Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Plate Meeting Podcast Episode 1 - Bob Davidson

Welcome to The Plate Meeting, a LF Umpire Podcast from Close Call Sports, where we talk umpiring with umpires. In this inaugural episode, hosts Tmac and Gil are joined by 30-year major league and World Series umpire Bob Davidson, who retired from MLB in 2016 and talks about his journey through professional baseball and rise to the majors—both times—relives some notable ejections and other stories from his decades of service in pro ball, and answers your questions.

Click the below "play" button to hear Episode 1 - Starting the Game with Bob Davidson, or visit the show online at https://anchor.fm/the-plate-meeting. In the future, The Plate Meeting will be available through additional Podcast sources, such as the iTunes store—we'll let you know how to access that when it becomes available.



Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:
The following section contains relevant links, footnotes, or additional commentary relative to subjects discussed on the show. Click the following links for this episode to access the relevant videos.

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Related Post (26:00): MLB Umpire Bob Davidson Retires After 28 Year Career (10/2/16).

Related Video #1 (28:00): 1986 San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals - Fight.

Related Video #2 (34:11): Clint Hurdle simultaneously ejected by Jerry Layne and Bob Davidson.
Related PostEjections: Jerry Layne (1) (6/12/11).

Related Video #3 (38:00): Dodgers forfeit to Cardinals in August 1995 on baseball giveaway night.

Related Video #4 (45:45): John Lackey tossed after throwing at Ian Kinsler two times.
Related PostEjections: Bob Davidson (1) (5/16/09).

Related Video #5 (50:08): Bautista's illegal slide spurs fight with Odor, benches clear in Texas.
Related PostMLB Ejections 040-047 - Scott & Iassogna (TOR-TEX Fight) (5/15/16).

Related Video #6 (52:48): Davidson & Charlie Manuel go nose-to-nose over catcher-blocking play.
Related PostEjection 031: Bob Davidson (1) (5/15/12).

Related Video #7 (55:44): After Long's ejection, Girardi is tossed & crew-mates run in with support.
Related PostEjections 057, 058: Bob Davidson (2, 3) (6/2/12).

Related Video (1:05:12): Colorado's back-to-back balks result in Nationals tying the game (6/13/13).

Related Video (1:11:24): Davidson ejects Montreal mascot Youppi from atop Dodgers' dugout.
Related Box Score: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Montreal Expos, 8/23/89 (22 innings, 6-hour game).

Discussion of the 2018 MLB All-Star Game

As 2018 All-Star Game Umpires, including Crew Chief/HP Umpire Ted Barrett, Jim Reynolds (1B), Alfonso Marquez (2B), Andy Fletcher (3B), Mike Muchlinski (LF), and Cory Blaser (RF) take the field in Washington, DC with Replay Official Marvin Hudson stationed at MLBAM headquarters in New York, we open the floor for 2018 All-Star Game discussion; feel free to also use this time and thread as an open forum for other umpiring matters that may be on your mind.

Programming Note: Immediately following the conclusion of the 2018 All-Star Game, we will debut The Plate Meeting, a LF Umpire Podcast from CloseCallSports.com, featuring our special guest, retired 30-year MLB umpiring veteran Bob Davidson.

Notes include home plate umpire performance according to Statcast/pitch f/x and UEFL Rules 6-2-b-1 (horizontal bound, "Kulpa Rule") and 6-2-b-2 (vertical strike zone, "Miller Rule"). Plays include significant events, if such plays occur.

- 7/17/18, AL@NL: HP Umpire Ted Barrett: pfx. 114/119 Balls + 46/52 Strikes = 160/171 = 93.6%. +1 AL.

Close or Notable Plays (Green = QOC Correct / Red = QOC Incorrect / Yellow = QOC Irrecusable).
- TBD.

Replay Review Records (2018 Season, Opening Day through All-Star Break) - RAP:
UIC Ted Barrett: .800 (8 affirmed / 10 total reviews), 5th in MLB.
U1 Jim Reynolds: .625 (5/8), 25th.
U2 Alfonso Marquez: .429 (3/7), 62nd.
U3 Andy Fletcher: .400 (4/10), 66th.
U4 Mike Muchlinski: .400 (2/5), 66th.
U5 Cory Blaser: .556 (5/9), 35th.
Replay Official Marvin Hudson: .500 (3/6), 42nd.

