewing Rule 5.09(f) and Rule 6.08(d), we have to consider whether the following play qualifies under either of these rules and what to do if it does and if it does not.
5.09 The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when—  (f) A fair ball touches a runner or an umpire on fair territory before it touches an infielder including the pitcher, or touches an umpire before it has passed an infielder other than the pitcher; runners advance, if forced.
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— (d) A fair ball touches an umpire or a runner on fair territory before touching a fielder. If a fair ball touches an umpire after having passed a fielder other than the pitcher, or having touched a fielder, including the pitcher, the ball is in play.
When 3B Umpire Mark Wegner was hit by Mariners batter Brendan Ryan's batted ball, the umpires had to consider whether this hit-by-batted-ball qualified for a dead ball under Rule 5.09 and 5.09(f) or whether it should stay alive under Rule 6.08(d). The crew correctly applied Rule 6.08(d); the fair ball clearly passed the third baseman before touching Wegner.

Last year, 2B Umpire CB Bucknor was hit by a batted ball while positioned in front of all fielders (other than the pitcher). Bucknor correctly applied Rule 5.09(f) by immediately calling "time" and declaring a dead ball, correctly awarding the batter first base.

Rule 9.05 GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS TO UMPIRES points out that it is extremely important to "BE IN POSITION TO SEE EVERY PLAY." With a 1B or 3B Umpire who must rule on fair/foul hits or pickoffs with runners on, being in position to see these plays carries the risk of getting hit by a batted or thrown ball. But even when an umpire is unfortunate enough to be struck by a ball, he must quickly discern whether to call "time" under Rule 5.09 or to let play continue under Rule 6.08. As unfortunate as getting struck by a screaming liner or bouncing wild throw may be, umpires must be vigilant at all times, and always maintain rules expertise, ready to apply any rule at a moment's (painful) notice.


Jimmy said...

Great read about the specifics of a rule. Love the CB clip & the way the Pads announcers say 'CB' Bucknor LOL.

Jack_1B Ump said...

Good contrast between the two base ump situations, I like the rules references. Looking snazzy. And great positioning by Wegner standing in foul territory so, just like a runner, a ball hitting him on the fly will be foul. Wegner is solid. The best live/dead ball is the umpire interference behind the plate where you hold off on calling it until it's evident that the SB runner is going to be safe. Forgot about CB's incident last year. He's been keeping a low profile lately, compared to where he was years ago.

John said...

Nicely done, different situations are quite obvious when spelled out with the rules. I'm thinking, it should be obvious even without this, but you never know. I just HOPE that if a Bucknor 5.09(f) situation happens again, that maybe, JUST MAYBE, someone will reference this article or read it and actually know what they're talking about before saying how the ump screwed their team over... ANNOUNCERS IM TALKING TO YOU>

Anonymous said...

B/w this and DiMuro, rules are getting easier and easier to understand. Props to you and DiMuro for what you guys are doing here.

Anonymous said...

Nice read, but oh man, Fletcher's has got to hurt! Bad bounce. Wegner's got some hops!

Anonymous said...

I used to think umpires that got hit were out of position or lazy.

(Certainly this is "a" reason this occasionally happens in amateur baseball games -- I had a partner get hit last Sunday and he was way too close to the plate and to first base in the B position (2-umpire crew). And then a bit too clueless/shocked to kill the ball and award bases.)

Then I got hit. In 2001. In an adult metal bat game (where they could use any bat they wanted) by a guy who played professional baseball and hit a laser beam right at me and I had time to "turn the other cheek" and get hit in the backside. Thankfully I was in a bad neighborhood and decided to carry my wallet and keys with me on the field. The ball hit my wallet, splitting my driver's license and credit cards in half and leaving a big wallet-shaped bruise on my butt cheek.

Then I got hit again. In 2007. Ground smash in a HS game -- I'm in the C position. Ball hit the side of the mound and ricocheted at a weird angle right into my shin.

So, twice in about 24 years. In 2007, 5 of the 6 guys I work with regularly (and are good umpires) got hit. Bad pitching, pre-BBCOR bats, weird luck, whatever. It happens, and like I told the defensive coach in 2001 (who claimed it was an "easy" DP ball -- he was delusional, BTW), "that's why we have a specific rule in place for it. So neither coach can argue what "would've" happened".

Jon Terry said...

Great article! I love the way you're expanding your content lately.

Anonymous said...

Great writeup, got to admit, when I saw the post title, I thought it was about Joe West's ejection tonight! LOL

Anonymous said...

Anyone see the wild pitch that hit Dale Scott's bag, and a ball popped out - you had two baseballs on the field and innuendo from here to Uranus. Seriously though, what would that be if those two baseballs (the in play one and the in bag one) ended up hitting each other and you got into a "which ball is which" scenario a la Naked Gun? Would that be Rule 5.09 whatever letter it is where you award one base for a pitched ball? I'd take that "lodging in the umpire's clothes" and adapt it with 9.01(c) or whatever the elastic clause is, give the runners one base.

Gil Imber said...

wild pitch play at the plate catcher attempts to throw the ball to pitcher covering home and hits the umpire with his throw whats the call?

Gil Imber said...

5.08 If a thrown ball accidentally touches a base coach, or a pitched or thrown ball touches an umpire, the ball is alive and in play. However, if the coach interferes with a thrown ball, the runner is out.

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