Thursday, February 6, 2014

Baseball Rules in the Real World: Multiple Mound Visits

UEFL continues its umpiring series "Baseball Rules in the Real World" with Multiple Mound Visits, a look back at two instances (one inadvertent yet not incidental) of a manager visiting the mound twice during the same at-bat, or at-bat intermission.

The first situation is the easier one. LAA-HOU, May 9, 2013: As Angels left-handed batter JB Shuck stood on deck in the top of the 7th inning of a close game, Astros manager Bo Porter relieved his right-handed pitcher, Paul Clemens from the game, replacing him with southpaw Wesley Wright for the coveted lefty-lefty matchup. Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia countered Porter's move by pinch hitting for Shuck with righty Luis Jimenez so as to restore the lefty-righty duel. As a result, Porter revisited the mound and removed Wright from the game, replacing him with the right-handed Hector Ambriz for a righty-righty face-off.

One problem—Wright hadn't thrown a single pitch. As Scioscia stormed out of the visiting dugout to argue with crew chief Fieldin Culbreth, Ambriz warmed up and after umpire discussion, he was allowed to remain in the game. Scioscia's Angels elected to play the game under protest, a game that, had the Angels lost, would have resulted in the first upheld MLB protest in over 20 years.

Here's why: When Wright—whom all sources confirm was not injured or otherwise incapacitated—left the game without pitching to a single batter, the Astros violated OBR Rule 3.05(b), which states, in part, "If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher."

The Comment for this rule addresses a manager (Porter) who attempts to violate Rule 3.05(b): "If a manager attempts to remove a pitcher in violation of Rule 3.05 (c) the umpire shall notify the manager of the offending club that it cannot be done. If, by chance, the umpire-in-chief has, through oversight, announced the incoming improper pitcher, he should still corrrect the situation before the improper pitcher pitches. Once the improper pitcher delivers a pitch he becomes the proper pitcher."

The umpires failed to enforce this rule, which is why the Angels protested and had an excellent case for affirmation—until they expectedly dropped the protest as a result of winning the ballgame, 6-5.

The second situation is trickier, also involves confusion regarding the pitching change rules and the double mound visit and did not result in a protest, which may have come in handy as the offended team ended up losing the game.

MLB: Umpires erred in rule application.
SF-LAD, July 20, 2010: With one out and the bases loaded in a 5-4 ballgame, Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton received a pep talk in the form of a mound visit by acting skipper Don Mattingly (manager Joe Torre had been ejected earlier in the game as had bench coach Bob Schaefer). At the meeting's seeming conclusion, Mattingly calmly walked down the pitcher's mound and onto the infield grass as first baseman James Loney said something to get the acting manager's attention. To better hear Loney in a Stadium with 53,381 fans, Mattingly stepped back onto the mound to converse with his infield before returning to the Dodgers dugout.

Manager Bruce Bochy then emerged from the Giants' first-base dugout and appealed that Mattingly's false start step-off constituted two mound visits to the same pitcher during the same inning, which meant Broxton had to come out of the ballgame. Crew Chief Tim McClelland agreed and Mattingly was forced to lift Broxton in favor of George Sherrill, who proceeded to surrender a two-RBI double to batter Andres Torres, giving the Giants to take a 6-5 lead before Travis Schlichting allowed run number seven to score. The Giants ultimately won the game, 7-5. No protest was filed.

After the game, league officials confirmed to multiple sources that umpires erred by not allowing Broxton to face Torres, pursuant to Rule 8.06(b) Comment, which states, "In a case where a manager has made his first trip to the mound and then returns the second time to the mound in the same inning with the same pitcher in the game and the same batter at bat, after being warned by the umpire that he cannot return to the mound, the manager shall be removed from the game and the pitcher required to pitch to the batter until he is retired or gets on base. After the batter is retired, or becomes a baserunner, then this pitcher must be removed from the game."

The umpires did not warn Mattingly against visiting Broxton a second time (it happened so quickly), so his removal or ejection would have been unlikely. Still, league officials confirmed the umpires misapplied—failed to apply—Rule 8.06(b) Comment, which qualifies as a rule misinterpretation and protestable offense. Had Mattingly's Dodgers protested the game, because they lost, the contest would have likely been replayed from the point of protest—top of the ninth, one out, bases loaded and Jonathan Broxton facing Andres Torres. At the conclusion of Torres' time at-bat, Broxton would have been removed from the game.

The kicker: in three previous career at-bats against Broxton, Torres was 0-3. (Video: Must C Controversial)
Similar fun fact: Both games featured the same home plate umpire, Adrian Johnson.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Close Call of the Week: NBA Basketball without a Bench

This edition of Close Call of the Week concerns Wednesday evening's NBA matchup between the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dressing just eight players for the game, the Lakers lost shooting Guard Nick Young and point guard Jordan Farmar to left injuries, leaving just six eligible players until center Chris Kaman fouled out early in the fourth quarter. With 3:32 remaining in the final period, Lakers center Robert Sacre committed his sixth foul. Had Sacre's sixth foul disqualified him from further participation in the contest, the Lakers would have conceivably been left with just four eligible players with which to finish the game. Instead, NBA Rule 3-I-a came into play.
If a player in the game receives his sixth personal foul and all substitutes have already been disqualified, said player shall remain in the game and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul also shall be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls, including offensive fouls, shall be treated similarly. All players who have six or more personal fouls and remain in the game shall be treated similarly.
Accordingly, Sacre was permitted to remain in the contest at the expense of a team technical foul charged to the Lakers. Had Sacre committed any further personal fouls, the Lakers would have been charged with an additional technical foul for each infraction (Sacre did not foul after 3:32). At the time of the invocation of Rule 3-I-a, the Lakers were leading, 111-101. The Lakers ultimately won the contest, 119-108.

It is this rule that enabled Don Otten in 1949 to set an NBA record with eight personal fouls over the course of just one game when his Tri-Cities Blackhawks ran out of subs when he committed his sixth foul.

Test Your Knowledge (Basketball Rules Differences): Had this same scenario occurred at the NCAA college level, the affected team would have lost Sacre's services for the remainder of the contest, as in NCAA Rule 3-1-2: "Each team may continue to play with fewer than five players when all other squad members are not eligible or able to play." If multiple players foul out, the team can continue playing until just one player remains, at which time, "that team shall forfeit unless the referee believes that both teams have an opportunity to win" (3-1-3).

NFHS high school follows the college rule (and clarifies/cleans up the misleading language provided by NCAA Rule 3-1-3: "A team must begin the game with five players, but if it has no substitutes to replace disqualified or injured players, it must continue with fewer than five. When there is only one player participating for a team, the team shall forfeit the game, unless the referee believes that team has an opportunity to win the game" (NFHS Rule 3-1-1 NOTE).

Wrap: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 2/5/14