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Friday, May 24, 2019

MLB Fight with Hernandez Evokes 20-Year-Old Feud

In seeking umpire Angel Hernandez's e-mails with MLBUA's Phil Janssen, MLB reopened the wounds of Janssen's early-2000s firing, which led to then-WUA President John Hirschbeck's 10-game suspension for threatening a labor lawyer in the Commissioner's Office.

That lawyer's name? Rob Manfred. What a story.

MLB is seeking e-mail disclosure.
The 2002 Tale - Who is Phil Janssen?
Who knew Angel Hernandez's current lawsuit alleging systemic discrimination would lead us all the way back to the infamous 1999 collective bargaining dispute and MLB's attempt to control its umpires through a merging of the American and National League staffs?

According to Bruce Weber's As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires, former Major League Commissioner Fay Vincent "had been astonished by the disdainful attitude that the men who hired him, the major league club owners, expressed toward the umpires. He thought it was inexplicable and mean-spirit, not to mention wrongheaded, bad business."

Vincent resigned in 1992 after the owners voted him out and incoming Commissioner, then-Brewers owner Bud Selig, made it his mission to protect "the best interests of baseball," which, in Weber's view, "set the stage for the confrontation between umpires and baseball in 1999."

Vice called Vincent's ouster an "assassination...by the coward American baseball owners," noting that Vincent's interpretation of baseball's "best interests" was different than Selig's: "The idea of an objective and neutral commissioner acting solely 'in the best interests of baseball'—something championed by Vincent and overly imaginative sportswriters—has vanished."

Fay Vincent felt umpires were treated poorly.
Politics aside, central to the discussion is Phil Janssen, a former professional baseball umpire, who earned a job with the American League in 1992 as its Coordinator of Umpire Operations and then stayed on when the AL and NL merged into a united MLB office.

Jim Joyce wrote about his time in the minor leagues with "new guy" Phil Janssen in Nobody's Perfect, co-authored by Joyce and Armando Galarraga: "Phil was cut like me, hanging on to his baseball dreams, still thinking he could play, and when we got together we kind of stoked those last few embers."

With his minor league umpiring days behind him, Janssen saw a simulator developed by former US Air Force veteran Dr. Grant E. Secrist and research partner Berl Hartman called the Situation Awareness Training System (SATS) and thought it could be modified for baseball and used to train umpires on ball/strike matters; even Commissioner Vincent before his ouster expressed interest in adapting Secrist's situational awareness program for umpire training purposes.

Wrote Webber, "If an umpire was having trouble, say, fixing the upper limit of the zone, he could watch five hundred pitches in a row just above or below the letters. If he was struggling with hard breaking balls from a left-hander, he could dial up a diet of Randy Johnson sliders. If he was going to face a knuckleballer the next day, he could insert the knuckleball CD-ROM and watch knuckleballs until he went cross-eyed."

Dr. Secrist thought his system could be to umpires what batting practice is to players: "With simulators available in every umpire locker room, umpires could see the equivalent of [a season's worth of pitches] every week." Imagine cage work without physical limitation.

Bud Selig wanted to rein in the umpires.
Based on the Vincent observation of league-wide umpire treatment, and through on-the-job knowhow, both leagues largely curtailed the use of manager evaluations of umpires in the mid-1990s, claiming in a 1998 Washington Post article they were largely worthless: "We had a hard time getting information back from managers," Janssen said. "They wouldn't send it back because they were afraid that if they wrote negatively about an umpire that their team or an individual would be punished." NL President Len Coleman called the manager evaluation system "foolhardy," divulging one such report: "It said: All the umpires did a good job this season."

In 1995, the first group of Major League umpire evaluators were chosen by league presidents (separate from a field supervisor program). The American League chose John Roseboro (former player), Billy Sample (former player and then-broadcaster), Janssen (coordinator of AL umpire supervision), and the National League chose former umpires Doug Harvey and Steve Palermo.

The aforementioned Washington Post article pointed to comments from an unhappy Joe Torre, whose Yankees had lost to Cleveland in Game 2 of the 1998 ALCS: "A blatant...terrible call," said Torre of HP Umpire Ted Hendry's interference call against New York. Torre also said Hendry's ball/strike calls "stunk." Stick a pin in the ball/strike issue for now, but comments like Torre's in a post-Vincent league would set the stage for what was to follow.

Selig's Reign Moves to Rein In Umpires
QuesTec's Pitch Trax visualization feature.
In transitioning from the AL to MLB, Janssen survived a 1999 purge put on by the Selig-led league as a campaign to "rein in umps," when MLB terminated National League Executive Director of Umpires Paul Runge, NL evaluators Jim Quick and Harry Wendelstedt, and the AL's Don Denkinger. Active umpire Jerry Crawford had called the event "another sad day for baseball."

Nonetheless, former big league umpire Marty Springstead and NL umpire supervisor Tom Lepperd survived the purge alongside Janssen, and moved into the new MLB umpiring department.

In publicizing a plan to eliminate the AL and NL offices, Selig's office complained that having former umpires evaluate current umpires "hasn't worked," meaning that in the minds of league brass over a 10-year period, both the manager-centric and the former umpire-centric evaluation systems hadn't worked. Something new would have to be developed.

Perhaps key to his AL-to-MLB survival, Janssen had a magic rabbit based on the Secrist simulator: Springstead came on board and similarly championed the idea, though the Secrist simulator itself gained little traction with executives.
We're not even talking about tech failure.

Secrist noted: "The NL and AL presidents have shown little interest in the field test findings...MLB continues to use haphazardly developed umpire performance evaluation tools."

Enter QuesTec. Unlike the Secrist program, QuesTec wasn't a simulator one could step into—in that sense, it was a less "hands on" trainer and more of a SATS-lite application: an iPhone app for piloting the space shuttle.

It wasn't cheaper per se—Weber wrote that Secrist was willing to give baseball his system, which he branded SilverStrike, for free as part of the implementation of his training and evaluation program.

Secrist stated his disdain for how QuesTec was developed without umpire participation in a July 2002 analysis he sent to the WUA entitled, "Mismanagement of Professional Umpires."

MLB didn't appear all that interested in a comprehensive training program for umpires, which Janssen confirmed with ESPN in mid-2012 about the QuesTec saga, recalling that MLB executives Sandy Alderson and Ralph Nelson—both of whom Commisioner Selig brought into the league to oversee umpiring in response to the Selig Commissioner's Office's complaint that umpires shouldn't oversee umpires—were more interested in using technology not to train, but, primarily, to rate ball/strike calls and rank umpires.

Missed Opportunity - MLB Chooses Rating and Broadcast Visualization over Training
QuesTec effectively replaced the unadapted Secrist simulator in more ways than one: In name alone, MLB chose QuesTec, obviously, but in purpose and practice, allowing umpires to train by simulating the experience of calling virtual pitches fell by the wayside and, in its place, a stats-based "you scored X percent" results-driven program was born.

K-Zone was not designed to be a RoboUmp.
Forget the idea of watching 100 sliders at the upper-outside corner in pre-game warmups—it was all about the 10 such pitches that occurred in the game the umpire just finished officiating...and how many of those 10 were correctly called.

For fans, it was even less organized: As QuesTec began to fail as a company—QSTI stock had fallen to a near-zero value by 2003—and MLB contracted with SportVision and its Pitch f/x system, which eventually gave rise to the in-house StatCast/TrackMan program and PitchCast application for broadcast, the league became even more secretive about its operation, all while sharing visualization data with networks such as ESPN (K-Zone) and Fox Sports (FoxTrax), without providing much context for how to interpret the PitchCast visuals.

Visual: FiveThirtyEight estimated error.
For instance, whereas SportVision estimated its error rate at approximately one inch, MLB hasn't actively distributed a public-facing disclaimer since taking the program in-house. For reference, Sports Illusrated in 2017 wrote that TrackMan's margin-of-error was approximately 1.7-inches in all directions.

As Dylan Yep of UmpireAuditor said, "The current pitch-tracking technology was not actually designed to be a robot umpire, it was designed for broadcast."

Curt Schilling in a roundabout way summed up the problem with using the scaffolding ball/strike computer and QuesTec Umpire Evaluation System to rank umpires, rather than a training-first approach: "It's about consistency and this device has made umps incredibly inconsistent." By preventing umpires from getting a consistent look at a certain type of pitch (say, a Schilling breaking ball), the umpires didn't have the tools to gain experience at a pace they would have gained had baseball adopted and adapted the Secrist SATS simulator for its umpires.

Back in 2002, when faced with the Secrist simulator vs. QuesTec issue, and Janssen's lament that the tool should be used for trailing, not rating, MLB terminated Janssen's employment.

Hirschbeck drew a suspension in 2003.
Janssen would later comment about QuesTec in a technology conference held by National Labor Relations Board—billed as a discussion on shredded documents, a whistle-blower, and potential federal investigation—"They’ve got physical numbers on a piece of paper. It’s about control, manipulation, and coercion."

Then-WUA President John Hirschbeck took issue with MLB's decision to fire Janssen, and wound up with a 10-day suspension in 2003 for allegedly threatening labor lawyer Rob Manfred (and MLB wonders why the umpires started a white wristband protest in response to MLB's decision to dole out a zero-game suspension for a player's on-field and post-game umpire abuse...).
Related PostToken Gesture - Kinsler Fined $10k, .09% of $11m Salary (8/21/17).

Back to the Present - MLB Seeks E-mails
In a May 23, 2019 filing, Major League Baseball petitioned the court to force Angel Hernandez to produce e-mails with the union Hernandez has asserted are confidential and privileged, including a transcript of the videotaped deposition of Angel Hernandez from April as an attachment to its request, providing the portion of the deposition MLB believes is relevant and justifies its request.

The Omni Hotel sits just outside the ballpark.
The Deposition - MLB's Union Questions
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and Major League Baseball Blue (the defendants in plaintiff Hernandez's lawsuit) took a videotaped deposition of Hernandez on April 26, 2019 at The Omni Hotel at The Battery Atlanta.

As part of this deposition, the defense asked if Hernandez had ever spoken to the union "in the official capacity as your collective bargaining representative" about the failure to be chosen as a crew chief. Hernandez stated he spoke with MLBUA Secretary Phil Janssen, the same Phil Janssen whose dismissal from MLB led to Hirschbeck's 2003 suspension for making purportedly threatening comments to Manfred.

Hernandez's attorney chimed in that the content of his conversation with the union is not discoverable, is privileged, and objected to a series of related questions on the matter of Hernandez's communications with MLBUA regarding the crew chief and World Series complaints, to which the defense responded with an intention to "seek direction on that" at a later time.

The Communications/E-mails at Issue
MLB submitted a list of communications from 2006 through 2018, asking Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein to order Hernandez's team to submit the documents. Hernandez's counsel previously declined to produce the communications, citing a "union relations privilege" that MLB says does not factually and/or legally exist.

MLB cited the following e-mails, writing that Hernandez claimed solely Union-Relations Privilege:
> A September 12, 2016 e-mail from Hernandez to Janssen regarding his disagreement with and response to a preceding SURE (Supervisor Umpire Review and Evaluation) report.
> A May 19, 2017 from Hernandez to Janssen, cc: Joe West, regarding an umpire position issue in steal situations.
The white wristband protest is one e-mail

SIDEBAR: If you watch MLB games from the past decade, you'll notice a gradual shift in second base umpire positioning with a runner on first base. Whereas a nearly-universal position placed the 2B Umpire inside for the stolen base attempt in earlier years, a handful of umpires have recently adopted a position outside for these plays.

The attachment also indicates an assertion of Union-Relations, in addition to Attorney-Client, Privilege in the following situations; the letter from MLB's counsel to the court seeks to invalidate the Union-Relations Privilege, but does not actively seek to challenge the Attorney-Client element:
> A March 31, 2017 e-mail from Hernandez to his attorney Murphy re: Union/WBC issues.
> An August 29, 2017 e-mail from Hernandez to Murphy re: the white wristband protest.*
> A June 16, 2018 e-mail from lawyer Purtell to WUA/Hernandez re: FOX broadcast of audio from an umpire's microphone.^

*Umpires engaged in a white wristband protest on August 19, 2017, with the World Umpires Association releasing a statement after MLB refused to seriously discipline Ian Kinsler for post-game comments following an ejection by Angel Hernandez; our Related Post announcing the wristband protest contains a detailed chronology of umpire abuse and related issues in baseball. The umpire suspended their protest one day later, and eventually rebranded as the MLB Umpires Association (MLBUA) in August 2018.
Related PostWUA-MLB Relations Deteriorate with New Umpire Protest (8/19/17).
Related PostWUA Secures Commissioner Meeting, Suspends Protest (8/20/17).
Related PostWUA Rebrands as MLB Umpires Launch MLBUA (8/13/18).

^The infamous Tom Hallion "ass in the jackpot" leaked video found its way onto the internet in October 2017, and finally went viral in June 2018, prior to Purtell's e-mail to WUA.
Related PostRevisiting the Situation - Tom Hallion & Terry Collins (6/13/18).

The US District Court will decide the matter in an upcoming hearing.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

MLB Ejections 061-62 - Bruce Dreckman (1-2; WAS)

HP Umpire Bruce Dreckman ejected Nationals 1B Howie Kendrick and Manager Dave Martinez (check swing strike three call) in the top of the 8th inning of the Nationals-Mets game. With none out and none on, Nationals batter Kendrick attempted to check his swing on a 2-2 curveball from Mets pitcher Robert Gsellman, ruled a swinging third strike by HP Umpire Dreckman, pursuant to the responsibilities of a plate umpire as delineated in Official Baseball Rule 8.03(a)(4).* This play is under review by the UEFL Appeals Board (check swing), the call was *PENDING*. At the time of the ejections, the Mets were leading, 3-1. The Mets ultimately won the contest, 6-4.

These are Bruce Dreckman (1)'s first and second ejections of 2019.
Bruce Dreckman now has X points in the UEFL Standings (1 Prev + 2*[2 MLB + X Call] = X).
Crew Chief Paul Emmel now has X points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 2*[X Call] = X).
*OBR 8.03(a)(4) states: "The umpire-in-chief shall stand behind the catcher. (He usually is called the plate umpire.) His duties shall be to—Make all decisions on the batter."
*OBR 8.02(c) Comment states: "The manager or the catcher may request the plate umpire to ask his partner for help on a half swing when the plate umpire calls the pitch a ball, but not when the pitch is called a strike."

These are the 61st and 62nd ejection reports of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 26th player ejection of 2019. Prior to ejection, Kendrick was 0-4 (SO) in the contest.
This is the 31st Manager ejection of 2019.
This is Washington's 3/4th ejection of 2019, 1st in the NL East (WAS 4; ATL 3; NYM 2; MIA, PHI 1).
This is Howie Kendrick's first career MLB ejection.
This is Dave Martinez's 2nd ejection of 2019, 1st since April 16 (Tony Randazzo; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Bruce Dreckman's first ejection since August 25, 2018 (Mike Scioscia; QOC = U [Throwing At]).

Wrap: Washington Nationals vs. New York Mets, 5/23/19 | Video as follows:

MLB Free Umpire Clinic - May 25 in Nashville

MLB continues its free one-day Umpire Clinic tour on Saturday, May 25 at Nashville's First Tennessee Park, home of the Sounds minor league team.

The Major League Baseball Umpire Camps program has offered one-day clinics for 13 years, doling out invites and scholarships, with some 150 MLB Umpire Camp alumni receiving jobs in professional baseball out of umpire school.

Clinicians will include Charlie Reliford, Ed Rapuano, Cris Jones, and Rich Rieker.

For more information and to register (walk-ups always welcome), click here.

The camp begins at 9am with registration starting at 8am.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

MLB Ejection 060 - Fieldin Culbreth (1; Ron Gardenhire)

3B Umpire Fieldin Culbreth ejected Tigers Manager Ron Gardenhire (Replay Review decision that overturned Culbreth's drop [safe] call to a catch [out]; QOCY) in the bottom of the 9th inning of the Marlins-Tigers game. With one out and two on (R1, R3), Tigers batter Ronny Rodriguez hit a 1-0 slider from Marlins pitcher Sergio Romo on a fly ball to left fielder Harold Ramirez, who dropped the ball while attempting to catch and throw to second base ahead of Tigers baserunner R1 Brandon Dixon, preparing to tag up, ruled a dropped ball (safe) by 3B Umpire Culbreth and overturned on Replay Review to a sacrifice fly (out/catch) as the result of a challenge by Marlins Manager Don Mattingly. Replays indicate fielder Ramirez momentarily gained secure possession in his glove of the ball such that after the ball came to a complete stop, firmly held in his glove, his subsequent release/transfer was voluntary and intentional, during which process he dropped the ball, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 4-4. The Marlins ultimately won the contest, 5-4, in 11 innings.

This is Fieldin Culbreth (25)'s first ejection of 2019.
Fieldin Culbreth now has 4 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 4).
Crew Chief Fieldin Culbreth now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).
*OBR Definition of Terms: "A CATCH is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it...In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional. If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught."

This is the 60th ejection report of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 30th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is Detroit's 4th ejection of 2019, T-1st in the AL Central (CWS, DET 4; KC 3; MIN 1; CLE 0).
This is Ron Gardenhire's 3rd ejection of 2019, 1st since May 11 (Hunter Wendelstedt; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Fieldin Culbreth's first ejection since Sept 16, 2018 (Andy Green; QOC = Y [Fair/Foul]).

Wrap: Miami Marlins vs. Detroit Tigers, 5/21/19 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 059 - Todd Tichenor (2; Clint Hurdle)

HP Umpire Todd Tichenor ejected Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle (Replay Review decision that upheld 1B Umpire Tom Hallion's out call; QOCN-c) in the bottom of the 8th inning of the Rockies-Pirates game. With one out and none on, Pirates batter Jake Elmore hit a 3-1 fastball from Rockies pitcher German Marquez on the ground to Marquez, who attempted to tag Elmore as he ran toward first base, ruled an out by 1B Umpire Hallion and upheld via Replay Review as the result of a Pirates Challenge by Manager Hurdle. Replays indicate that while possessing the ball in his glove, Marquez touched Elmore with his bare hand while failing to tag him with the glove, the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Rockies were leading, 5-0. The Rockies ultimately won the contest, 5-0.

This is Todd Tichenor (13)'s second ejection of 2019.
Todd Tichenor now has 4 points in the UEFL Standings (4 Prev + 2 MLB - 2 Incorrect-Crewmate = 4).
Crew Chief Tom Hallion now has 0 points in Crew Division (0 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 0).

This is the 59th ejection report of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 29th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is Pittsburgh's 3rd ejection of 2019, 2nd in the NL Central (CIN 7; PIT 3; CHC, MIL, STL 2).
This is Clint Hurdle's first ejection since Sept 15, 2018 (Tripp Gibson; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Todd Tichenor's 2nd ejection of 2019, 1st since April 19 (Ron Gardenhire; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Colorado Rockies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 5/21/19 | Video as follows:

Cubs Drop Maddon's Doomed Judgment Call Protest

Cubs Manager Joe Maddon dropped his protest filed Saturday night concerning Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle's toe-tap delivery. As we wrote at the time, Chicago's protest was doomed to fail, for Maddon's assertion that HP Umpire Sam Holbrook's judgment call that Doolittle's move was not a "second step" toward home plate is not a formally reviewable offense.

Chicago's decision to drop the protest, thus, is a logical outcome meant to preempt an otherwise-inevitable MLB decision that would have denied the club's charge.

Said Maddon, "I still don't agree with the conclusion because I think it's exactly what Carl [Edwards] did, only a different version of it."

The difference, as we illustrated in a comparison of the Doolittle and Edwards deliveries as part of our initial report on the protested game, was that Doolittle's free foot "grazed" the dirt while Edwards definitively stepped with his free foot, stopping his motion, before restarting by picking up that free foot and stepping a second time to deliver the pitch.
Related PostMaddon Protests Game Over Pitcher's Toe-Tap (5/18/19).

The rule upon which Chicago's withdrawn protest was based is 5.07(a), which states: "The pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is a runner, or runners, on base it is a balk under Rule 6.02(a); if the bases are unoccupied it is an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b)."

Said ESPN broadcaster Jessica Mendoza in comparing Edwards and Doolittle's motions: "Look at Carl Edwards, Jr. He clearly steps, places his entire foot down on the ground. This is why he was called for it as being illegal. Then Sean Doolittle last night, it's like he barely nicks the ground. Very different and that's why the umpires did not agree that it was something illegal...what is a step? Clearly Carl Edwards, Jr.—boom—planted: step. Doolittle? I mean he flicks some dirt."

Added Alex Rodriguez: "The way I came up playing the game in the big leagues: any tap is fine, and that's what Doolittle does. If you look at what Edwards does, it's a full-foot plant, and that's not legal."

Video as follows:

Sunday, May 19, 2019

MLB Ejection 058 - Jeremie Rehak (3; Mike Shildt)

HP Umpire Jeremie Rehak ejected Cardinals Manager Mike Shildt (strike three call; QOCN) in the top of the 4th inning of the Cardinals-Rangers game. With none out and none on, Cardinals batter Dexter Fowler took a 3-2 fastball from Rangers pitcher Drew Smyly for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the outer edge of home plate and below the hollow of the knee (px -0.74, pz 1.43 [sz_bot 1.67 / RAD 1.547 / MOE 1.464]), the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Cardinals were leading, 2-1. The Rangers ultimately won the contest, 5-4, in 10 innings.

