Sunday, May 19, 2013

On the Black: Official Foul Pole Coloring Scheme Explained

When umpires reversed Matt Joyce's double to a foul pole-aided home run call in the top of the 6th inning of the Rays-Orioles game, veteran crew chief Gerry Davis, 1B Umpire Dan Iassogna and crewmates Brian Knight and Mark Carlson employed instant replay review (Knight staying on the field) and some official and ground rule quick thinking to rule a home run pursuant to the functional—yet absolutely rules-correct—yellow-black-yellow color scheme.

Contrary to Rays TV broadcasters Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson's summation of instant replay review triggers, umpires do not have to call a home run initially in order to initiate a review: The call must concern fair ball boundary call (e.g., a home run), but is not required to be called a home run on the field to be reviewed. As announced in 2008, instant replay may be invoked to determine whether a home run is fair or foul, has left the playing field or whether the play has been subject to fan interference.

Camden Yards' right field corner and foul pole.
As illustrated by the diagram to the right, four unique 'zones' are created by the modern yellow-black-yellow foul pole coloring scheme wherein a foul pole extends upward from atop and behind or flush with an outfield wall.

The following is an MLB universal ground rule: "all yellow lines are in play." For the purposes of this rule, a "yellow line" is defined as a painted marking, as in the line painted on the outfield wall as in Zone 3. The yellow paint which covers the foul pole proper, as in Zone 1, does not constitute a "yellow line." To differentiate between the "yellow line" and the yellow-painted foul pole, both foul poles at Camden Yards and many other baseball stadiums feature a section of black paint at the base (Zone 2).

Meanwhile, in an attempt to reduce confusion, some ballparks have employed different color schemes to replace the yellow-black-yellow sequence. For instance, both Yankee and Dodger Stadiums' painted foul lines on their left and right field walls is white with yellow foul poles, though curiously the Yankees still use the black ridge for a white-black-yellow combination while the Dodgers cut out the middle man with a straight white-to-yellow configuration. The New York Mets experimented with white-orange for a time.

Dodgers' white-to-yellow.
The Oriole Park at Camden Yards ground rules specify that:

>> A fair bounding ball striking the railing above the cement wall down the right field line in foul territory is in play;
>> A batted ball in flight striking on the top of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field or the railing above the scoreboard is a home run;
>> >> A ball striking the facing of the scoreboard and rebounding onto the playing field is in play.

Fenway Park (Boston)'s black mark.
As such, OBR and ground rule working in concert specify that all batted balls, on the fly, striking the Camden Yards RF corner's:

- Zone 1 (above wall, foul pole yellow): Shall be a fair ball and home run;
- Zone 2 (above wall, foul pole black): Shall be a fair ball and home run;
- Zone 3 (wall, fair territory): Shall be a fair ball and in play (if the ball subsequently strikes the foul pole in flight, it is a HR);
- Zone 4 (all areas, foul territory): Shall be a foul ball and out of play (in play only if it is a fair bounding ball and bounces back onto field).

Accordingly, Davis and umpires Iassogna and Carlson correctly awarded Joyce a home run to give the Rays a 3-1 advantage.

Video: Showalter's lobby for a foul ball call backfires, as the umpires reverse course in Tampa's favor (TB)


Gil Imber said...

i dont know whats crazier, this, or when Showalter (when he was the manager of the diamondbacks) asked his pitcher to intentionaly walked Barry Bonds with the bases loaded.

Gil Imber said...

The announcers got it wrong again? Color me surprised... not. Collectively, they have a worse track record than the umpires.

Gil Imber said...

It wasn't exactly obvious so Buck must have thought he was right. To the naked eye, it looked like it was a foul ball. Only using the slow motion camera could you definitively tell it was a home run. And also, considering that was the year Bonds hit 70 HRs, would you rather give up one or four runs in that situation?

Gil Imber said...

so does the ball have to be ruled a homerun to be able to review fair or foul, or could the umpires have ruled this a foul ball, even though it was initially ruled a double?

Gil Imber said...

can a non-homerun call be reviewed? i.e. if the call was "foul ball" and the debate was whether it hit the wall fair or foul- not whether it was a homerun or not?

Gil Imber said...

The call on the field can be fair (HR), fair (in play), foul, out (fan interference), base award (fan interference), etc., and the final call can be consistent with any of the IR triggers. As reference, consider MLB's denial of the Phillies' 2011 protest of Joe West using instant replay to rule fan interference in calling an out call wherein the initial call was fair (in play/no interference). In that situation, the initial call was not a HR and the final call was not a HR, yet as the denied protest confirms, replay can be triggered by, amongst other things, fair fly ball spectator interference. Charlie Manuel was ejected arguing the call.

2011 play: Ejections: Joe West (7);

In the present case, we have a fair ball (in play) overturned to a fair ball (HR). That too is an authorized use of instant replay.

Gil Imber said...

so even though it was ruled fair and in play, the result still could have been a foul ball?

Gil Imber said...

Buck does some crazy stuff...but I think it's out of baseball genius...I'm not saying I'm a Buck fan, but the guy just knows baseball and has seen--everything.

In this case, though, i don't give hime much credit (blame). Joyce barely touched second based before he was telling the umps it was a home run. This would have been looked at regardless of whether or not Buck said a word!

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