Saturday, September 20, 2014

Appeals: The Legalese of Reviewable Base Touching

Umpires consulted Replay Review on a base touch appeal play during the Tigers-Royals game. With one out and two on, Royals batter Omar Infante hit a 2-1 fastball from Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer on a line drive to Ian Kinsler, who attempted to double up Royals baserunner R2 Eric Hosmer, throwing the ball away as Royals baserunner R3 Salvador Perez ran through home plate.

Umps Nauert, Vanover, Carapazza & Hernandez.
After the Tigers executed a live ball appeal during which 3B Umpire Larry Vanover ruled Perez legally retouched (or tagged up at) third base, Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus elected to file a Manager's Challenge, Vanover signaled for New York, and joined HP Umpire Angel Hernandez in donning the replay headsets, landline to MLBAM HQ.

So... what happened? Was the play reviewable, was it actually reviewed, and was the correct call made?
Video: Tigers appeal, third out costs Royals a run (FOX)

Question 1: Was the play reviewable? The relevant regulation citation is Replay Review V.F.3.: "Base Running. The following base running calls are reviewable...Upon an appropriate appeal by the defensive Club, whether a base runner touched a base (see Rule 7.10(b) and Comment)." OBR Rule 7.10(a) is the relevant rule: "Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when—After a fly ball is caught, he fails to retouch his original base before he or his original base is tagged."

Answer 1: YES...but (see 1a), this play is reviewable and may be initiated as the result of a Manager's Challenge (or Crew Chief Review if after the 7th inning and the requesting team has previously unsuccessfully used its Challenge).

Question 1.a: ...But what of Replay Review Regulation V.D.2, which states that "The Umpire's judgment on whether a base runner left early when tagging up" is not subject to review?
Answer 1.a: Depends on Ausmus. The reason V.D.2 may not apply to this play is because Vanover's judgment as to the timing of when R3 Perez left third base did not have to be the subject of Ausmus' inquiry. Replay Review Regulation II.I is Specificity of the Challenge and requires the Manager to "inform the Umpire of the specific calls for which he is seeking Replay Review."

If the specific call Ausmus attempted to challenge was whether R3 Perez touched third base, as in Rule 7.10, which is reviewable pursuant to Replay Review Regulation V.F.3, as specified above in Question 1, the play may be reviewable. If the specific call Ausmus attempted to challenge was whether R3 Perez left third base before the catch (timing), the play is not reviewable. Vanover in post game comments stated that Ausmus challenged that R3 Perez "did not tag properly." This reason for request is too vague to parse whether Ausmus challenged a reviewable or unreviewable part of the play.

Let's get even more technical. Regulation V.F.3 states that "whether a base runner touched a base" is reviewable while V.D.2 states "whether a base runner left early when tagging up" is not reviewable. Thus, the physical act of touching is reviewable and the issue of timing is not reviewable. A retouch, which is "the act of a runner in returning to a base as legally required," is not specifically covered by Replay Review Regulations, but in the tautology of touch/retouch/tag-up/retag, etc., we see that only the extremes of a base touch and leaving a base are covered; the former is reviewable, the latter is not. Retouch falls somewhere in the middle and, therefore, may be technically subject to Replay interpretation.

Question 2: Did the Tigers actually execute an appeal?
Answer 2: YES. Contrary to the broadcast's remarks, the Tigers filed a legal appeal prior to Ausmus' challenge by stepping on third base (the alleged missed base) and appeal to the umpire for a ruling on R3, who had since scored. An appeal must be made before the next pitch, or any play or attempted play, and must be made while the ball is alive. Though it is most common to see an appeal initiated from the pitcher standing on the mound after the umpire has declared "Play" following a dead ball, the rules allow for an appeal to be made during the same play sequence as the alleged offensive violation to be appealed, all while the ball is live. Had the Tigers not filed an appeal, the play would not have been reviewable (until a proper and legal appeal was filed).

I'll say it again. Contrary to the FOX broadcasters' claim, the Tigers did appeal at third base.

Question 3: Was it actually reviewed?
Answer 3: NO. Vanover and Hernandez spent two-and-a-half minutes on the headsets, yet MLB claims the play was not reviewable (and thus was not reviewed by New York). If the play was not actually reviewed (e.g., no decision was rendered by New York), the error is charged to the Replay Officials for not reviewing a play eligible for review via Manager's Challenge. If the play was indeed reviewed and resulted in an overturned call, this decision was proper and correct. Instead, it appears the on-field umpires reversed the original call after on-field conference with Vanover, Hernandez, 1B Umpire Paul Nauert and 2B Umpire Vic Carapazza.

Question 4: Was the correct call ultimately made?
Answer 4: YES. Video evidence is quite clear and convincing that R3 Perez failed to retouch third base.

I'll say that again, too. YES, the on-field umpires got the call right. R3 didn't retouch and was properly declared out on appeal.


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