Monday, February 24, 2020

MLB Hires Ramon De Jesus to Umpire Staff

The pride of Santo Domingo, Ramon Silvestre De Jesus Ferrer is now a full-time MLB umpire, hired by Major League Baseball to the staff ahead of the 2020 season, becoming the first-ever Dominican Republic-born ump to join the roster.

The 36-year-old De Jesus began his minor league career in the Arizona Instructional League after graduating from the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring, passing through the Florida State, New York-Penn, South Atlantic, Eastern, and Pacific Coast Leagues, with a stop at the Arizona Fall League along the way.

He made his MLB debut in April 2016, the first Dominican umpire in history to officiate a big league game.
Related PostMajor League Debut of Umpire Ramon De Jesus (18) (4/22/16).

De Jesus joins the staff with 373 games of MLB experience, including 10 ejections.

News of MLB's De Jesus hire was first reported by the Dominican news outlet El Tren Deportivo Radio alongside Dominican umpire Felix Neon's hire to the minor leagues.

Friday, February 21, 2020

MLB Hires Nic Lentz to Full-Time Umpire Staff

Major League Baseball hired Nic Lentz to its full-time umpire staff, cementing the 30-year-old Michigan native's place in MLB history. Nicolas James Lentz joins the MLBU roster with 485 games of big league experience and eight ejections following his debut in April 2016. He wears the uniform sleeve number 59.

After graduating from the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring in 2008, Lentz journeyed through Minor League Baseball's Arizona, Florida Instructional, New York-Penn, Midwest, Florida State, Arizona Instructional, Eastern, and International Leagues.

Lentz ejected Boone in August 2018.
He also officiated the offseason Venezuelan and Arizona Fall Leagues. Lentz is the first Coastal Plain League alum to debut in the Major Leagues; fellow MLB call-ups Roberto Ortiz, Shane Livensparger, and John Bacon also are CPL alumni.

New-hire Lentz received the UEFL's Best Ejection of the Year Award in 2018 following his banishment of Aaron Boone in New York over a balls/strikes dispute.

As we noted in the wake of a slew of Yankees ejections in 2019, Boone appears to find himself ejected by Triple-A call-up umpires at a disproportionate rate, and Lentz constitutes the first Triple-A Boone ejector to be subsequently hired by MLB to the full-time staff (Boone has only been managing the Yankees since 2018).
Related Post2018 UEFL Award for Ejections of the Year - West & Lentz (11/8/18).

Lentz was one of several young umpires to run a half-marathon this offseason, along with Brennan Miller, Chris Segal, and first-time Spring Training roster invitee Erich Bachus.
Related PostTriple-A Tradition? Young Umps Run for Charity (2/17/20).

In 2018, we identified Lentz as the MiLB umpire most likely to be hired by Major League Baseball. He fills the vacancy left by the loss of longtime MLB umpire Eric Cooper.
Related PostFuture MLB Hiring Outlook at the 2018 Break (7/16/18).
Related PostEric Cooper Dies at 52 Following Blood Clot (10/20/19).

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Gary Cederstrom Retires Following World Series Finale

31-year AL and MLB umpire Gary Cederstrom has retired, electing to exit baseball on top, having officiated the 2019 World Series (and ALDS), bringing his career totals to 3,579 regular season games officiated, along with three Wild Card Games, nine Division Series, eight League Championship Series, and four World Series.

The North Dakota native and NDSU Bison fan worked his way through the Midwest League, Eastern League, and American Association before his 1989 American League debut.

Amongst Cederstrom's 41 career big league ejections were Paul O'Neill, Terry Collins, Joe Girardi, Buck Martinez, and, most recently, Eric Thames in 2019, which was Cede's first ejection since Bruce Bochy in 2017, which in turn was his first since Miguel Cabrera in 2015.
Related Label: Gary Cederstrom

Cederstrom truly leaves the game on top, having been named the UEFL's Crew Chief of the Year following the 2019 season. He also won the Crew Chief of the Year Award in 2015.
Related Post2019 UEFL Award for Crew Chief - Gary Cederstrom (11/6/19).

Congratulations, Gary! We'll have news on other staff changes—including retirements and promotion activity—in the coming days.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

MLB Memo to Teams - Umps to Confer on Intent HBPs

After MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced a memo that umpires will now confer on certain hit-by-pitch situations to determine pitcher intent (e.g., for warning or ejection), some speculated that a home plate umpire's game management role may be drastically altered and perhaps hindered. Gil's Call posits that the umpire's ability to handle such a tense situation isn't going anywhere.