Overall Team Success Percentage (TSP):
AL Manager AJ Hinch (HOU): TSP = .450 (9 overturned / 20 total), 16th in MLB, 7th in AL.
NL Manager Dave Roberts (LAD): TSP = .400 (10 overturned / 25 total), 23rd in MLB, 11th in NL.

MLB Umpire Camp - Aug 18 in Houston

Public Service Announcement time for umpires: MLB will host a free one-day Umpire Camp/clinic August 18 at Minute Maid Park in Texas, home of the Houston Astros.

The League has a registration form available for this MLBUC, at this link, but even if you don't pre-register, walk-ups are always welcome.

For aspiring professional umpires, the MLB Umpire Camps offer the potential for an invitation to the MLB Professional Mini-Camp in Florida, which in turn offers its highest prospects scholarships to umpire school—either Wendelstedt's or MiLB's Academy.

In 2017, 22 MLB Umpire Camp clinic participants received invites to Mini-Camp and 10 of the Mini-Camp attendees received scholarships to school. Over the course of the program, which dates back to 2006, MLB says that 130 Umpire Camp (clinic) attendees have advanced to work in professional baseball.

To register for the August 18, 2018 clinic in Houston, click here.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Future MLB Hiring Outlook at the 2018 Break

As in 2017, MLBUmpireObserver takes a look at the Triple-A call-up umpire slate at the 2018 All-Star Break and, alongside Russ's stats, puts together a scouting report from the up-and-down farm that is the Minor League fill-in roster. Umpires are ranked by how many games they have worked in 2018, Opening Day through the mid-July All-Star Break.

Nic Lentz has worked the most in 2018.
Tier 1 - Most Likely to Be Hired
Nic Lentz - (214 games in 2 years + 86 games in 2018)
MLUO: He has worked in the big leagues almost all year. I expect him to be either 3rd or 4th to be hired.

Chris Segal - (372 games in 4 years + 83 games in 2018)
MLUO: I believe he will be full time next year. The only thing I worry about is that he has been passed over a few times by the league.

Chad Whitson - (191 games in 4 years + 76 games in 2018)
MLUO: The league is high on him with almost a semi-permanent assignment on Gorman’s crew. I expect him to be 3rd in line to get hired this offseason but he and Lentz are really close to each other.

Ryan Blakney - (349 games in 3 years + 72 games in 2018)
MLUO: He has worked with Holbrook’s crew almost the entire season. He reminds me of Scheurwater last year with a semi-permanent crew assignment. I think he is the next umpire to be hired Full time.

Tier 2 - Waiting in the Wings
Tom Woodring - (299 games in 4 years + 61 games in 2018)
MLUO: He has been up most of the year which is a good sign for him.

Jeremie Rehak - (Rookie + 58 games in 2018)
MLUO: Look for him to keep getting more games, and possibly jump to the top of the list at this point next year. He has the look of a MLB umpire out on the field.

Ben May - (291 games in 4 years + 52 games in 2018)
MLUO: I expect him to not get hired this offseason but looking positive for 2020.

Tier 3 - Middle Ground
Sean Barber - (284 games in 4 years + 52 games in 2018)
MLUO: I feel the league could go either way on him. He has seen some action this year and he will be back next year but I think it will take a lot of turnover to get him a job.

Roberto Ortiz - (74 games in 2 years + 50 games in 2018)
MLUO: I still don’t know where the league will go with him. He could easily go either way.

Jansen Visconti - (Rookie + 50 games in 2018)
MLUO: I almost forgot about Jansen because he has had such a quiet year this year despite getting some very favorable assignments as a rookie. He has a bright outlook in the next few years.

Ramon De Jesus - (178 games in 2 years +29 games in 2018)
MLUO: I at one point thought he would be a front runner for this upcoming offseason but he has obviously falling from number one as he only has 20 some games at the all star break.

Nick Mahrley - (31 games in 1 year +24 games in 2018)
MLUO: I feel like we will need to see more of him next season to figure out how MLB will react to him.

Tier 4 - Caution
Ryan Additon - (55 games in 1 year +20 games in 2018)
MLUO: Very slow start to the year but has picked up. Hopefully he isn’t hurt by the Donnie Baseball curse but I fear he has been.

