Sunday, February 26, 2017

Much Patience and Good Judgment - Reversing a Call

In officiating, patience and timing are key. In baseball, umpires are trained to fully process plays before issuing a judgment decision. Most of the time, patience and timing make an appearance during the play itself, but sometimes, the patience to get the call right shows up only after the play is over.

After initial out, Tosi correctly changed a call.
In the top of the 4th inning of Saturday's tied White Sox-Dodgers game, Sox baserunner R1 Yolmer Sanchez attempted to steal second base as second baseman Logan Forsythe attempted to tag Sanchez before Sanchez's foot touched second base, generating an out call from 3B Umpire Alex Tosi.

One slight issue arose when it became clear that Forsythe had not caught his catcher's throw and the ball was rolling along the infield dirt, resulting in Sanchez's hasty retreat to first base (he had started jogging back toward the White Sox's first base dugout after Tosi's out call and picked up his pace after seeing the loose ball).

Jean Segura also had an adventure.
Sanchez's actions tend to remind us of Brewers baserunner Jean Segura, who famously stole second base in 2013 before running back to first base, and then later tried to steal second base again during the same baserunning appearance. The only difference between the Sanchez and Segura plays is that 2B Umpire Phil Cuzzi hadn't incorrectly declared Segura out: Segura only thought he had been declared out.

Tosi, on the other hand, actually did incorrectly declare Sanchez out. Thus, after calling "Time" and convening crewmates Lance Barrett and Pat Hoberg, Tosi changed his call to "safe," and placed Sanchez on second base, ruling that had the proper call (of "safe") been made, that is the base that Sanchez would have reached.

What does the rulebook say about this? Rule 8.02(c) states, "If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing runners where they think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call."

Although Rule 8.02(c) is a failsafe for mistakes, the General Instructions to Umpires section of the code seeks to prevent premature calls: "Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play. It is more vital to know just where a fly ball fell, or a thrown ball finished up, than whether or not a runner missed a base. Do not call the plays too quickly, or turn away too fast when a fielder is throwing to complete a double play. Watch out for dropped balls after you have called a man out...Wait until the play is completed before making any arm motion."

Video: Confusion in Cattleback thanks to an out call, dropped ball, and missed tag (LAD; 1:11:19)

As Dodgers broadcaster Charlie Steiner remarked, "It's Spring Training for everybody," though Tosi's premature call places him in the company of other MLB greats, such as Greg Gibson, whose early out call at Dodger Stadium in 2012 occurred during a game-deciding sequence of events.
Relevant Post: Greg Gibson Reminds All Umpires: Patience is a Virtue (7/15/12).

With two out and two on (R2, R3) in the top of the 9th inning of the July 14, 2012 Padres-Dodgers game, the Dodgers were all set to win their 10th straight contest at home against San Diego as the Blue Crew clung to a 6-5 lead. Closer Kenley Jansen had worked methodically and—much to Joe Torre's chagrin, I'm sure—slowly to a two-strike count and was considering which pitch to throw for his final strike of the game.

Gibson prematurely punches out Cabrera.
Padres baserunner R3 Everth Cabrera, alertly, saw Jansen's full focus on pitching and not on the runners, so when Jansen turned his back to home plate and ventured behind the pitcher's plate, Cabrera pounced, catching Jansen off-guard. Jansen's throw to catcher AJ Ellis was high, but Ellis jumped for it and slapped a tag on Cabrera just before the Padre's foot slid into home plate.

"Out!" exclaimed plate umpire Greg Gibson, emphatically seeking to end the game in thrilling fashion.

The only problem, of course, was that Jansen's throw had evaded Ellis and the baseball was not in AJ's glove, but rolling around freely in foul territory.

Upon realizing this—partly due to Cabrera's protest of the out call—Gibson reversed course, signaled Cabrera safe, and extended the game. For better or for worse, all this added confusion allowed the runner from second base Will Venable to score the go-ahead and winning run as Jansen arrived late to cover the plate. Controversially, replays indicate Jansen did not hustle to cover the plate until after Gibson had reversed his improper call, and Venable was already within several strides of home plate.

Remember the General Instruction to Umpires: "It is often a trying position which requires the exercise of much patience and good judgment."


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