This is Jeremie Rehak (35)'s second ejection of 2019.
Jeremie Rehak now has -3 points in the UEFL Standings (-1 Prev + 2 AAA - 4 Incorrect Call = -3).
Crew Chief Bill Miller now has 6 points in Crew Division (6 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 6).
*This pitch was located 0.408 vertical inches from being deemed a correct call.
*Post-game strike zone processing decreased the aforementioned value from 1.368 to 0.408.

This is the 58th ejection report of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 28th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is St. Louis' 2nd ejection of 2019, T-2nd in the NL Central (CIN 7; CHC, MIL, PIT, STL 2).
This is Mike Shildt's first ejection since Sept 25, 2018 (Will Little; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Jeremie Rehak's 3rd ejection of 2019, 1st since April 17 (Justin Bour; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Texas Rangers, 5/19/19 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 057 - Brian O'Nora (1; Craig Counsell)

HP Umpire Brian O'Nora ejected Brewers Manager Craig Counsell (fair/contact with batter foul ball no call) in the top of the 5th inning of the Brewers-Braves game. With one out and none on, Brewers batter Orlando Arcia hit a 0-1 fastball from Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz on the ground toward third base, fielded by third baseman Austin Riley to first baseman Freddie Freeman for a groundout; Milwaukee alleged that the batted ball struck Arcia in the batter's box, which would have rendered the play a foul ball; the fair ball call was upheld following crew consultation. Replays indicate that after making contact with the ground, the batted ball made contact with the instep of Arcia's left foot, the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Brewers were leading, 2-1. The Brewers ultimately won the contest, 3-2, in 10 innings.

This is Brian O'Nora (7)'s first ejection of 2019.
Brian O'Nora now has 1 point in the UEFL Standings (3 Prev + 2 MLB - 4 Incorrect Call = 1).
Crew Chief Jeff Kellogg now has 5 points in Crew Division (5 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 5).
Related PostTmac's Teachable Moments - Let's Fix Replay (1/19/17).

This is the 57th ejection report of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 27th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is Milwaukee's 2nd ejection of 2019, T-2nd in the NL Central (CIN 7; CHC, MIL, PIT 2; STL 1).
This is Craig Counsell's first ejection since Sept 9, 2018 (Tom Hallion; QOC = U [Warnings]).
This is Brian O'Nora's first ejection since April 5, 2018 (Travis Shaw; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Milwaukee Brewers vs. Atlanta Braves, 5/19/19 | Video as follows:

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Maddon Protests Game Over Pitcher's Toe-Tap

Cubs Manager Joe Maddon protested Saturday's Cubs-Nationals game, asserting HP Umpire Sam Holbrook's crew failed to apply Official Baseball Rule 5.07(a) Comment to Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle, alleging that Doolittle took a prohibited second step during his delivery, and that the umpires failed to call an illegal pitch, as in 6.02(b).

Unfortunately for Maddon, this protest is built on shaky ground.

The Play: With one out and none on, Maddon observed that Doolittle, during his delivery, tapped the ground with his free foot before lifting his leg and retouching the ground further down the pitcher's mound as he released the ball.

The Rule: Official Baseball Rule 5.07(a) Comment states, "The pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is a runner, or runners, on base it is a balk under Rule 6.02(a); if the bases are unoccupied it is an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b)."

OBR 5.07(a) outlaws a second step to home.
Precedent: Earlier in the week, on Monday, Crew Chief Fieldin Culbreth initiated a Replay Review/Rules Check in Seattle after HP Umpire DJ Reyburn instructed Mariners pitcher Cory Gearrin not to step twice via a double-tap of his free foot during delivery to home plate.

That game too went to Replay HQ for a Rules Check, upon which Reyburn's instruction prevailed and Gearrin modified his delivery to only take one step with his free foot toward home plate, so as to comply with OBR 5.07(a).
Related PostSEA Replay - Cubby's Pitching Motion Rules Check (3/14/19).


Lentz, Wolf, Holbrook & Iassogna confer.
Saturday's Cubs-Nats Game: Maddon must have been paying attention to Monday's game in Seattle, for he attempted to get Holbrook to enforce the same rule Reyburn addressed in his AL game. Maddon then formally protested Doolittle's first pitch to Cubs batter Kyle Schwarber, ruled a ball by Holbrook.

