Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Player Illegally Re-Enters Game for 1st Time in MLB History

For the first time in MLB history, a substituted-for player illegally re-entered a Major League game, as umpires and competitors alike failed to notice the rules infraction late during a well-decided game.

This sequence involved an American League team's election to terminate its use of the Designated Hitter function, and the removed DH's undetected and illegal re-entry into the game as a pinch hitter for the very player who had replaced him.

The Play: Prior to Friday evening's Orioles-Red Sox game, Boston Manager John Farrell submitted a lineup card to HP Umpire and Umpire-in-Chief Scott Barry that listed the following positions and batting order (players of significance in bold):
John Farrell's club illegally re-entered a player.

> Batting 1st, 2B: Eduardo Nuñez;
> Batting 2nd, LF: Andrew Benintendi;
> Batting 3rd, RF: Mookie Betts;
> Batting 4th, 1B: Mitch Moreland;
> Batting 5th, SS: Xander Bogaerts;
> Batting 6th, 3B: Rafael Devers;
> Batting 7th, DH: Chris Young;
> Batting 8th, CF: Rajai Davis;
> Batting 9th, C: Sandy Leon;
> Pitcher (non-hitting due to the DH): Rick Porcello.

Boston's late-game substitutions.
Simple enough, right? Throughout the game, as Baltimore kept hammering away at Red Sox pitching, Boston responded by bringing in reliever after reliever, before bullpen reinforcement Robby Scott entered and pitched a scoreless top of the 8th with Baltimore leading, 16-3.

As teams on the wrong side of a blowout often do, Boston elected to go with a position player to pitch the inconsequential top of the ninth inning, and Manager Farrell selected one of his players already in the game, first baseman Moreland, for the job. Because Moreland—who had batted 4th the entire game—replaced a pitcher—who does not bat—the Red Sox forfeited the Designated Hitter pursuant to Rule 5.11(a), meaning that Moreland would continue hitting for himself in the four-spot, and Boston's new first baseman, Hanley Ramirez, would also hit for himself and replace DH Young as seventh in the batting order.

Taking it line-by-line, Boston's top-of-the-9th substitutions looked like this:
* Defensive change: Moreland moves from 1B to P *
* Defensive substitution: 1B Ramirez replaces DH Young *
* Defensive substitution: P Scott leaves the game (DH is terminated; new P Moreland will bat) *

Yet, when the bottom of the 9th inning came around, this is what happened:
> 6th, 3B: Rafael Devers lines out to center fielder Craig Gentry. One Out, ---.
> 7th, PH: Chris Young singles on a pop up to shortstop Tim Beckham. One Out, R1--.
> 8th, CF: Rajai Davis hit by pitch. One Out, R1-R2-.
> 9th, C: Sandy Leon pops out to third baseman Caleb Joseph. Two Outs, R1-R2-.
> 1st, 2B: Brock Holt (substitute for Nunez) called out on strikes. Three Outs, Game Over.

Did you notice it?

Here's the recap of just the important moves: Ramirez enters the game and replaces Young in the top of the 9th, playing first base and batting seventh. Yet in the bottom half, Young suddenly reappeared as the #7 hitter, and got a single out of it. Here's the missing piece of the puzzle that went unnoticed by not only HP Umpire Barry and Crew Chief/3B Umpire Paul Emmel, but by Orioles skipper Buck Showalter, as well:

*Offensive Substitution: Pinch-Hitter Chris Young replaces Hanley Ramirez, batting seventh*

The Rule: This back-and-forth swap over the game's final frames is an illegal re-entry in professional baseball. Official Baseball Rule 5.10(d) has it covered:
A player once removed from a game shall not re-enter that game. If a player who has been substituted for attempts to re-enter, or re-enters, the game in any capacity, the umpire-in-chief shall direct the player’s manager to remove such player from the game immediately upon noticing the player’s presence or upon being informed of the player’s improper presence by another umpire or by either manager.
And if no one notices? Here's OBR 5.10(d) Comment: "Any play that occurs while a player appears in a game after having been substituted for shall count."

Lineup card chaos at Dodger Stadium in July.
Baseball came close to experiencing such an illegal transaction on July 25, 2017 at Dodger Stadium, when plate umpire Lance Barrett misheard Paul Molitor's "Pressly for Polanco" double-switch request as "Belisle for Rosario," causing Barrett to beckon shortstop Polanco, who had taken a seat in the Twins dugout thinking he was out of the game, back onto the field; the entire mess was sorted out after a pitch had been thrown, but it was determined that Polanco—even though he had been sitting in the dugout—was still in the game; thus, the "no re-entry rule" did not apply.

Still, there is one rule the Twins and Dodgers, playing in Los Angeles, did not contend with. Rule 5.11(a) concerns the Designated Hitter, which the National League does not use: (4) "A replaced Designated Hitter shall not re-enter the game in any capacity...(14) If a player on defense goes to the mound (i.e., replaces the pitcher), this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter’s role for that club for the remainder of the game."

In other words, Young shouldn't have hit in the bottom of the 9th, but even so, everything that happened after Young re-entered shall count (i.e.: the Orioles wouldn't be able to protest the game over this).

MLB History is Made: How rare is this play? According to Retrosheet, this is the first time an illegal lineup re-entry has occurred in Major League history, an ominous place in the record books for UIC Barry and Crew Chief Emmel.

For what it's worth, one umpire on Emmel's crew has a public disciplinary action on record for misapplying a rule in the past. In 2013, Brian O'Nora (the 2B Umpire in Boston) received a fine for his role as a member of chief Fieldin Culbreth's crew in failing to properly enforce substitution rules that mandate a substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat until that batter is put out, reaches base, or the inning ends. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia had filed a protest in that particular contest.

Due to a rather lopsided and fortuitous (for his team) score, as well as an obliviousness that may have been caused by such a score, Orioles Manager Showalter did not attempt to file a protest in Boston.

Wrap: Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox, 8/25/17


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