With the memo's reported characterization that umpires will confer to determine whether the act was intentional, the vague wording may lead some to conclude that umpires will conference after such a potentially hostile act prior to managing the situation with ejection (or warning)—as opposed to the plate umpire's traditional role of immediately responding to the intentional HBP.

To review, Official Baseball Rule 6.02(c)(9) (Intentionally Pitch at the Batter) states that "if, in the umpire's judgment, such a violation occurs, the umpire may elect either to: (A) Expel the pitcher, or the manager and the pitcher from the game, or (B) may warn the pitcher and the manager of both teams that another such pitch will result in the immediate expulsion of that pitcher [or a replacement] and the manager."

Opinion: UIC still has ability to act on HBP.
In my estimation, however, the plate umpire's ability to respond immediately—as exhibited by HP Umpire Tim Timmons during a 2011 ejection in Atlanta after Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano threw at Braves batter chipper Jones, nearly igniting a benches-clearing brawl before Timmons quickly shut it down through, and this is key, immediately ejecting Zambrano—will not be impeded by the new guidelines.

Given that MLB's reported impetus for issuing the HBP guidelines is 2019's Reds-Pirates fighting saga (and not anything Astros-related), it would be odd for "new Joe Torre" Chris Young to handcuff umpires from immediate response—from being able to quickly eject and defuse by communicating to the beaned team, "Hey, I got this. The pitcher is ejected. Your response is not required."
Related PostMLB Ejections 143-151 - Larry Vanover (1-9; PIT-CIN) (7/30/19).
Related PostMLB Ejection 070 - Jeff Nelson (5; David Bell) (5/29/19).
Related PostMLB Ejections 009-013 - Jeff Kellogg (1-5; Puig CIN & PIT) (4/7/19).

Instead, I would consider the new guidelines an addition to the MLB Umpire's Manual section on "Crew Consultation and Getting the Play Right."

Crew consults can upgrade...but downgrade?
Specifically, intentional HBPs may very well be considered a new type of play or situation for which umpires may get together to get the call right, with full knowledge of the officiating axiom that once rung, the bell cannot be unrung (e.g., if the plate umpire ejects the pitcher, the crew probably won't decide to un-eject the pitcher...but if the plate umpire doesn't eject the pitcher, the crew may well decide to eject the pitcher).

To that end, MLB's new directive may result in more situations being looked at by four umpires as opposed to one (see Ejection 070 - Nelson/Bell), but likely won't prevent any plate umpires from acting on instinct and feel for the game. In other words, I'd expect that UICs will still warn/eject as usual with no warnings or ejections being rescinded, but if no action is taken (or a warning, but not ejection, is given), that the crew will retain the ability to decide after-the-fact to upgrade a no-call to a warning/ejection or to upgrade a warning to an ejection.
Related PostHandling a Bench Clearing Incident - Battle of Texas (5/2/17).

Video as follows:

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Sign Stealing Scandal - Prepare for Retaliation, Umps

In November, we analyzed the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal and an umpire's role in such thievery (hint: it's nearly nonexistent). With MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's penalties doled out, umps should prepare for retaliation in 2020, given the league-wide response from various players to the entire episode.

To review, sign stealing is a legal enterprise that, absent Little League modifications or NCAA's rule regarding video communication equipment, does not fall under an umpire's jurisdiction. For MLB specifically, even if the scheme abuses technology (and trash cans), umpires do not have basis in the Official Baseball Rules to intercede.

In this case, a professional umpire's only potential response is to notify the league office after the fact in a post-game report. That's it.
Related PostAbuse of Technology - Umpire's Role in Sign Stealing (11/18/19).

And with that out of the way, we turn our attention to widespread reaction from non-Astro players largely denouncing Houston's actions as 'cheating' and otherwise nefarious, for even though sign stealing isn't prohibited in OBR, the on-field aftermath/revenge is left to the umpires to manage.

With Braves player Nick Markakis just the latest to advocate for some measure of retribution ("every single guy over there needs a beating"), umpires must acknowledge the very real probability of retaliation during regular season games (teams generally don't go for revenge during Spring Training, but Grapefruit League crews should still keep the possibility in mind).

Vegas has a betting line for 2020 Houston HBP.
For MLB umpires, it would be improper to judge whether implicated players escaping Commissioner Manfred's punishment is a just outcome or not; instead, umpires must remain cognizant of opponents' reactions and messaging.

Despite the Commissioner's statement that retaliation, most likely in the form of intentional hit-by-pitch acts, will not be tolerated and could result in enhanced discipline, umpires have no say in before- or after-the-fact matters: the only concern is what happens on the field, and at this stage, it is growing increasingly likely that on-the-field retaliation will occur, and potentially on multiple occasions.

And when it does—whether a pitcher intentionally throwing at a batter, a runner spiking a fielder, fighting, or otherwise—umpires must be ready to respond evenhandedly and readily, for in this case, as Ron Kulpa once infamously declared in Houston, an umpire must be prepared to "do anything" necessary to restore order after an unsportsmanlike incident, which in this case may include, warnings, ejections, or other actions.

Video as follows:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Triple-A Tradition? Young Umps Run for Charity

The 2019-2020 offseason may have established a new @UmpsCare tradition and possible fitness test for young umpires climbing the MiLB-to-MLB ladder as Nic Lentz, Brennan Miller, Erich Bacchus, and Chris Segal all ran half-marathons for charity over the winter months.

Bacchus, Lentz, and Miller each ran the Holly Springs Half Marathon in North Carolina in November while Segal took to the Colonial Half Marathon course (Williamsburg, Virginia) in February.

The professional umpires, all of whom will call MLB Spring Training games in 2020, ran to fundraise for UMPS CARE Charities under the heading "UMPS CARE Run for Bears," so-named for the charity's in-season Build-A-Bear Workshop experience for children.

In addition to helping to finance Umps Care's in-season programs such as Build-A-Bear, Blue for Kids hospital visits, and on-field events such as Blue Crew Tickets, the young umps coincidentally proved their physical fitness to baseball observers.

A traditional half-marathon is 13.1 miles (21 kilometers) in length.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Podcast - Mike Reilly's Rite of Spring

Retired MLB crew chief Mike Reilly joins The Plate Meeting podcast to trace his career as an umpire, talks about the excitement of Spring Training a week ahead of baseball's 2020 preseason, and shares a healthy heap of stories from ejections to odd plays and fond memories both on and off the field.

Cornflakes tells us how he earned that nickname courtesy Detroit sportscaster Ernie Harwell, the story of ejecting Earl Weaver as a young umpire ("Kid, you're gonna be a good umpire, but you can't umpire today!"), the infamous World Series Bill Haller-Weaver tiff, and takes your questions.

Listen to this show by clicking the play button on the following player or by visiting the link, below. You can also download The Plate Meeting podcast through providers such as Apple Podcasts, Google, Spotify, and more.

Alternate Link: Episode 24 - Mike Reilly's Rite of Spring (CCS on Anchor).

28:00 - 2B Umpire Mike Reilly witnesses Haller's famous mic'd up ejection of Earl Weaver
38:15 - Giants batboy Darren Baker runs onto field during 2002 WS play, HP Umpire Mike Reilly

41:00 - Mike remembers Chuck Meriwether.
49:00 - The Origin of Mike's Corn Flakes Reilly nickname.
53:00 - Mike turns down ump analyst gig at FOX.
56:00 - Questions from the audience.

57:00 - The Steve Bartman play at Wrigley Field - Marlins @ Cubs

The Plate Meeting, a Left Field Umpire Podcast is the official audio program of Close Call Sports, where we talk umpiring with umpires, including analysis or other conversation pertaining to plays, ejections, rules, and more.

It is brought to you by OSIP, where Outstanding Sportsmanship is Paramount.
Follow us on Twitter šŸ¦ (@UmpireEjections) and like on Facebook šŸ‘ (/UmpireEjections).

Thursday, February 13, 2020

MLB's 2020 Rules Include 20-Second Replay Clock

Major League Baseball announced rules changes for the 2020 season, including adoption of MLB's previously-proposed three-batter minimum and a pace-of-play oriented Manager's Challenge procedure change for Replay Review.

Pitchers Must Face Three Batters or End an Inning: This rule, which takes effect during Spring Training as of games played on March 12, requires a pitcher to face a minimum of three batters or to end an inning, whichever comes first. One of MLB's goals is to decrease overall game time, and the League identified pitching changes as a significant culprit: Baseball's idea here is to reduce pitching changes via a pitching mandatory minimum rule.

The rule affords an exception for injury: If a pitcher is injured or falls ill prior to completing the three-batter/end of inning obligation, such incapacitation shall afford the team the ability to remove the pitcher at any time. Whether a pitcher is truly incapacitated or unable to continue is subject to discretion of the umpire crew chief.

