The full text of Rule 7.08(j) specifies that the runner is out when—:
He fails to return at once to first base after overrunning or oversliding that base. If he attempts to run to second he is out when tagged. If, after overrunning or oversliding first base he starts toward the dugout, or toward his position, and fails to return to first base at once, he is out, on appeal, when he or the base is tagged;
|Puig, Lopes question Welke's ruling of 'attempt.'|
Abandonment uses terms like "leaves" and "obviously"—it's not a call to be made lightly.
The overrun provision is much more stringent, using the phrase "return at once" and "attempts to run"—it is a call to be made, for lack of a better term, lightly—or at least more readily than abandonment. In the grand hierarchy of rules, though rules are worth the same, it appears Rule 7.08(j) failure to return trumps or at least holds more sway than Rule 7.08(a)(2) abandonment at first base. In other words, it is preferred.
On Thursday, Dodgers batter-runner Yasiel Puig was called out down the line from first base for his failure to return at once to first base, 1B Umpire Tim Welke ruling that Puig—well—what did he call?
Let's break down the rule.
Rule 7.08(j) contains three possibilities:
A runner fails to return at once to first base after overrunning or oversliding that base. This much is opaquely clear, as transparent as a brick wall can possibly be. If the runner fails to return at once to first base, the rules suggest that he can be guilty of one of three alternate actions. They are:
(1) He attempts to run to second. If he does this, he is out when tagged.
(2) He starts toward the dugout. If he does this, he is out when he or first base is tagged on appeal.
(3) He starts toward his position. Here, too, he is out when he or first base is tagged on appeal.
The Official Baseball Rules (OBR) suggest these—and only these three—possibilities. There is no concept of "he failed to return at once by dilly-dallying down the line and taking his time." No, either he attempted to run to second or started towards the dugout or his position. He didn't simply "stall."
Thus, it is clear Welke ruled Puig out for attempting to run to second base—Puig knew he was safe, the ball got away, so he didn't go back to the dugout and the inning was still alive so there was no third out to be had, no position to wander off to.
And here's where things get a bit wacky. OBR didn't bother to define the word "attempt," which left us with many loose ends in the rules book—a check or half swing, a play/attempted play and an attempt to go to a base, as we have in Rule 7.08(j). The Rules Committee also added 2014 wording to Rule 8.05(d) regarding a runner creating the impression that he is attempting to advance to a base, whether he is or not.
|Was Puig's turn an attempt to advance?|
We know, via Rules 7.05(g) and 7.10, that an attempted play is interpreted as "a legitimate effort by a defensive player who has possession of the ball to actually retire a runner...A fake or a feint to throw shall not be deemed a play or an attempted play" (MLB Umpire Manual, 37-22).
Well, from here we can draw some sort of a parallel between defensive attempts, which are formally defined, and offensive ones, which are not. This uses transitivity and is not an approved interpretation.
Here, Puig's actions signify an attempt when: "He fails to return at once to first base after overrunning or oversliding that base and makes a legitimate effort to run to second."
Just as an attempted play may occur when a defensive ballcarrier—if only for an instant—makes a legitimate effort to retire a runner, it may occur when an offensive player—if only for an instant—makes a legitimate effort to run to second base or advance. He doesn't actually have to run.
Did Puig's actions, in beginning the "turn" as depicted in the image above—he clearly deviated from his natural path down the foul line—constitute a legitimate effort? The physical preparatory evidence was there, and thus, Welke ruled Puig out for attempting to run to second.
Video: Twins tag Puig after overrun of first base, successfully appealing a violation of Rule 7.08(j)