Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Carefree Throw, Extended Bat, and Blue Jays Protest

Blue Jays protest after Russell Marin's wild throw off Shin-Soo Choo's bat in Toronto resulted in a run and Rangers lead. With two outs and a runner on third in the top of the 7th inning of a tied ALDS Game 5, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin caught a pitch from pitcher Aaron Sanchez. While attempting to return the ball back to Sanchez, Martin's throw hit Rangers batter Choo's bat and subsequently rebounded down the third base line. As the ball bounced freely onto the infield, Rangers baserunner R3 Rougned Odor ran toward home plate as HP Umpire and crew chief Dale Scott removed his mask and called for "Time" as Odor approached and stepped on home plate.

Following a consultation amongst the six-person umpiring crew, Odor was permitted to score, Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons requested and received a Crew Chief-initiated replay review concerning a rules check, and ultimately protested the game when the umpires' call was not overturned. Choo eventually struck out to end the inning after Toronto fans littered the field with bottles and other debris in a postseason scene reminiscent of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game when LF Umpire Sam Holbrook's infield fly call drew the ire of Atlanta Braves fans.

Walking Through the Play: F2 Martin catches a pitch, B1 Choo stretches out in the batter's box, and PU Scott keeps the play alive (e.g., no time out due to a foul, ball in the dirt, etc.). F2 Martin haphazardly throws the ball toward the mound, but it strikes Choo's bat, which has been extended from Choo's person, but is still within the confines of the left-handed batter's box. The ball caroms away, R3 Odor runs toward home plate, PU Scott calls "Time" before Odor arrives at home, and immediately thereafter, Odor touches home plate.

Analysis: First refer to Rule 5.04(b)(5) [OBR 2014 Rule 6.03], which states, "The batter's legal position shall be with both feet within the batter's box." Replays conclusively indicate B1 Choo was legal during the entire play up to the point of his bat contacting the thrown ball. Rule 5.09(c)(2) allows for a dead ball when the umpire interferes with the catcher's throw attempting to retire a runner, but this is specifically umpire interference.

Rule 6.01(a)(10) [Formerly 7.09] states it is interference and an out when: "He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball." The key is intentionally interferes. Replays indicate Choo's actions did not appear intentional; hence, no interference.

The penalty for interference: "If the umpire declares the batter, batter-runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules."

As for Scott calling "Time", consult Rule 5.01 [5.02]: "After the umpire calls “Play” the ball is alive and in play and remains alive and in play until for legal cause, or at the umpire’s call of “Time” suspending play, the ball becomes dead." In other words, even though Scott did not call "Time" for a legal cause, his inadvertent whistle, to borrow from other sports' terminology, nonetheless caused a dead ball situation.

Rule 5.06(c) [5.02] concerns dead balls: "While the ball is dead no player may be put out, no bases may be run and no runs may be scored, except that runners may advance one or more bases as the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive (such as, but not limited to a balk, an overthrow, interference, or a home run or other fair ball hit out of the playing field)." Hence, even though Scott's call of "Time" was improper, the rules still allow for an umpire to score a run if, in his judgment, the runner would have scored as the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive.


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