Shane Livensparger - (40 games in 1 year +18 games in 2018)
MLUO: I expected him to get more games as he was made a rover this season, but the league hasn’t used him very much but I think after this year and a few retirements he will get a look next season.

John Libka - (19 games in 1 year +17 games in 2018)
MLUO: I thought he was on the outside looking in after having 3 calls overturned in a game last year but has gotten some work lately.

Gil's Take: When MLUO put together this year's list, the names were tiered without regard to the number of games each umpire has worked thus far in 2018. Suffice it to say, MLUO's four tiers are accurately reflected in the number of games each call-up has received thus far this season: Segal as the most experienced umpire on the list appears to have the most promise, alongside Whitson, Blakney, and Lentz, followed by Tier 2, whose members have gotten a healthy dose of work thus far.

It is notable that both rookies (Rehak and Visconti) have gotten significant work this year, which bodes well for both as long as they continue to impress at the MLB level. Some of Rehak's situation handling, in particular, has been quite impressive for a newcomer to the big leagues.

On the flip side, we have Additon, Livensparger, and Libka in MLB's proverbial hot seat, with Libka perhaps the umpire who has the greatest opportunity for growth due to how few games he has officiated in the majors, compared to the others. Yes, he had three calls overturned in a game, but if that was the only criterion for MLB work, there might well be a few veteran full-timers out of a job right now.

In all, an umpire likely needs at least 50 games at the major league level before a more substantial opinion can form; the only question is with such talent waiting to surface, will there be enough time?

As far as "time's running out" is concerned, just Barber, May, Segal, Whitson, and Woodring are on call-up year #5 (Blakney's on year #4). In the end, it might very well depend on retirements at the full-time level: this year has produced many MiLB opportunities to work MLB games due to various injuries and surgeries, so it will be interesting to see how that carries over year-to-year. If it translates to retirements, that means more time for everyone and, obviously, a greater number of hires over the winter.


*Segal and May have both worked a suspended game not yet completed, which is not accounted for in the above number of games officiated thus far in 2018.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

UEFL Case Play 2018-5 - Open Baseline Tackle

We head into the All-Star Break with our second oddity of the weekend, this time a Case Play that asks what happens when an airborne fielder and runner collide on the base paths—interference or obstruction, block or charge?

3B Umpire Shane Livensparger signals "safe."
The Play: With one out and two on (R1, R2) in the top of the 9th inning of a 9-0 ballgame, Yankees batter Didi Gregorius hit a ground ball to Orioles third baseman Jace Peterson, who threw to second baseman Jonathan Schoop as Peterson collided with Yankees baserunner R2 Clint Frazier. Schoop successfully forced out R1 Aaron Judge at second base, but Gregorius beat out the ensuing throw to first with Frazier taking third, as replays indicate Peterson did not tag him.

Case Play Question: When Frazier and Peterson collided between second and third base, umpires considered whether the former interfered with the latter, or whether it was the fielder who obstructed the runner. Replays indicate that immediately following the collision, 3B Umpire Shane Livensparger indicated "safe" (no tag, no interference, no obstruction) as 2B Umpire Chris Guccione turned to officiate the force and bona fide slide play at second base.

Is this obstruction, interference, or nothing (or both)? What is the proper outcome for this play?

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR 6.01(a)(6): "If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate."
OBR 6.01(a)(10): "It is interference by a batter or runner when—He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball."
OBR 6.01(h)(2): "If no play is being made on the obstructed runner, the play shall proceed until no further action is possible. The umpire shall then call 'Time' and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction."
OBR Definitions: "Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play."
OBR Definitions: "OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner."
MLBUM RE: 6.01(a)(10): "If, after a player has fielded a batted ball but before he is able to throw the ball, a runner hinders or impedes such fielder, the runner shall be called out for interference."

Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 098 - Ryan Additon (1; Eduardo Escobar)

HP Umpire Ryan Additon ejected Twins 3B Eduardo Escobar (inciting a bench-clearing incident after warnings; QOCU) in the bottom of the 7th inning of the Rays-Twins game. With two out and one on (R3), Rays pitcher Diego Castillo balked home Twins baserunner R3 Brian Dozier before throwing low and inside to batter Escobar, resulting in a bench-clearing incident, after which warnings were issued. Following a called third strike to end the inning, Escobar engaged with the Rays dugout, resulting in a second bench-clearing incident and Escobar's ejection from the game. At the time of the ejection, the Twins were leading, 5-4. The Twins ultimately won the contest, 11-7, in 10 innings.

