Thursday, May 4, 2017

Case Play 2017-5 - Dead Ball Missed Base Appeal [Solved]

HP Umpire Chad Stears declared a runner out on appeal for failing to touch home plate during a home run celebration. As fate would have it, the out occurred after the ball-over-wall hit had apparently tied the game (which ended up as a one-run ballgame).

Executive Summary: Batter hits out-of-the-park home run, but while rounding the bases, misses home plate. On the way to the dugout, a coach appears to physically stop B1, alerting the batter-runner to the missed base. B1 then returns to touch home plate before finally entering the dugout. This is a legal run and not subject to the base coach interference rule.

Hemphill is ruled out on appeal after her HR.
The Play: With two out and none on in the top of the 3rd inning of the Alabama-Ole Miss NCAA softball game, Alabama batter Bailey Hemphill hit a solo home run and jogged around the bases, punctuating her celebration with a jump upon her return to home plate...except that she jumped clear over home plate and failed to make contact with the base.

After leaving the vicinity and celebrating with hear teammates and coaches, Hemphill attempted to return to touch home plate, but by that point, Ole Miss had filed an appeal and HP Umpire Chad Stears declared Hemphill out for missing a base.

Like NFHS baseball, in NCAA softball, an appeal for missing a base may be made during a live- or dead-ball period ( Regarding an out-of-the-park home run, "The appeal cannot be ruled on until the player completes her base-running responsibilities." Rule 12.22.1 states, "A runner, in the course of running the bases, is considered to have acquired the base if she touches the base or passes the base (within a body’s length)."

Plate umpire Chad Stears explains his ruling.
As an aside, it is for this reason (amongst others) that a softball umpire will wait until the runner touches the final base of her award (or passes the final base of the award, as occurred here) before delivering a new ball to the defense, as a dead-ball appeal may only occur after the the umpire "places a new ball into the game" (as opposed to making the ball live, e.g., "put back into play"). Rule 12.22.3 states, "An appeal must be honored even if the base missed was before or after an award." The CCA Softball Umpires Manual states, "After the runner touches home plate, give a ball to the pitcher, catcher or closest infielder and return to the plate area."

Infinite Loop: The natural conundrum is that withholding the ball until the runner corrects her base-running blunder by physically touching home plate (or, more to the point, until the runner indicates that she has failed to do so) is a tip-off to both the defense and offense that the umpire observed the runner missing home plate, which, naturally, isn't something an umpire should be communicating to either team until and unless an appeal is requested.

The NCAA attempted to solve the crisis by issuing the following statement: "By rule, with the ball out of play, the defense cannot appeal a missed base until the ball is put back in play, the defense is in position, the next batter summoned to the batter’s box and the umpire indicates 'Play Ball.'"

As Jim pointed out, NCAA's interpretation is at odds with its rulebook (see above), which may necessitate a rules change this offseason to specifically cover this situation.

Even the aforementioned NCAA-issued bulletin incorrectly cites the phrase "ball is put back in play" for Rule when that specific rule says no such thing. It says "places a new ball into the game." "The game" encompasses all aspects of events on the field—from beginning to end—and includes both live and dead ball periods. "In play," however, refers only to live ball action. The language should be changed to reflect the rest of the rulebook to eliminate this inconsistency.

But that's softball, where dead ball appeals are valid, as they are in high school, where "Runners must be given ample opportunity, in the umpire’s judgment, to complete their base running responsibilities." What about professional baseball, where appeals may only be executed when the ball is live?

Case Play Question: All else equal, what is the proper ruling if this occurs during a Major League game? Would the runner's touch-correction be considered timely and legal in professional baseball?

Answer: Yes. Due to its live ball appeal policy (Rule 5.09(c) Comment: "Time is not out when an appeal is being made"), OBR-level baseball avoids the live ball/dead ball controversy completely, which leaves only the issue of whether the runner legally returned to touch home plate.

Rule 5.09(c)(2) Approved Ruling (B) states: "When the ball is dead, no runner may return to touch a missed base or one he has left after he has advanced to and touched a base beyond the missed base." In the case of a missed plate during a dead ball base award situation (e.g., an over-the-fence home run), this "base beyond" is considered to be the dugout. The runner can return to touch home plate at any point before entering the dugout.

Rule 6.01(a)(8) states that a runner is out for interference when—"In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base." Let us assume that after the batter-runner completed the home run trot (albeit without having touched home plate) that a coach physically assists the runner in returning to touch home plate. The preceding rule obviously does not address the specific case of assistance in returning to or leaving home plate (just first or third base), so the question is whether the rule can apply to the situation of a runner returning to touch a missed plate.

The reason the rule specifically mentions base coaches is that, during play, only base coaches are permitted on the infield while the remainder of the staff is relegated to the dugout, clubhouse, or on-field bullpen. Thus, the rule should apply to any coach who, by entering the playing field and physically assisting a runner, commits a similar brand of coach assist interference.

But the ball is dead! The Definition of Terms states, "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." There is no play or potential play to be made during a dead ball period.

Furthermore, Rule 5.06(c)(2) states that, while the ball is dead, no player may be put out, no bases run, and no runs scored except as the result of acts that occurred while the ball was live (and the rule specifically lists "interference" as one of those acts which might have "occurred while the ball was alive"). Thus, while the ball is dead, the batter-runner cannot be put out due to the coach assist interference. Coach assistance interference is a live ball infraction.

Note that, because the ball is live during an appeal play, a runner can be called out for actions that occurred during a live or dead ball. This live => live or dead situation is not reciprocal: a runner can't be out for a live ball infraction that happens during a dead ball while the ball is still dead.

Here's another reason that coach assistance interference does not apply to a dead ball four-base award: "When a runner is entitled to a base without liability to be put out, while the ball is in play, or under any rule in which the ball is in play after the runner reaches the base to which he is entitled, and the runner fails to touch the base to which he is entitled before attempting to advance to the next base, the runner shall forfeit his exemption from liability to be put out" (Rule 5.06(b)(3) NOTE).

And, for good measure, Rule 5.06(b)(4)(A): "Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out—to home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally."

On an out-of-the-park (dead ball) home run, the runner may be called out for: failing to touch a base (appeal play), passing a runner (see Rule 7.01(g)(3) Approved Ruling), abandonment, but not interference.

For the aforementioned play, score the run (assuming the runner has touched home plate).

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR 5.05(b)(3) Comment: "If the batter-runner missed first base, or a runner misses his next base, he shall be considered as having reached the base."
OBR 5.06(c)(2): "While the ball is dead no player may be put out, no bases may be run and no runs may be scored, except that runners may advance one or more bases as the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive (such as, but not limited to a balk, an overthrow, interference, or a home run or other fair ball hit out of the playing field)."
OBR 5.09(c)(2): "Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when—With the ball in play, while advancing or returning to a base, he fails to touch each base in order before he, or a missed base, is tagged."
OBR 5.09(c)(4): "Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when—He fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to that base, and home base is tagged."

Video via "Read More"

Alternate Link: BR's failure to touch home plate is appealed, resulting in an out (SEC)


Post a Comment