After Rules Check at Nationals Park, Doolittle's delivery was declared legal and Holbrook signaled the game under protest.

Video Replay: Replays indicate Doolittle's free foot made contact with the mound dirt twice during his delivery.

Analysis: The first item to note is that the pitch Maddon protested from Doolittle to Schwarber was ruled "ball one." Assuming theoretically that Doolittle's delivery violated OBR 5.07(a), the penalty for an illegal pitch with no runners on base is a ball. The outcome of the pitch in question was a ball.

The second item to note is that Maddon, in postgame comments, stated that Holbrook told him, "in our judgment..." and further stated, "I don't know how many he made that were illegal pitches."

Setting aside Maddon's admission that he didn't know how many illegal pitches purportedly occurred, Holbrook responded to Maddon's initial allegation thusly: "He thought he was tapping his foot, which in itself is not illegal, and this all kind of stems from his pitcher being called on something that was a little bit different than what Doolittle was doing. So in our judgment, Doolittle did nothing illegal at all."

Carl Edwards' second step was very obvious.
Holbrook is referring to Cubs pitcher Carl Edwards, who was caught taking a definitive second step toward home plate during delivery in Spring Training and told to stop. In Holbrook's judgment, Doolittle's maneuver did not constitute a second step toward home, as Edwards' motion had.

As we've written many times, judgment calls cannot be protested. If Holbrook and crew judged that Doolittle did not take a violative second step toward home plate in his delivery, that judgment cannot be protested. It may be correct, incorrect, or any variation thereof...but it is not subject to protest and "pitching motion/balk/illegal pitch" is not a reviewable call.

When Would Maddon's Protest Be Valid? Had Holbrook stated that Doolittle took a second step toward home plate, and that "in his judgment" this second step was legal, then Maddon would have a valid basis for protest because the rule clearly states that a second step is illegal. If the umpire acknowledges a second step has occurred, the penalty of illegal pitch (or balk with runners aboard) must be enforced. If the umpire states a second step has not occurred, that is a judgment call not subject to protest.

Gil's Call: As it stands, if Holbrook's contention is that Doolittle did not take a second step toward home plate—in spite of Maddon's toe-tap allegation, which is not a rule in and of itself—is the prevailing piece of the pie and, for this reason, Maddon's protest should be denied.

The only way this protest is affirmed is if Holbrook admits that in his judgment Doolittle took a second step during delivery, for under this scenario, Doolittle's move would be a clear rules violation. Without this precise ruling and admission from the umpires, the protest is dead on arrival.

Video as follows:

Friday, May 17, 2019

MLB Ejection 056 - Andy Fletcher (1; Bruce Bochy)

HP Umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Giants Manager Bruce Bochy (check swing HBP/no attempt to bunt call by 3B Umpire Eric Cooper) in the bottom of the 7th inning of the Giants-Diamondbacks game. With none out and two on (R1, R2), Diamondbacks batter Jarrod Dyson squared to bunt, then moved the bat as he was struck by a 0-0 sinker from Giants pitcher Derek Holland, ruled a ball and HBP [no bunt/no swing] by HP Umpire Fletcher and affirmed as no bunt/no swing on appeal by 3B Umpire Eric Cooper. Play was reviewed and adjudicated by the UEFL Appeals Board (0-8-1), the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Diamondbacks were leading, 3-0. The Diamondbacks ultimately won the contest, 7-0.

This is Andy Fletcher (49)'s first ejection of 2019.
Andy Fletcher now has 0 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Prev + 2 MLB - 2 Incorrect-Crewmate = 0).
Crew Chief Joe West now has 0 points in Crew Division (0 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 0).
Related PostCrew Chief - Twice Changed Bunt HBP & Rule 8.03(c) (5/16/19).
Related PostAsk UEFL - Foul Bunt or Ball Fouled Away? (8/29/18).

This is the 56th ejection report of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 26th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is San Francisco's 4th ejection of 2019, 1st in the NL West (SF 4; SD 2; ARI, COL, LAD 1).
This is Bruce Bochy's 3rd ejection of 2019, 1st since May 1 (Tim Timmons; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Andy Fletcher's first ejection since Sept 20, 2018 (Carlos Gomez; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: San Francisco Giants vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, 5/17/19 | Video as follows: