Friday, May 17, 2013

MLB to Consider 'Vast Expansion' of Instant Replay Review

MLB is considering a "vast expansion" of its instant replay video review system, according to an Associated Press report. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig stated in regards to instant replay expansion, "my opinion has evolved" while Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Joe Torre said, "We're considering much more than the trap play and fair/foul."

The news comes on the heels of a mid-May period during which two high-profile calls were made in error, one involving instant replay use (Angel Hernandez's ejection of Bob Melvin) and the other involving an improper rule application (Fieldin Culbreth's suspension).

When MLB tested expanded instant replay in New York during August 2012, both tennis' Hawk-Eye and PGA golf's TrackMan software were considered. The results of that testing have not been released.

Torre, who is mindful of the unwanted focus on perceived missed calls that may have otherwise been overturned by replay, admitted "there are a lot of hurdles" in expanded replay implementation: "We have a rhythm in this game that we certainly don't want to disrupt."

Torre also mentioned certain calls that could be up for replay review might be too close to call—even with the video technology:
"Well, this past week, we had three umpires looking at a replay and unfortunately we got it wrong. So it's not always that easy. I watched a tag play at the plate in the White Sox-Minnesota game the other night and I still don't know if he was tagged. I couldn't swear one way or the other. And we had a lot of camera angles on that. It's not as easy as I thought it would be, because we're learning more and more.
"It's not an easy job. [The umpires] have a lot of pressure on them going out there. I can tell you in my three years here, they care a great deal. I think people have a misconception of that, like they're just showing up at the ballpark and putting in their time. That's not true. Have we had a bad week? Yeah, but the one thing was a rules interpretation. It had nothing to do with replay."
Though a challenge system like one used in NFL or NCAA football has made an appearance, Torre has voiced his opposition: "Managers have to make enough decisions...We've tried to stay away from technology telling us what to do."

Safeco Field's instant replay box.
The extent of MLB's proposed "vast expansion" of instant replay is not yet apparent, though Torre hopes to have proposals ready by the August 14-15 meeting of the instant replay subcommittee—featuring Torre, former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Braves president John Scheurholz—which will take place in Cooperstown.

The sub-committee is an offshoot of Selig's Special Committee for On-Field Matters, created in 2009. That committee includes Torre, La Russa, Scheurholz, Tigers skipper Jim Leyland, Angels manager Mike Scioscia (who protested the Culbreth game), GMs Andy McPhail, Terry Ryan and Mark Shapiro, club owners and presidents Chuck Armstrong, Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt and Dave Montgomery, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and columnist George Will.

Despite proposals to the contrary, MLB failed to expand instant replay in advance of both 2012 and 2013.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wardrobe Malfunction: Snapback Cap, Top Strike San Diego

The infamous snapback MLB umpire cap isn't just an Angel Hernandez exclusive anymore. It's latest victim? Jeff Nelson, albeit if only for a few fleeting moments in the course of a lengthy baseball season.

The 1st inning at Petco Park featured several
miscues, including Bryce Harper's base-running
blunder and Nelson's uniform faux pas.
Thursday's Nationals-Padres game featured a uniform mishap for Nelson, who flew from Detroit and the Astros' 7-5 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday to join crewmates DJ Reyburn, Lance Barksdale and Vic Carapazza, who on Wednesday worked under the supervision of acting crew chief Kerwin Danley for the Rangers-A's series in Oakland. Tuesday's Texas-Oakland game featured Reyburn's ejection of A's skipper Bob Melvin.

Nelson, who took the field in the first inning wearing a snapback black cap and generic umpire's jacket with white shoulder piping, received his reprieve (and delivery) later that evening, ultimately changing out of the loaner clothing and into his No. 45 jacket with customary royal blue shoulder rings.

MLB Ejection 034: Hunter Wendelstedt (1; Eric Wedge)

1B Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ejected Mariners Manager Eric Wedge for arguing an out (catch/trap) call in the top of the 2nd inning of the Mariners-Yankees game. With two out and two on, Mariners batter Brendan Ryan hit a 0-0 curveball from Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte to shallow right field, outfielder Ichiro Suzuki
Catch or trap? Ichiro slides for an out.
attempting to catch the sinking line drive by dropping to one knee. Replays indicate Ichiro successfully caught the ball and prevented it from striking the ground, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the contest was tied, 1-1. The Mariners ultimately won the contest, 3-2.

This is Hunter Wendelstedt (21)'s first ejection of 2013.
Hunter Wendelstedt now has 5 points in the UEFL (0 + 2 MLB + 2 Y = 4).
Crew Chief Jerry Layne now has 1 point in the Crew Division (0 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 1).

This is the 34th ejection of 2013.
This is the 16th Manager ejection of 2013.
This is the Mariners' 1st ejection of 2013, 2nd in the AL West (OAK 4; SEA 1; HOU, LAA, TEX 0)
This is Eric Wedge's first ejection since March 27 [overall, Spring Training] (Seth Buckminster; QOC = U) and September 16, 2012 [regular season] (Brian Knight; QOC = Y).
This is Hunter Wendelstedt's first ejection since May 20, 2012 (Tim Dillard; QOC = U).

Wrap: Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees, 5/16/13
Video: Ryan lines out to a diving Ichiro end the inning, replays confirm the correct call (NYY)
Video: Wedge, frustrated with several close calls throughout the series, earns an early shower (SEA)

Towel Violation: NBA Case Book Addresses Thrown Objects

Midway through the third quarter of Oklahoma City's Game 5 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Thunder guard Derek Fisher attempted a three-point field goal in the corner and in front of the Grizzlies bench when a towel came flying in from off the court, landing several feet inside the three-point arc. The basketball subsequently clanked off the rim and out of the basket.

Thrown towel distracts Fisher.
According to NBA Case Book play 330, if Player A1 is in the act of shooting when B1 throws a shoe in the direction of the ball, A1 shall be awarded points for the type of field goal attempted and B1 shall be charged with a technical foul. The Case Play further states that this same ruling shall apply for any object thrown by any player, coach or trainer either on the court or on the bench and whether or not the thrown object contacts the ball or the shooter.

Relevant Rule cites are 2-III and 12A-V-a, which call for a scored field goal and assessed technical foul.

Which is exactly what calling official Marc Davis did and, upon consultation with crew chief Danny Crawford and fellow referee Jason Phillips, is exactly what call stood on the floor: score the three, call the T.

Video: Tony Allen's Towel Disaster as the Grizzlies bench player launches cloth at a flying Fish

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Type A: BR Overbay Obstructed on Ground Ball to Infielder

In an obstruction play tailor-made for umpire school, Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School Vice President and 2B Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt explained to Mariners Manager Eric Wedge the nuances of MLB Rule 7.06(a), also known as Obstruction Type A, following an overturned out-to-safe (via obstruction) call in the bottom of the 4th inning of Tuesday's Mariners-Yankees game.

Overbay is obstructed by Hernandez.
With one out and one on, Yankees batter Lyle Overbay hit a 2-1 fastball from Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez on the ground to second baseman Robert Andino, who threw to first baseman Kendrys Morales as Overbay collided with Hernandez, who had stopped short of first base to allow Morales to receive the throw, for an apparent groundout as called by 1B Umpire Alan Porter.

Replays indicate that Morales caught the ball and jabbed first base with his right foot mere fractions of a second before Overbay's collision with Hernandez, which hindered, impeded and prevented Overbay's opportunity to touch first base.

After umpire consultation spurred by a brief Joe Girardi argument, Wedge received an initial explanation from crew chief and HP Umpire Jerry Layne before Wedge angrily stormed towards umpires Wendelstedt and Greg Gibson to demand further explanation, Wendelstedt repeatedly informing Wedge that Overbay was obstructed by virtue of Hernandez standing in the baseline and between Overbay and first base.

OBR Rule 2.00 [OBSTRUCTION] defines the aforementioned as "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."

OBR Rule 7.06(a) obstruction states:
If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judg- ment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.
As batter-runner Overbay was obstructed before touching first base (due to the obstruction, he never did touch first base), Overbay was awarded one base beyond the last legally touched (HP + 1 = 1B).

Rule 7.06(b) obstruction, which does not apply here, states:
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.
Accordingly, it is important to note that Type B and not Type A obstruction specifies the "nullify the act of obstruction" penalty wherein an obstructed runner may, at the umpire's discretion, be awarded one or more bases, be directed back to a base or may even be declared out if he was put out during play.

Type A is very clear, awarding at least one base to an obstructed runner. Type B is the "nullify the act" rule.

Furthermore, the MLB Umpire Manual specifies three distinct cases of Rule 7.06(a) and Rule 7.06(b) obstruction wherein a batter-runner is obstructed before reaching first base. They are:
Case 1: (a) Ground Ball to Infielder: Though "it appears that the infielder will have an easy play on the ball," "Time" is called immediately and the obstructed batter-runner is awarded first base.
Case 2: (b) Pop-Up or Line Drive to Infielder: Act ID'd ("that's obstruction"), but the ball is kept alive. If the pop- or liner is caught, the batter is out; if not, the batter-runner is awarded first base ("Time").
Case 3: (b) Any Ball Hit to Outfielder: Similar to (b), the ball is kept alive. If caught, batter is out; if not, the batter-runner is always "protected" to at least first base and more if the umpire judges accordingly.

The Overbay-Hernandez play was an instance of Case 1 and, pursuant to both OBR rule and MLB interpretation, was correctly ruled Type A obstruction, Overbay awarded first base and R1 forced to second.

Video: On what calls "defensive interference" (?), Overbay is awarded first base (NYY)

Culbreth Leaves Game with 11th Inning Collarbone Injury

Umpire Fieldin Culbreth suffered a foul ball injury to the collarbone and was forced to exit Tuesday evening's Brewers-Pirates game in extra innings. With none out and none on in the top of the 11th frame, Brewers batter Yuniesky Betancourt fouled a 0-1 fastball from Pirates pitcher Vin Mazzaro straight back, out of the
Culbreth clutched his neck immediately.
reach of catcher Russell Martin's glove and off of Culbreth's upper torso, the ball wedging between the crew chief's chest protector and face mask before falling to the side, the wedging action suggesting that the ball's entire kinetic energy was transferred to Culbreth's neck and collarbone area.

Culbreth and the Pirates medical staff exited the field through the home dugout, towards the Pittsburgh clubhouse, presumably for x-rays; while some suggested a broker collarbone, MLB did not immediately release the nature of Culbreth's injury. After a brief delay, Bill Welke took over behind home plate.

Coincidentally, Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke, who fractured his collarbone during an April 11 brawl (Ejections 003, 004, 005, 006: Sam Holbrook (1, 2, 3, 4)) against the Padres, returns from his injury for the first time on Wednesday. Greinke's fractured clavicle kept him out of baseball for over a month, causing him to miss a total of 29 team games, albeit as a starter he likely missed just six.

Greinke's injury also surrounded a suspension, as Padres batter Carlos Quentin was suspended eight games for his part in the April 11 fight. Greinke's injury may have played a role in him not receiving a suspension.

Culbreth's two-game suspension as a result of a botched rule application has yet to be served. Culbreth was back to work Wednesday, serving as third base umpire for the Milwaukee-Pitt nightcap.

Video: Fieldin Culbreth is struck in unprotected neck, leaves game with injury (PIT)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

MLB Ejection 033: DJ Reyburn (1; Bob Melvin)

1B Umpire DJ Reyburn ejected Oakland Athletics Manager Bob Melvin for arguing an out call in the bottom of the 8th inning of the Rangers-A's game. With two out and one on, A's batter Daric Barton hit a 2-2 fastball from Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers on the ground to shortstop Elvis Andrus who threw to first baseman Mitch Moreland, Barton ruled out at first. Replays are indicate the baseball entered Moreland's glove scarcely
Melvin points to the door and so does DJ.
prior to Barton's left foot contacting first base, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the contest was tied, 4-4. The Rangers ultimately won the contest, 6-5, in 10 innings.

This is DJ Reyburn (70)'s first ejection of 2013.
DJ Reyburn now has 5 points in the UEFL (0 + 3 AAA + 2 Y = 5).
Crew Chief Kerwin Danley now has 1 point in the Crew Division (0 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 1).

This is the 33rd ejection of 2013.
This is the 15th Manager ejection of 2013.
This is the Athletics' 4th ejection of 2013, 1st in the AL West (OAK 4; HOU, LAA, SEA, TEX 0)
This is Bob Melvin's MLB-leading 3rd ejection of 2013; 1st since May 8 (Angel Hernandez; QOC = N).
This is DJ Reyburn's first ejection since July 22, 2012 (Alcides Escobar/Ned Yost; QOC = U).

Wrap: Texas Rangers vs. Oakland Athletics, 5/14/13
Video: After Reyburn bangs out Barton at first, Melvin argues and is dismissed from the game (OAK)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

MLB Ejection 032: John Tumpane (1; Kurt Suzuki)

HP Umpire John Tumpane ejected Nationals C Kurt Suzuki for arguing a strike three call in the bottom of the 9th inning of the Cubs-Nationals game. With one out and none on, Suzuki took a 2-2 fastball from Cubs pitcher Kevin Gregg for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located thigh high and off the outer edge of home plate (px 1.121), the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Cubs were leading, 2-1. The Cubs ultimately won the contest, 2-1.

This is John Tumpane (74)'s first ejection of 2013.
John Tumpane now has -2 points in the UEFL (0 Previous + 3 AAA - 1 Penalty - 4 Incorrect Call = -2).
Crew Chief Angel Hernandez now has 0 points in the UEFL's Crew Division (0 + 0 = 0).

This is the 32nd ejection of 2013.
This is the 15th player ejection of 2013.
Prior to his ejection, Suzuki was 1-4 in the contest.
This is the Nationals' 2nd ejection of 2013, 1st in the NL East (WAS 2; ATL, PHI 1; MIA, NYM 0).
This is Kurt Suzuki's first career ejection.
This is John Tumpane's first ejection since March 25 (Jeff Francoeur; QOC = N).

MiLB AAA Recap: Early May Ejections; Brian Runge Update

MiLB Recap: Brian Runge was spotted in Triple-A New Orleans this weekend, working the plate Saturday during Tacoma's 14-1 trouncing of the Zephyrs. As was the case with Joe West and Gary Cederstrom earlier this season, this suggests a step closer to a return to MLB ball.

Since the beginning of May, MiLB AAA has experienced the following ejections (with the argument or reason for ejection in parentheses), with a great deal of reporting from resident Triple-A scout Russ:

¤ HP Umpire Mark Ripperger ejected Sacramento River Cats C Luke Montz (3rd strike), PCL.
¤ 1B Umpire Brandon Misun ejected Tuscon Padres Manager Pat Murphy (safe call at first base), PCL.
¤ 1B Umpire Gerard Ascani ejected Reno Aces Manager Brett Butler (fair ball call), PCL.
¤ HP Umpire Travis Carlson ejected Norfolk Tides 3B Danny Valencia (check swing call), IL.
¤ HP Umpire DJ Reyburn ejected Nashville Sounds RF Cole Garner (fair/foul, prior to reversal), PCL.
¤ HP Umpire Blake Davis ejected Nashville Sounds Mgr Mike Guerrero (batter's interference no-call), PCL.
¤ 1B Umpire Gerald Ascani ejected Albuquerque Isotopes 3B Brian Braden for (out/pickoff), PCL.
¤ 1B Umpire Adam Hamari ejected Gwinnett Braves Manager Randy Ready (check swing/HBP), IL.
¤ HP Umpire Jeff Gosney ejected Columbus Clippers Manager Chris Tremie for (balk call), IL.
¤ HP Umpire Quinn Wolcott ejected Omaha Storm Chasers P Nathan Adcock (Throwing At), PCL.
¤ HP Umpire Quinn Wolcott ejected Storm Chasers Mgr Mike Jirschele (Argued Adcock Ejection), PCL.
¤ HP Umpire Sean Barber ejected Norfolk Tides LF Trayvon Robinson (called 3rd strike), IL.
¤ HP Umpire Max Guyll ejected Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 1B Dan Johnson (balls/strikes), IL.
¤ 1B Umpire Angel Campos ejected Las Vegas 51s CF Colin Cowgill (out call), PCL.
¤ 1B Umpire Angel Campos ejected Las Vegas 51s Manager Wally Backman (out call), PCL.
¤ HP Umpire Kellen Levy ejected Nashville Sounds RF Caleb Gindl (called third strike), PCL.
¤ HP Umpire Max Guyll ejected Norfolk Tides RF L.J. Hoes (called third strike), IL.

* IL = International League / PCL = Pacific Coast League *