This is Ryan Additon (67)'s first ejection of 2018.
Ryan Additon now has 1 point in the UEFL Standings (-1 Prev + 2 AAA + 0 Irrecusable Call = 1).
Crew Chief Jeff Kellogg now has -5 points in Crew Division (-6 Previous + 1 Irrecusable Call = -5).

This is the 98th ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 48th player ejection of 2018. Prior to ejection, Escobar was 0-3 (2 SO) in the contest.
This is Minnesota's 3rd ejection of 2018, T-3rd in the AL Central (CWS, KC 4; DET, MIN 3; CLE 1).
This is Eduardo Escobar's first career MLB ejection.
This is Ryan Additon's first ejection since September 15, 2017 (Don Mattingly; QOC = Y [BOO]).

Wrap: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Minnesota Twins, 7/15/18 | Video as follows:

Hirschbeck Bobblehead Latest Minor League Ump Promo

Operating in smaller markets with shoestring budgets, MiLB teams have to be creative to survive. Enter the Class-A Short Mahoning Valley Scrappers, who held a John Hirschbeck Bobblehead Giveaway over the weekend, honoring an umpire from Poland, Ohio (Cleveland is Mahoning Valley's MLB parent team) who retired from the majors following the 2016 season.

John Hirschbeck bobblehead in Single-A.
The John Hirschbeck bobblehead, given to the first 1,000 fans that attended Saturday's Scrappers game at Eastwood Field, is hardly the first minor league promotion to honor umpires—last season, the Charleston RiverDogs held "Umpire Appreciation Night" during which the Class-A squad from South Carolina gave away 1,000 "bobble-wrists" of an umpire cleaning home plate—but it highlights a key aspect of baseball business, especially at lower levels.

Because minor and independent league teams operate with smaller fanbases and with smaller budgets (hence, only 1,000 items are given away), these clubs must reach out beyond the traditional baseball market to draw in customers.

What this means is while big league clubs can more-or-less afford to coast on the backs of big-market casual fans, big-name sponsors, and popular culture trends de jour, minor and independent league teams have to (1) seek out dedicated baseball folks and/or (2) create their own markets.

Thus, the idea of Umpire Appreciation Night—and the umpire honors go back decades, from Arlington's night honoring NL umpire Frank Walsh (1961-63) for his service, to Bill Haller's Joilet Jackhammers bobblehead, to Bob Motley's bobblehead at the Negro Leagues Museum, to Bruce Froemming's 2013 bobblehead from the Northwoods League's Lakeshore Chinooks, to this Orioles bird umpire bobblehead that must be modeled after Mike Estabrook (due to the plastic helmet atop the bird's head)—takes advantage of a very simple fact: umpires are dedicated to baseball and genuinely enjoy the game.
Related PostMLB History: A Familiar Conflict of Interest (7/14/12).

Bruce Froemming at his bobblehead night.
Though many fans—especially at the popular-to-the-point-of-ignorance MLB level—might say otherwise, the underlying reason why Ump Night exists in the minors is because umpires comprise a key faction of baseball fans that support small-town ball at a level significant enough to merit acknowledgement and thanks.

Yet by the time the game grows to the level of a 40-to 50,000 seat stadium and high-priced regional sports network television deals, the proportion of these hardcore baseball fans—umpires and non-umpires alike—drops dramatically, replaced by the more casual fan that cares not for the intricacies of the game, but simply, whether one's preferred team has won or lost, or even, whether a gambling bet has proven lucrative or costly.

When small town sport is replaced by big market business, appreciation often is lost in translation. It's just a game, after all.
Related PostGambling Ban Reversal Has Joe West Scared "to Death" (5/17/18).

Saturday, July 14, 2018

MLB Ejection 097 - Greg Gibson (2; Brandon Belt)

3B Umpire Greg Gibson ejected Giants 1B Brandon Belt (check swing strike three call) in the bottom of the 4th inning of the Athletics-Giants game. With one out and two on (R1, R2), Belt attempted to check his swing on a 2-2 curveball from A's pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, ruled a ball by HP Umpire Vic Carapazza and a swinging third strike on appeal by 3B Umpire Gibson. This ruling is under review by the UEFL Appeals Board, the call was *pending*. At the time of the ejection, the Giants were leading, 3-2. The Athletics ultimately won the contest, 4-3.

This is Greg Gibson (53)'s second ejection of 2018.
Greg Gibson now has X points in the UEFL Standings (-2 Prev + 2 MLB + X Call = X).
Crew Chief Greg Gibson now has X points in Crew Division (5 Previous + X Call = X).

This is the 97th ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 47th player ejection of 2018. Prior to ejection, Belt was 0-3 (SO) in the contest.
This is San Francisco's 5th ejection of 2018, T-3rd in the NL West (LAD, SD 6; ARI, SF 5; COL 4).
This is Brandon Belt's first ejection since July 15, 2016 (Mike Estabrook; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Greg Gibson's 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st since June 23 (Brandon Hyde; QOC = U [USC-NEC]).

Wrap: Oakland Athletics vs. San Francisco Giants, 7/14/18 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 096 - Jerry Meals (2; Aaron Boone)

1B Umpire Jerry Meals ejected Yankees Manager Aaron Boone (dead ball strike three call by HP Umpire Ed Hickox) in the top of the 6th inning of the Yankees-Indians game. With none out and none on, Yankees batter Giancarlo Stanton swung at a 0-2 fastball from Indians pitcher Steve Clevinger, resulting in a dead ball third strike ruling by HP Umpire Hickox, who ruled that Stanton made contact with the pitched ball as he attempted to strike it. Replays indicate Stanton's hands made contact with the ball during his swing and that the bat did not make contact with the ball prior to this event; by rule, this is a strike, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Yankees were leading, 3-2. The Yankees ultimately won the contest, 5-4.

This is Jerry Meals (41)'s second ejection of 2018.
Jerry Meals now has 0 points in the UEFL Standings (-3 Prev + 2 MLB + 1 Correct Call-Crewmate = 0).
Crew Chief Jerry Meals now has 4 points in Crew Division (3 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 4).
*OBR Definition of Terms: "A STRIKE is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire, which: (e) Touches the batter as he strikes at it."
*OBR 5.09(a)(6): "A batter is out when—He attempts to hit a third strike and the ball touches him."

This is the 96th ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 41st Manager ejection of 2018.
This is New York-AL's 7th ejection of 2018, 1st in the AL East (NYY 7; TOR 5; BAL 3; BOS 2; TB 1).
This is Aaron Boone's 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st since May 22 (Pat Hoberg; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Jerry Meals' 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st since April 1 (Marwin Gonzalez; QOC = U [USC-NEC]).

Wrap: New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians, 7/14/18 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 095 - Adam Hamari (1; Rick Renteria)

HP Umpire Adam Hamari ejected White Sox Manager Rick Renteria (check swing ball two call by 1B Umpire Chad Whitson) in the top of the 5th inning of the Royals-White Sox game. With none out and one on (R2), Royals batter Alcides Escobar attempted to check his swing on a 1-2 slider from White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, ruled a ball by Hamari and affirmed as ball two by 1B Umpire Whitson. Replays indicate all pitches during the at-bat were correctly officiated per pitch location; This play is under review by the UEFL Appeals Board. At the time of the ejection, the Royals were leading, 2-0. The Royals ultimately won the contest, 5-0.

This is Adam Hamari (78)'s first ejection of 2018.
Adam Hamari now has X points in the UEFL Standings (-5 Prev + 2 MLB + X Call-Crewmate = X).
Crew Chief Mike Winters now has X points in Crew Division (0 Previous + X Call = X).

This is the 95th ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 40th Manager ejection of 2018.
This is Chicago-AL's 4th ejection of 2018, T-1st in the AL Central (CWS, KC 4; DET 3; MIN 2; CLE 1).
This is Rick Renteria's 3rd ejection of 2018, 1st since June 20 (Will Little; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Adam Hamari's first ejection since May 25, 2017 (Scott Servais; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White Sox, 7/14/18 | Video as follows: