Saturday, February 25, 2017

Spring Training Ejection - Hunter Wendelstedt (Frias)

HP Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ejected Astros P Edison Frias for throwing at Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera in the bottom of the 3rd inning of the Astros-Tigers game. With none out and none on, Frias walked Tigers batter Juan Perez on four pitches, before surrendering three consecutive home runs to Andrew Romine, Ian Kinsler, and Victor Martinez. Cabrera, who followed Martinez in the batting order, subsequently took a 0-0 fastball for a hit-by-pitch, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the ejection, the Tigers were leading, 4-0.

This is Hunter Wendelstedt (21)'s first ejection of Spring Training, the 2017 MLB preseason.
Hunter Wendelstedt now has 0 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 0 Spring Training = 0).
Crew Chief Wendelstedt now has 0 points in Crew Division (0 Previous + 0 Spring Training = 0).

This is the first ejection report of Spring Training 2017, and earliest on record (2nd day of Spring).
This is the 1st player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Frias' line was 0.0 IP, BB, 4 ER, 3 HR.
This is Houston's 1st ejection of Spring Training, 1st in the Grapefruit League (HOU 1; Others 0).
This is Edison Frias' first career MLB ejection.
This is Hunter Wendelstedt's first ejection since June 28, 2016 (Jeff Francoeur; QOC = Y [Replay]).

Wrap: Houston Astros vs. Detroit Tigers (Grapefruit Lg), 2/25/17 | Video N/A (Game not televised)

Friday, February 24, 2017

First Play of the Spring - Overthrown Two Base Award

On this first day of Spring Training, we're already into the rulebook as an overthrow in Florida led to a Little League home run for Yankees batter Miguel Andujar.

Though the teams pay no mind, the ump does.
As baseball collectively shakes off the dust this late February, there are bound to be a few errors along the way, and we too would do well to review a fundamental rule that made an appearance on Friday concerning a ball thrown out of play.

With two out and a runner on first base in the bottom of the 6th inning, NY batter Andujar hit a fair fly ball off of Phillies outfielder Chris Coghlan, who retrieved the ball on the ground and threw to first baseman Brock Stassi, who in turn threw to third base in an attempt to retire Andujar, who was trying for a triple.

Stassi's throw flew past third baseman Taylor Featherston and bounced into (and then out of) the visitors' dugout back onto the playing field, where it was retrieved by left fielder Tyler Goeddel, alertly backing up the play, as batter-runner Andujar scampered back to third base.

U3 Mark Wegner signals "Time."
Fortunately for New York, 3B Umpire Mark Wegner saw the entire sequence and, having correctly ruled the ball out of play, awarded Andujar home plate as a result of the ball thrown out of play. Andujar's position at the time of Kingery's throw was at some point between second and third base.

Common question: Does it matter that the ball bounced back onto the field after momentarily entering the dugout? After all, didn't appear to have altered the play. Answer: As soon as the ball leaves the playing field, it is dead and subject to award. It does not matter what happens next (see emphasized portion of rule, below).

Relevant Rules
Rule 5.06(b)(4)(G): "Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance...Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench (whether or not the ball rebounds into the field)...The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made."

 Wrap: Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Yankees, 2/24/17 | Video available via "Read more"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Four-Pitch Intentional Walk, Potential Flubs, Abolished

Baseball is saying goodbye to its four-pitch intentional walk—and antics of an intent ball gone wrong—in favor of pace-of-play-friendly dugout signals, according to several sources. Manfred previously stated "that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," while player's union head Tony Clark wrote, "fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle."

However, the apparently less fundamental four-pitch intentional walk (as opposed to the more fundamental strike zone issue) appears headed for extinction.

Less fundamental? It's not as if a poorly executed intentional walk attempt has ever cost someone a ballgame...or has it? [Spoiler: It has—many times]
Say goodbye to intentional walk-off disasters.

Intentional balls don't often go awry, but when they do, the results can be memorable. When Baltimore pitcher Todd Williams attempted to intentionally walk Marlins slugger Miguel Cabrera in the 10th inning of a tied game on June 22, 2006, Cabrera hit the first pitch he saw for an RBI single, scoring Florida's game-winning run.

In 2014, Dodgers relief pitcher Chris Withdrew attempted to intentionally walk Diamondbacks batter Martin Prado in the top of the 9th inning of a 1-1 game. After all, with one out and a runner on third, setting up a potential inning-ending double play is a plausibly good strategy...except that Withrow's 2-0 pitch to Prado sailed over catcher Tim Federowicz's glove, allowing D-Backs baserunner R3 Tony Campana to score the go-ahead run for Arizona, which eventually won the contest, 4-2.

A similar wild pitch-during-an-intentional-walk mishap occurred in Tampa Bay (run scored)...and in Detroit...and in San Francisco...and in Anaheim (run scored)...and in Oakland...and in Detroit (again)...and in Detroit (for a third time, with a run scoring)...and in Seattle (run scored).

Most recently—and perhaps the last instance of a flubbed intentional walk MLB will ever see—Yankees batter Gary Sanchez hit a sacrifice fly when Rays pitcher Enny Romero's intentional ball flew too close to home plate and within the reach of Sanchez's bat.

Sanchez's IBB sacrifice could be MLB's last.
In a similar vein, Lancaster Barnstormers pitcher Lance Odom unintentionally spurred a walk-off win for opposing Somerset in 2007 when Odom's intentional ball with a runner on third in extra innings sailed over the catcher's head, allowing baserunner R3 Danny Garcia to score the game-winner from third base.

A similar fate befell Auburn in college baseball during a poorly placed intentional ball at Ole Miss that was swung on and hammered into the outfield seats for a walk-off home run.

Intentional walk mishaps at the lower levels have also produced a steal of home, and even a catcher's balk. Say goodbye to those, too.

There were just 932 intentional walks given out across the majors in 2016, which averages out to one for every 2.6 games played. By contrast, 2016 featured 1,468 regular season Replay Reviews, or one every 1.7 games. Intentional walks averaged less than one minute each while Replay Reviews took an average of one-minute and 36 seconds to complete.

MLB has also purportedly proposed a 30-second time limit on Replay Reviews.

This latest intentional walk news comes just weeks after baseball's most recent proposition to the players' union concerning free passes, and just two years after MLB tested no-pitch intentional walks during the 2014 Arizona Fall League.

In reportedly adopting the no-pitch intentional walk for regular season play, MLB hopes to reduce game times and increased pitch counts (presumably, by four pitches per occurrence), while collaterally eliminating the aforementioned possibility for an intentional ball-gone-wrong by way of a balk, wild pitch or pass ball, batter's swing at an intentional ball, and stolen base.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Phil Cuzzi Fulfills Promise to Late Friend Luongo

Phil Cuzzi's friendship with Belleville classmate Robert Luongo transcends baseball, reminding us of the brand of people that often gravitate toward the officiating vocation, as depicted in a article on Cuzzi.

Cuzzi and Luongo grew up together, and as Cuzzi attended Glassboro State College, Luongo went to Harvard. As Cuzzi climbed the umpiring ranks, Luongo took to business.

When Luongo's health suffered in the 1990s, manifesting in an ALS diagnosis, Cuzzi stuck by his friend, and, sensing Luongo's value of education for his family, made a vow: "The last time I saw Robert, the last thing I said to him was, 'Rob, you will never have to worry about [daughter] Dominique’s education, I will get our community and the baseball community involved to raise whatever we need to send her wherever she wants to go.'"

If you've followed Cuzzi's story, you may recall the Luongo name from Cuzzi's charity, the Robert Luongo ALS fund, established in 2003 as a fundraising effort for education and, later, dedicated to finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), colloquially known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and the name sake of the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which Cuzzi and crew (alongside Bob Costas) took part in after a game in Anaheim that season.

After Robert Luongo died in 2004 at the age of 49, Cuzzi continued fundraising to honor Luongo, planning dinners and bringing in guests from baseball legends Tommy Lasorda, Joe Torre, and Tony LaRussa, to boxers Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney, to actor Steven Schirripa and broadcaster Costas.

Now, Luongo's daughter is set to graduate from Robert's alma mater, Harvard University, and Cuzzi's promise is nearing completion: "And now, she’s graduating. I can’t believe it. [Mother] Debra deserves so much credit. She has instilled the values in her daughter that were so important to both her and Robert. We are all so proud of Dominique, her future is only limited to her own dreams. As proud as we all are of her, it pales in comparison to how proud Robert is of her."

Cuzzi describes the Robert Luongo ALS Fund as a three-tiered organization: "We raise money for scholarships for students of parents and family members who suffer from ALS, as well as donating money for research to ALS, in the hope of finding a cure, and to help families who need to care for an ALS patient."