Another potential loophole is ejection: If a pitcher is ejected (for instance, for intentionally pitching at batter #2), said pitcher will not be required/forced to face subsequent hitter #3.

Example 1: If a starting pitcher walks the the first two batters of the game, said starter shall be ineligible to be removed. Upon walking (or retiring, or giving up a hit, etc.) the third batter, the pitcher will become eligible for substitution (three batter rule).

Example 2: If a relief pitcher inherits a one-out, bases loaded situation and immediately induces an inning-ending double play, that pitcher will be eligible to be removed (offensive team is put out). If, instead, the pitcher gains only a second (but not third) out on the play, the relief pitcher must remain in the game for a second batter. If this second batter grounds out to end the inning, the pitcher may be removed. If the second batter reaches base, the pitcher must face a third batter. Regardless of what happens during the third hitter's at-bat, once this third batsman completes his time at bat (or a third out is made), the pitcher may be replaced.

Reduction in Challenge Time: Another pace of play initiative-turned-rules change pertains to the Replay Review Regulations. In 2020, a Manager has up to 20 seconds from the conclusion of play to decide whether or not to challenge the umpire's call. This is a decrease from last year's time limit of 30 seconds.

Seeing as umpires did occasionally have to enforce the 30-second clock by denying challenge requests by some managers (and, in a few cases, ejected managers for arguing this enforcement), one might surmise that such disputes will increase in 2020, with a 33% reduction in decision-making time allotment.
Related PostReplay Clock Crackdown - Barrett Denies Bochy Review (4/2/19).

Active Roster Limits: Rosters from Opening Day through August 31 will expand from 25 to 26, September rosters must have 28 players (max. 14 pitchers subject to two-way player designation), position players are permitted to pitch only in extra innings and/or any game with a 6+ run differential, and pitcher injured list reinstatements cannot occur sooner than 15 days after initial placement on the Injured List.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Manager Osuna Punished for Spitting on Umpire Leal

Following an ejection in the Venezuelan League, Tiburones (Sharks) Manager Renny Osuna spit on umpire Carlos Leal before taking his tantrum into the dugout. Named the LVBP's 2019-20 Manager of the Year, Osuna now faces a 10-game suspension and fine to be imposed next season, as the winter league has already named a champion.

Osuna argued with Leal during a Sharks at-bat against Los Caribes de AnzoĆ”tegui (La Guaira was ultimately swept by AnzoĆ”tegui in the semifinal round of the playoffs), netting himself an ejection. During the post-ejection dispute, Osuna appeared to spit in Leal's face before being ushered off the field.

Once back inside his dugout, Osuna appeared to enter into a physical confrontation with a member of the Sharks before finally leaving the confines. The LVBP's 10-game suspension is codified in the league's Code of Ethics and Discipline, as is its monetary fine.

Approximately 10 days following the spitting incident, Osuna received the LVBP's Alfonso "Chico" Carrasquel Award for 2019-2020 Manager of the Year.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Tmac's Teachable Moments - The Official Warning

With college baseball starting its 2020 season, Tmac's Teachable Moments visits the official warning for verbal abuse as codified in the NCAA rulebook.

In this example, Prospect League HP Umpire Andy McPherson officially warns the West Virginia Miners for bench jockeying in the 3rd inning with WVA leading the Chillicothe Paints, 6-2.

This warning proves beneficial for the crew several innings later, after West Virginia has surrendered 12 unanswered runs to put Chillicothe ahead, 14-6, and McPherson enforces the NCAA verbal abuse procedure for repeated abuse in ejecting Miners Manager Mike Syrett.

Writing a ticket (warning) on the lineup card.
For reference, two relevant rules apply. First is NCAA 2-57 in the definitions section: "An 'Official Warning' is a warning from an umpire that carries the words, 'This is your official warning. If you continue, you will leave me no option but to eject you.' Slang terms such as, but not limited to, 'knock it off;' 'that's enough;' 'don't say anything else;' or, 'I've heard enough' do not constitute an official warning."

Finally, NCAA 5-17 (Verbal Abuse [Bench Jockeying])'s penalty states, "The umpire shall warn the offending individual and the coach one time. If the verbal abuse continues after the warning, the offender shall be ejected. If the verbal abuse continues after the first ejection, the head coach shall be ejected along with any other offending personnel."

Also included in this Teachable are the following lessons: "Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play" (shared language with OBR's General Instructions to Umpires) and to work with catchers as part of a game management strategy. This scenario—warning & ejection—occurs in part because of the catcher's bad body language and poor working relationship with the plate umpire.

Video as follows: