Saturday, June 24, 2017

MLB Ejection 079 - Bill Miller (1; John Farrell)

3B Umpire Bill Miller ejected Red Sox Manager John Farrell (balk call) in the top of the 7th inning of the Angels-Red Sox game. With one out and one on (R3), U3 Miller called Red Sox pitcher Fernando Abad for a balk as Angels batter Kole Calhoun request and was granted "Time" from HP Umpire Ryan Blakney. Replays indicate that prior to Blakney signaling and verbalizing "Time," Abad's left shoulder moved and his left leg and foot disengaged the pitcher's plate in seeming contravention of Rule 6.02(a), but, due to the "Time" call, the shoulder turn-disengagement move cannot conclusively be said to have violated nor complied with the restriction imposed by this rule, but pursuant to Rule 5.04(b)(2) Comment, the batter cannot inadvertently cause the pitcher to interrupt his delivery after the pitcher enters set position, the call was incorrect.*^ Ruling reviewed and overturned by the UEFL Appeals Board (8-1-0). At the time of the ejection, the Angels were leading, 5-1. The Angels ultimately won the contest, 6-3.

This is Bill Miller (26)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Bill Miller now has 1 point in the UEFL Standings (3 Previous + 2 MLB - 4 Incorrect Call = 1).
Crew Chief Bill Miller now has 2 points in Crew Division (2 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 2).
*OBR 6.02(a): "It is a balk when—The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery."
OBR 5.12(b): "The ball becomes dead when an umpire calls 'Time'" (not when a player requests "Time"). (8) " umpire shall call “Time” while a play is in progress" (a balk is considered a play).
^OBR 5.04(b)(2) Comment: "If after the pitcher starts his windup or comes to a “set position” with a runner on, he does not go through with his pitch because the batter has inadvertently caused the pitcher to interrupt his delivery, it shall not be called a balk. Both the pitcher and batter have violated a rule and the umpire shall call time and both the batter and pitcher start over from 'scratch.'"
Related PostCalling Time to Avoid a Balk - When a Ball Becomes Dead (5/10/16)
Related Post: Starting from Scratch - Batter Disrupts Pitcher's Delivery (6/29/16)

This is the 79th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 42nd Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Boston's 3rd ejection of 2017, T-4th in the AL East (NYY, TB, TOR 4; BAL, BOS 3).
This is John Farrell's first ejection since July 31, 2016 (Gabe Morales; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Bill Miller's first ejection since March 26, 2017 (Robbie Ray; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Boston Red Sox, 6/24/17 | Video via "Read More"

MLB Ejection 077-78 - Sam Holbrook (3-4; Frazier, Renteria)

1B Umpire Sam Holbrook ejected White Sox 3B Todd Frazier and Manager Rick Renteria (Replay Review; QOCY) in the top of the 7th inning of the Athletics-White Sox game. With none out and none on, A's batter Adam Rosales hit a 2-0 fastball from White Sox pitcher Jake Petricka on the ground to third baseman Frazier, who threw to first baseman Jose Abreu as Rosales arrived at first base, called "safe" by Holbrook. Upon Replay Review as the result of a challenge by White Sox Manager Renteria, Holbrook's ruling was affirmed, Frazier's threw pulled Abreu's foot off the base, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the A's were leading, 8-2. The A's ultimately won the contest, 10-2.

This is Sam Holbrook (34)'s third, fourth ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Sam Holbrook now has 4 points in the UEFL Standings (-4 Previous + 2*[2 MLB + 2 Correct] = 4).
Crew Chief Sam Holbrook now has 7 points in Crew Division (5 Previous + 2 Correct Call = 7).

This is the 77th, 78th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 32nd player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Frazier was 1-2 (SO) in the contest.
This is the 41st Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Chicago-AL's 7/8th ejection of 2017, 1st in AL Central (CWS 8; DET 3; KC, MIN 2; CLE 0).
This is Todd Frazier's first career MLB ejection.
This is Rick Renteria's 4th ejection of 2017, 1st since June 23 (Jim Wolf; QOC = Y [Fair/Foul]).
This is Sam Holbrook's 3/4th ejection of 2017, 1st since May 3 (Adam Jones; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Oakland Athletics vs. Chicago White Sox, 6/24/17 | Video via "Read More"

MLB Ejection 076 - Jerry Meals (1; Nick Franklin)

2B Umpire Jerry Meals ejected Brewers LF Nick Franklin (Replay Review time limit; QOCU) in the top of the 1st inning of the Brewers-Braves game. With one out and one on, Braves pitcher RA Dickey attempted to pick off Brewers baserunner R1 Keon Broxton, ruled safe by 1B Umpire Ed Hickox. Bench player Franklin was ejected for arguing that the Braves took too long to decide whether to challenge the call. Because Atlanta did not actually attempt to file a Manager's Challenge, there can be no Quality of Correctness relative to the time limit for managers to initiate Replay Review, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 0-0. The Braves ultimately won the contest, 3-1.

This is Jerry Meals (41)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Jerry Meals now has 2 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 2 MLB + 0 Irrecusable Call = 2).
Crew Chief Jerry Meals now has -5 points in Crew Division (-6 Previous + 1 Irrecusable Call = -5).

This is the 76th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 31st player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Franklin was benched; he did not play.
This is Milwaukee's 3rd ejection of 2017, T-1st in the NL Central (MIL, PIT, STL 3; CHC, CIN 1).
This is Nick Franklin's first ejection since March 19, 2017 (Ryan Blakney; QOC = U [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Jerry Meals' first ejection since July 5, 2016 (Joe Maddon; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Milwaukee Brewers vs. Atlanta Braves, 6/24/17 | Video via "Read More"

Friday, June 23, 2017

MLB Ejection 075 - Jordan Baker (3; Brad Ausmus)

1B Umpire Jordan Baker ejected Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus (check swing strike three call) in the top of the 8th inning of the Tigers-Padres game. With none out and one on (R2), Tigers batter Ian Kinsler attempted to check his swing on a 0-2 slider from Padres pitcher Brad Hand, ruled a swinging strike on appeal by U1 Baker. Play was reviewed and affirmed by the UEFL Appeals Board (9-0-0), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Padres were leading, 1-0. The Padres ultimately won the contest, 1-0.

This is Jordan Baker (71)'s third ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Jordan Baker now has 9 points in the UEFL Standings (5 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 9).
Crew Chief Mike Everitt now has 12 points in Crew Division (11 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 12).

This is the 75th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 40th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Detroit's 3rd ejection of 2017, 2nd in the AL Central (CWS 6; DET 3; KC, MIN 2; CLE 0).
This is Brad Ausmus' 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st since June 3 (Fieldin Culbreth; QOC = Y [Replay Review]).
This is Jordan Baker's 3rd ejection of 2017, 1st since April 22 (Miguel Sano; QOC = U [Fighting]).

Wrap: Detroit Tigers vs. San Diego Padres, 6/23/17 | Video via "Read More"

MLB Ejection 073-074 - Jim Wolf (1-2; Anderson, Renteria)

HP Umpire Jim Wolf ejected White Sox SS Tim Anderson and Manager Rick Renteria (fair ball call) in the bottom of the 5th inning of the Athletics-White Sox game. With one out and none on, batter Anderson hit a 1-1 slider from A's pitcher Jharel Cotton into the ground in front of home plate, where it was fielded on a bounce by catcher Bruce Maxwell, ruled a fair ball by Wolf. Replays indicate Maxwell first touched the batted ball as it was over the foul line, in fair territory and that the ball did not strike Anderson's helmet nor his bat a second time, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the A's were leading, 3-0. The A's ultimately won the contest, 3-0.

This is Jim Wolf (28)'s first, second ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Jim Wolf now has 8 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 2*[2 MLB + 2 Correct Call] = 8).
Crew Chief Sam Holbrook now has 6 points in Crew Division (5 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 6).

This is the 73rd, 74th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 30th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Anderson was 0-2 in the contest.
This is the 39th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Chicago-AL's 5/6th ejection of 2017, 1st in the AL Central (CWS 6; DET, KC, MIN 2; CLE 0).
This is Tim Anderson's first career MLB ejection.
This is Rick Renteria's 3rd ejection of 2017, 1st since June 15 (Paul Emmel; QOC = Y [Check Swing]).
This is Jim Wolf's first ejection since August 2, 2015 (DeMarlo Hale; QOC = U [Throwing At]).

Wrap: Oakland Athletics vs. Chicago White Sox, 6/23/17 | Video via "Read More"

Obstruction 1 or A vs 2 or B - The Difference is Crucial

Obstruction quiz: As runner Robinson Chirinos tries to evade a rundown, fielder Troy Tulowitzki—without the ball and not in the process of receiving the ball—stands in Chirinos' way back to third base and, in doing so, obstructs Chirinos. Question: Is this Obstruction 1/A or 2/B? (Note: Under the pre-2015 rules code, the terms were Obstruction A and B; under the rulebook's renumbering, the terms are Obstruction 1 and 2. A and 1 are the same, as are B and 2, and thus are used interchangeably.)

Identify this obstruction: Type A or B? 1 or 2?
Knowing the difference between the two varieties of obstruction is one thing, but parsing the rules and making a definitive call in real-time separates a field of confusion from a ballpark of understanding.

The Play: With one out and runners at the corners on Thursday afternoon in Arlington, Rangers batter Elvis Andrus hit a ground ball to Blue Jays third baseman Russell Martin, who seemingly trapped baserunner R3 Chirinos between third and home. As Martin ran Chirinos back to third, shortstop Tulowitzki shifted over and stood in front of the base, prepared to receive Martin's throw...only Martin opted not to throw to Tulowitzki, and instead dove at Chirinos, who, having collided with Tulowitzki, had not yet reached third base on his desperation lunge.

The Call and Mechanics: Nary a fortnight into his Major League umpiring career, 3B Umpire Shane Livensparger immediately identified Tulowitzki's obstruction by pointing to it as the two players continued to scramble on the ground. Livensparger's point was followed by a "safe" mechanic before the call-up umpire again pointed to the obstruction. As Tulowitzki approached Livensparger to discuss the call, Livensparger called "Time."

The play approaches third base.
Aftermath: Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons initially attempted to challenge the play, and Livensparger alongside Crew Chief and home plate umpire Greg Gibson gathered at the on-field Replay Review station before quickly surmising that U3 had called obstruction, which is not subject to Replay Review. As the umpires conferred, Livensparger's Obstruction Type 1 call was affirmed and Chirinos awarded home plate, with Gibson explaining the outcome to Gibbons. [Sidebar: Score this play a fielder's choice and charge an error to Tulowitzki.]

Analysis: Livensparger properly ruled Obstruction A, but improperly employed Type B mechanics to communicate the call. Let's break down the video (via "Read More").

0:07: R3 Chirinos is obstructed by F6 Tulowitzki. This is an example of Obstruction Type A.
0:08: U3 Livensparger points to R3/F6 while the ball is live, an Obstruction Type B mechanic.
0:09: U3 Livensparger signals the runner "safe." If U3 is ruling that Chirinos beat Martin's tag back to his base, this is the proper mechanic for Type B Obstruction. If "safe" is part of his obstruction call, this is not a proper signal for either type of obstruction. Under both types of obstruction, play should be declared dead before awards are given.
0:13: U3 calls "Time" after the play ends. This cadence is an Obstruction Type B mechanic.

U3 first calls "Time" after the play concludes.
"Time" should be immediate in Obstruction A.
Proper Mechanic, Obstruction A: When Type A obstruction occurs, the umpire shall (1) immediately call "Time" to kill the play, as, by rule, the ball is dead immediately when a runner whom a play is being made on is obstructed. After the ball has been declared dead, the umpire shall (2) laterally point to the obstruction and, then, (3) impose penalties as prescribed by rule (see below).

Proper Mechanic, Obstruction B: When Type B obstruction occurs, the umpire shall (1) point to identify the infraction (laterally point and verbally declare "that's obstruction"), but keep the ball alive. When no further action is possible, the umpire shall (2) call "Time" to deaden the ball. When the ball is dead, the umpire shall (3) impose penalties as prescribed by rule (see below).

Why not signal "Safe" in real-time? When an umpire signals "safe" while the ball is live, this generally means "the tag was missed/was late," "no violation," or "ball in play." Other than during a tag play, a live ball "safe" signal when a runner collides with a fielder, such as Chirinos/Tulowitzki, would thus logically mean "no obstruction" and "no interference." It's another way of saying "that's nothing," which is quite literally the opposite of what U3 intended to call on this play. Signaling a runner "safe" on the tag is skipping a step or two of the obstruction cadence, and gives the umpire a misleading appearance of calling a runner safe who is clearly tagged with the ball while off base.

Angel Hernandez signals Obstruction Type 2.
Major Penalty Difference, A and B: Simply put, the obstructed runner in Type A obstruction is awarded at least one base beyond the base last legally touched at the time of obstruction. In a rundown situation, that means the runner gets at least the next base (if a thrown ball is in the air when OBS A occurs, and the ball subsequently goes out of play, e.g., the runner would get a standard two-base award). Other runners get "nullify the act" treatment unless forced to advance because of the obstructed runner's award. In Type B obstruction, all runners—including the obstructed runner and all other baserunners—get the "nullify the act" treatment. Because the ball is kept alive, this means that one or more of these runners may be declared out if they are tagged during the continuation of play. Obstruction 2 does not guarantee a free base (BRD: In NFHS/high school, the penalty for any obstruction [except catcher's obstruction on the batter] is an automatic one-base guarantee for the obstructed runner [nullify-the-act for everyone else]. NCAA/college carries the same penalties as OBR A and B).

Silver Lining: If you're going to use the wrong type of obstruction mechanic, it's much better to use Type B mechanics for a Type A call than to improperly call "Time" and incorrectly kill the play, as one would for Type A, during a Type B obstruction situation when the ball should be left alive. Of course, it's better to actually use Type A mechanics for a Type A play.

U1 uses the improper Type B point for A OBS.
In 2016, Brian Gorman's crew employed improper mechanics on a Type 1 Obstruction play (the crew improperly kept play alive through the obstruction and until no further play was possible, as in OBS 2), but ultimately enforced the proper penalty of awarding the obstructed runner one base while placing a second baserunner at the base the crew believed he would have achieved had there been no obstruction ("nullify the act").

The Gorman crew's ruling resulted in the ejection of Brewers Manager Craig Counsell.

Obstruction A on a batter-runner.
Related Plays: In 2014, HP Umpire Greg Gibson ruled Obstruction A on a batted ball to the pitcher when the pitcher and first baseman converged on the ball while the batter-runner attempted to run by the two fielders. During that play, Gibson first (1) called "Time" (as mirrored by 1B Umpire Phil Cuzzi) before (2) laterally pointing to the obstruction and (3) awarding the batter first base.

In 2011, Jerry Layne's crew convened to rule Obstruction A on an infield ground ball where the batter-runner ran into a non-fielding pitcher standing in his base path in front of first base. Though the plate umpire was Layne and first base umpire Alan Porter, it was 2B Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt who ended up explaining the call to a dissatisfied Mariners Manager in Eric Wedge. No obstruction appeared to have been initially called on the play—either that or the mechanics were not present.

During the 2013 World Series, Jim Joyce and Dana DeMuth combined to make one of the most famous obstruction calls in Major League history. Joyce signaled Obstruction Type B as a baserunner and third baseman became entangled, allowing the baserunner to score the game's winning run as DeMuth enforced the OBS B penalty, making history as the first World Series game to end on an obstruction or interference error. Yes, DeMuth's mechanic should have been to call "Time" before imposing the penalty, but given the circumstance, his call was still clear.

Bellino clearly conveys his Obstruction B call.
In 2010, young fill-in umpire Dan Bellino called Type B obstruction during a Reds-Nationals game, ejecting Nats Manager Jim Riggleman for arguing his ruling. Bellino's mechanics provided a perfect example for calling this brand of Obstruction B. He pointed to the infraction when it happened (presumably, while verbalizing "that's obstruction"), but allowed play to continue. When the runner was eventually tagged while off his base, and the play thus concluded, Bellino did not indicate the runner safe, but instead (1) called "Time" and then (2) pointed back to the obstruction before (3) pointing to the awarded base and finally signaling the runner safe, in that order. Although Washington argued the call, there was no confusion or mistaking what Bellino's ruling was.

Bellino was hired to the full-time staff during the ensuing off-season.

Knowing the key differences between Obstruction Types A and B and employing the mechanics appropriate for the type of obstruction which occurs is a simple way to establish a high level of credibility and respect on the field if and when such plays arise. Proper mechanics in these potentially confusing situations communicate to everyone that the umpire is in command, is well equipped to handle the play, and knows the rules.

By contrast, as the aforementioned incorrect mechanic examples demonstrate, failure to exercise the proper mechanic for the specific type of obstruction that occurs is a fast track toward a similar loss of credibility and control.

There are three distinct Official Baseball Rules (ok, two of them are part of the same rule) that govern obstruction (click here for a detailed look at the obstruction rules). They are:

[Definition of Terms]: "OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner."

Obstruction A: Play made on the runner.
Rule 6.01(h)(1) [formerly 7.06(a), aka Type 1 or Type A]: "If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out."

Obstruction B: No play on the runner.
Rule 6.01(h)(1) Comment (relative to mechanics): "When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls 'Time,' with both hands overhead."

Rule 6.02(h)(2) [formerly 7.06(b), aka Type 2 or Type B]: "If no play is being made on the obstructed runner, the play shall proceed until no further action is possible. The umpire shall then call 'Time' and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Case Play 2017-6 - Thrown Ball Hits Backswing [Solved]

A catcher's attempt to throw out a stealing runner hit the batter's bat on the backswing, resulting in an odd situation and our latest Case Play: Thrown Ball Hits Backswing.

Catcher's throw hits the batter's bat.
The Play: With one out and two on (R1, R2), Astros batter Jose Altuve attempted to steal third base on a 1-1 pitch as batter Evan Gattis swung and missed at the offering. As Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez attempted to throw Altuve out at third base, the thrown baseball hit Gattis' bat and bounced harmlessly back toward the pitcher's mound as HP Umpire DJ Reyburn signaled no violation of rule.

Case Play Question: What is the proper call; is this interference (batter and/or runner out), backswing contact (dead ball, runners return), or an incidental play (ball remains live)? What if, instead of a 1-1 count, Gattis swung and missed at a 1-2 pitch for strike three, and the same sequence occurred afterward (thrown ball makes contact with bat on the backswing)?

Dale Scott's crew had a similar play in 2015.
Answer: Due to the incidental nature of ball-bat contact after the catcher's completion of the throwing action, the ball remains live and there is no interference. The runner is safe at third base. From the MLBUM: "If the batter is standing in the batter's box and he or his bat is struck by the catcher's throw back to the pitcher (or throw in attempting to retire a runner) and, in the umpire's judgment, there is no intent on the part of the batter to interfere with the throw, the ball is alive and in play."
A similar play happened during Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series.
> Unintentional backswing contact does not exist after the catcher's act of throwing is complete (e.g., after the ball is released on a throw). Backswing contact can occur if a pitched ball bouches off the catcher's glove and directly to the batter's bat; see Case Play 2016-1, The Dropped Third Strike.
> Had, all else equal, the batter stepped out of the batter's box before the throw hit his bat, the umpire would then declare the batter out for interference pursuant to Rule 6.03(a)(3) [at 0:03, it appears the batter's foot is still in contact with the erased batter's box line, which would make him legal. If he stepped out of the box, naturally, he would be guilty of interference].

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR 6.01(a)(5): "It is interference by a batter or a runner when—Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate."
OBR 6.01(a)(10): "It is interference by a batter or a runner when—He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball."
OBR 6.03(a)(3): "A batter is out for illegal action when—He interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base."
OBR 6.03(a) Comment: "If the batter interferes with the catcher, the plate umpire shall call 'interference.' The batter is out and the ball dead. No player may advance on such interference (offensive interference) and all runners must return to the last base that was, in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference."
OBR 6.03(a) Comment: "If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire’s judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play."

Video via "Read More"

2017 Triple-A All-Star Game Umpires Announced

Your 2017 Triple-A All-Star Game umpires are Nick Mahrley, Nic Lentz, Billy Cunha, and Jeremy Riggs.

HP Umpire: Nick Mahrley (PCL, 4th year; MLB #48).
1B Umpire: Nic Lentz (IL, 4th year; MLB #59).
2B Umpire: Billy Cunha (PCL, 3rd year).
3B Umpire: Jeremy Riggs (IL, 2nd year).

Crew Consultation - Importance of the Call on the Field

Should umpires consult with crew-mates on instant replay plays before going to Review? It's Gil's Call.

When should an umpire confer with his crew?
Ask an umpire, and the answer is "yes." That's the process, always has been, always will be. More on that later.
Ask a skipper on the wrong side of the call—namely Joe Maddon—and the answer is "no."

The Play: A batter hits a fly ball down the right field line and above the height of the foul pole to lead off the game. Initially ruled fair and a home run by the first base umpire, he elects to consult his crew due to the unusual nature of a ball traveling out of the ballpark at such a great height. Although Replay Review is available to the Crew Chief, he allows his crew to complete their conference and come to a consensus as to the ball's status. As a result, a second umpire advises the first base umpire that the ball is foul, and the call is accordingly reversed. Only then does the Crew Chief initiate Replay Review, upon which it is determined that video evidence fails to clearly portray which call is correct. Thus, the foul ball (post-conference, pre-replay) call stands.

Maddon prolongs his argument with Kellogg.
The Complaint: When this scenario played out on June 16, Maddon disagreed so vehemently with the process employed by Jeff Kellogg's crew that he earned an ejection for continually arguing the point.

Naturally, on June 16, had 1B Umpire Clint Fagan's call of "home run" prevailed, Cubs batter Anthony Rizzo would have given his team a 1-0 leadoff advantage. Instead, the crew ruled the ball foul after conferring with one another before Kellogg opted to employ the Crew Chief Review in order to get a final ruling. The verdict? "Call stands."

The Post-Game Comments: After the game, Maddon said the umpires "neutered instant replay by the way it was handled tonight." Maddon went on to claim, "If it had been confirmed foul, I'm fine. But the play stood. So in other words, if we had gone right to replay immediately after it was hit and they said it was foul, I would have been in the game for nine innings."

The Questionable Logic: Maddon claimed he wasn't upset by the foul ball call, but by the process employed by the umpires in getting to that decision.

If reporters were robots as Maddon desires umpires to be, Maddon's quote would have received an immediate: "Does Not Compute" error. It fails the logic test. It might even fail the lie detector test.

Maddon's illogical comments reveal his bias.
Maddon is, after all, the same manager whom Joe West ejected in September 2016 for complaining when West attempted to enforce a pace-of-play procedure and Rule 5.10(l) pertaining to a manager attempting to evade or circumvent the one-mound-visit-per-batter rule. In other words, Maddon has a track record of being ejected for arguing when an umpire points out that he has violated one of the Official Baseball Rules.

Are we really to believe that such a gamesman suddenly cares more about procedure than about the call itself?

Maddon's basis for argument is precisely the reason the on-field ruling—the original call on the field—actually does matter. A "call stands" ruling means there is a "lack of clear and convincing evidence to change it" (Replay Review Regulation II.K.3).

Joe West ejects Maddon after a rules violation.
That means that of all reviewed camera angles and audiovisual replays, the Replay Operations Center was unable to find clear and convincing evidence to prove that the call was incorrect.

Alternately, that signifies that the umpires on the field had the best chance—through their trained positioning, intuition, judgment, and human eye-angles—to get the call right. Although the TV cameras couldn't sufficiently capture the play, this says absolutely nothing about the four pairs of eyes representing the league on the playing field. The so-called tie-breaker, then, is the umpire's on-field call, for no camera purports to have seen what the umpire saw from his angle in real-time.

As Joe West recently remarked, "If you see a rattlesnake, you don't turn your back on it." Whether that rattlesnake is a close fair/foul call or a pesky safe/out call that merits further discussion, do as the Cowboy does and "don't turn your back on it...You cannot back down as an umpire. You can't be scared as an umpire. You have to do what's right."

"The Keyhole" helps umpires get calls right.
If you've read any edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments, you'll know that umpires are constantly trying to get themselves in the best position—often times better than any camera could ever get—in order to get the call right.

It is always astounding that umpiring critics who continually gripe about "getting it right" are usually also the first to complain when the umpires do try to take all legal steps to do just that.

Lost in the shuffle to Maddon—who brazenly admitted that he never actually saw the replay before making his blame-the-umpire remarks and "didn't really care if it was fair or foul"—and those with similar team interests, Kellogg's crew actually did follow proper procedure before employing Replay Review. Not only did Kellogg's crew ultimately get the call right, they got the process right, too.

Dale Scott's crew consults in 2013.
Maddon may be a smart manager, but when it comes to umpiring, he's far outmatched by those who make careers out of umpiring and supervising.

The Major League Baseball Umpire Manual covers the very issue of crew consultation and getting the call right: "An umpire is urged to seek help when that umpire's view is blocked or positioning prevents such umpire from seeing crucial elements of a play. An umpire is also encouraged to seek help in instances when that umpire has doubt and a partner has additional information that could lead to a proper ruling."

One such play specifically listed in the MLBUM as a candidate for crew consultation? "Deciding whether a fly ball that left the playing field was fair or foul."

Naturally, there are certain plays that do not lend themselves to consultation. For instance, the standard safe/out play at first base (ground ball to second, throw to first base as the runner arrives at the base) is not a candidate for crew consultation. However, the potential existence of a first baseman's pulled foot—visible to the plate umpire, but not the first base umpire—is a potential impetus for conference.

Question: So, the Kellogg crew's procedure was proper, but with Replay Review available, why consume time with a conference at all, knowing that a video ruling is just around the corner?

The rulebook specifically allows for this!
Answer: Precisely because of the possibility of a "call stands" ruling. To turn the tables on Mad-Manager Maddon, Replay Review was never meant to "neuter" the umpires. It was meant to correct the "obvious miss," a fact I have brought up time and time again.

I brought up the phrase "take all legal steps to [get the call right]" earlier for a reason: umpiring conferences are great, in moderation and in appropriate scope.

In the majors (and potentially college or high school state tournaments), with scoreboards and HD video boards galore, there stands a strong chance that while the umpires are in conference, the stadium's entertainment production staff (itself employed by the home team) will display at least one replay of the play on the giant video screens (that may or may not show an angle favorable to the home team). It is of tantamount importance that the umpires do not look toward these screens (unless the call is already under review at the Replay Operations Center or otherwise prescribed by local rule) so as not to cloud their judgment: It is not the on-field umpire's job to pay any mind to video replay while on the field: umpires are to rely on their own judgment, and, through teamwork, that of their crew, in order to come to a consensus and final decision.

Caution: The mere fact that a manager files a challenge or requests a review does not obligate and should not itself call for a crew consultation. The calling umpire's own instinct or judgment relative to doubt or (where appropriate) a crewmate's additional information should govern the conference process. It may be prodded or inspired by a manager's comments, but this is not the same as the manager who unsportingly demands a conference: excessive attempts at influence are irrelevant and inappropriate in determining whether or not to conference. Whether or not it results in a conference, a simple request is reasonable; a demand is unsportsmanlike; repeated demands after being told "no" are out of the question and should likely be met with discipline, from simple warning to exclusionary ejection, and every progression in between. As West said, "you cannot back down as an umpire." That's what "legal" means in this context.

Umpiring means enforcing rules/boundaries.
Umpires exist in order to enforce the rules of baseball so that every team has a chance to win the game in a fair and balanced environment. A coach attempting to unduly influence a call to tip the scales to as much as 51% to 49% has committed an unsporting act of attempting to change the rules or their enforcement so as to create an unfair advantage for his/her team.

Crew Consultation and Getting the Call Right is part of the 50%-50% fair and balanced process, as delineated in the MLBUM, as well as in OBR 8.02(c) ["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"], 8.02(d) ["A manager is permitted to ask the umpires for an explanation of the play and how the umpires have exercised their discretion to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that the umpires are reversing. Once the umpires explain the result of the play, however, no one is permitted to argue that the umpires should have exercised their discretion in a different matter"], and, most importantly, the General Instructions to Umpires:
If not sure, ask one of your associates...The first requisite is to get decisions correctly. If in doubt don't hesitate to consult your associate. Umpire dignity is important but never as important as "being right."
Umpires have been conferencing long before Replay Review existed in any capacity, and will continue getting together to get the call right long after egoistic managers or players protest a process they know nothing about.

Why? In order to get the call right, the first responsibility of umpiring. | Video via "Read More"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Injury Scout - Fletcher's HBP to Mask is a Game-Ender

Andy Fletcher left Wednesday's Diamondbacks-Rockies game in the 7th inning due to a HBP head injury.

Fletcher receives medical attention at Coors.
With none out and none in the top of the 7th inning, Diamondbacks batter Chris Iannetta took a 97.4-mph fastball from Rockies pitcher Carlos Estevez for a hit-by-pitch, which caromed off Iannetta's left hand and into the upper left quadrant of Fletcher's traditional-style facemask.

Fletcher was replaced by 2B Umpire Ron Kulpa, while base umpires Alan Porter (1B) and Crew Chief Joe West (3B) officiated the field for the remainder of the contest.

Relevant Injury History: There is no recent relevant (e.g., head) injury history. Fletcher suffered a broken wrist in June 2012 after an errant Brandon League pitch bounced into the dirt and caromed into Fletcher's right forearm. Fletcher was hit by a foul ball while working the bases, forced to leave a game, just one month earlier.

Last Game: June 21, 2017 | Return to Play: July 14 | Total Time Absent: 22 Days | Video as follows:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rizzo and the Runner's Home Plate Collision Rule

Did Cubs baserunner Anthony Rizzo's collision with Padres catcher Austin Hedges at home plate violate Rule 6.01(i), designed to prevent the frequency of such avoidable contact?

The Play: With one out and one on (R3), Cubs batter Kris Bryant hit a line drive to Padres center fielder Matt Szczur, who caught the ball as baserunner R3 Rizzo tagged up and attempted to score as part of a sacrifice fly. Padres catcher Hedges caught Bryant's throw, and collided with Rizzo, holding onto the baseball as HP Umpire Jeff Nelson ruled Rizzo out on the tag. Hedges suffered an injury as a result of this play and left the game; he also missed Tuesday's game due to a bruised thigh.

R3 Rizzo initiates an avoidable collision.
Short Answer: Rule 6.01(i)(1) states that a runner attempting to score may not initiate an avoidable collision with the catcher. Replays indicate catcher Hedges gained possession of the baseball prior to Rizzo's arrival and did not block access to the entirety of home plate, such that when baserunner Rizzo made contact with Hedges, he did so without taking an unobstructed path to score and, accordingly, initiated an avoidable collision. This is a violation of Rule 6.01(i)(1), and, had Hedges not maintained control of the baseball through the collision, Rizzo would have been declared out—via Replay Review or otherwise (Padres Manager Andy Green was seen exiting the dugout mere moments after the collision; he very likely would have challenged the play had "safe" been the call)—for having violated home plate collision Rule 6.01(i)(1).

Important Note (Live vs Dead Ball): Assume the situation, all else equal, was zero outs with runners at first and third base. As Rizzo tagged to score, the trail runner at first base tagged and advanced to second base. As Hedges lay on the ground following his collision with Rizzo, this trail runner seized the opportunity and took off for third base. By rule, Rizzo's illegal collision caused the ball to become dead. If the trail runner had not yet achieved second base at the time of the collision, he would be returned to first base. If he had touched second base prior to the collision, he would be placed on second base as a result of the ensuing dead ball ("the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision").

Diagram of Rizzo's pathway deviation.
Sidebar: Note that we didn't discuss the issue of whether Rizzo specifically deviated from his direct pathway to home plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher. This is because Rizzo's actions were illegal whether or not he deviated in order to perform his maneuver. As a comprehensive look, Rizzo did additionally deviate from his direct pathway to home plate, as evidenced by his position while running toward home, just outside of the dirt circle, with both feet in foul territory, and his final position at the moment of contact occurring fully in fair territory and in front of home plate. This is not an "out of the base path" style deviation, but it is a deviation nonetheless that explicitly fails to comply with the restriction imposed by Rule 6.01(i)(1).

Anatomy of the runner's lane to home plate.
Long Answer (and text of the Rule): In 2014, Major League Baseball adopted Rule 7.13, entitled Collisions at Home Plate, and designed to decrease violent contact between runner and catcher on plays at home.

According to then-Rule 7.13—renumbered as Rule 6.01(i) in 2015—both runners and catchers have distinct responsibilities on plays at home plate regarding collision mitigation. In general, the catcher is restricted until he fields a throw while the runner is restricted as long as a collision is avoidable. Relative to today's conversation, here is the rule for runners, Rule 6.01(i)(1):
A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate), or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision. If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (regardless of whether the player covering home plate maintains possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 6.01(i).
The catcher and runner are both legal here.
Rule 6.01(i)(1) Comment further advises all parties on the runner's responsibility: "The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 6.01(i) (Rule 7.13), or otherwise initiated a collision that could have been avoided."

The catcher, pursuant to Rule 6.01(i)(2) must concede a path to home plate if he is not in possession of the ball, though he is permitted to block the plate if he does have the ball: "Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe."

Thus, under one precise set of circumstances, home plate collisions are still legal: 1) The catcher has possession of the ball, and 2) is blocking access to home plate, 3) the runner initiates an unavoidable collision in an attempt to touch home plate, 4) does not deviate from his direct path to home plate, and, 5) it is not a force play.

Conclusion: Rizzo violated Rule 6.01(i)(1) in multiple ways.

Rizzo's slide is illegal at the lower levels.
BRD, College and High School: NCAA Rule 8-7 states, "If the defensive player blocks the base (plate) or base line with clear possession of the ball, the runner may [avoid], slide into or make contact with a fielder as long as the runner is making a legitimate attempt to reach the base (plate). Contact above the waist that was initiated by the base runner shall not be judged as an attempt to reach the base or plate." Accordingly, the contact, initiated by runner Rizzo above the waist, is illegal in college.

This even gets into "roll block" slide territory, where Rizzo's feet contact the ground while his torso remains nearly vertical so near to home plate that he likely would have rolled over had he not collided with catcher Hedges.

NFHS Rule 2-32 defines illegal slides. Relative to the Rizzo-Hedges play, 2-32-1 defines its illegality: "If a runner slides feet first, at least one leg and buttock shall be on the ground." Since neither buttock made it to the ground prior to the collision, the slide is illegal. This is interference and the ball is dead immediately (8-4-2b). It might even qualify for Rule 2-32-2d ("the runner slashes or kicks the fielder with either leg") or 2e ("the runner tries to injure the fielder").

NCAA: When a flagrant collision occurs, as in 8-7, the runner is declared out and ejected from the game (like high school, the ball is immediately dead).
NFHS: When malicious contact occurs, the penalty is the same as NCAA (dead ball, runner out, ejection). Rizzo very likely initiated malicious contact, insofar as high school rules are concerned.

The Federation actually added "Legal slides" as its fourth Point of Emphasis for the 2017 season.

This play was reviewed as part of the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League's Ask the UEFL series, in which any UEFL member or guest may request review of a close or controversial play in baseball. Requests may be made via Twitter (@UmpireEjections or @CloseCallSports), Facebook (/UmpireEjections), e-mail or via reply to any post on the CCS/UEFL website.

 Video via "Read More"

Umpire Joe West Officiates 5,000th Regular Season Game

Blue Cowboy and MLB Umpire Joe West officiates his 5,000th game in regular season action, a Diamondbacks-Rockies affair in Colorado on June 20, 2017, over 40 years removed from West's first taste of the big leagues during an Astros-Braves doubleheader on September 14, 1976.

Umpire Joe West reaches 5,000 MLB games.
Ever since his debut as the third base umpire in Atlanta 14,889 days before regular season Game 5000, West's mark on the Majors has been significant.

From his 173 career ejections (including Father's Day, that's one for every 29 games worked) to his two All-Star Games and 17 postseasons officiated, West's contributions to baseball span from designing and patenting the West Vest chest protector to serving as President of the World Umpires Association union. His 40 years of Major League service time is an MLB record, and would have been greater had West not missed the entire 2000 and 2001 seasons due to the infamous mass resignation collective bargaining strategy of 1999. His career began under Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and, five Commissioners later, reached Rob Manfred's tenure (the six Joe West-era commissioners are Kuhn, Peter Ueberroth, Bart Giamatti, Fay Vincent, Bud Selig, and Manfred).

A veritable entertainer, West won the UEFL Ejection of the Year Award in 2013, 2014, and 2016.

Joe West hit by a foul ball during a 2014 game.
Born on Halloween, October 31, 1952 in Asheville, North Carolina, Joseph Henry West grew up playing baseball (catcher) and football (safety and quarterback), leading Elon College's football team to three conference titles and a second-place national ranking while earning an MVP nod for his efforts.

After a minor league career beginning in 1974 that included stops at the Carolina, Southern, and American Association leagues, West joined the National League and, at the age of 23 years old, was one of the youngest umpires to have ever worked a regular season Major League game, and, at age 28, was one of the youngest to work a League Championship Series.

West attributes his staying power, in part, to advice from Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey (aka "God"), explaining that as a young umpire, West would get upset when managers or players would argue with him. Harvey said, "Don't let them ruin your day. You're having a good day. If they give you trouble to kick them out, kick them out. But don't let it ruin your day." West called it "the greatest piece of advice I've ever been given."

Inducted into the Elon Sports Hall of Fame in 1986, West went on to design all high-end umpiring gear for Wilson Sporting Goods, including the West Vest, and continued his country music journey while developing his professional baseball umpiring career, performing at the Alameda County Fair, North Carolina State Fair, BoxCar Willie Theater, and Grad Ole Opry.

Joe West on the cover of Blue Cowboy.
West appeared on the former country music talk show "Nashville Now" and scored a role as third base umpire in The Naked Gun film alongside umpires Hank Robinson and (the fake) Enrico Pallazzo aka Frank Drebin aka Leslie Nielsen, who ejected both Robinson and West in one of the most iconic comedy baseball scenes to feature an umpire in cinematic history. He also appeared in the television crime drama "The Oldest Rookie."

West's Blue Cowboy music video was broadcast during an NBC baseball telecast, and his two albums remain available for sale on West's website,

In June 2016, several Dodgers players used tracks from Joe West's Blue Cowboy and Diamond Dreams CDs as walk-up music during a game in which West was the home plate umpire. In 2015, "Blue Cowboy" and "Cole Younger" could be heard at Chavez Ravine during an umpire discussion courtesy of organist Gil Imber, while Fenway Park organist Josh Kantor has also played West's music in tribute to the real-life Blue Cowboy.

Up next for Country Joe is Bruce Froemming's 5,163 games worked, followed by all-time leader Bill Klem, who officiated 5,375 National League games from 1905 to 1941. West would like to reach and surpass Klem's mark, even if it takes him until 2020 to do so: "That would be fun. If my knees hold up, I'd like to do that...Yeah, that would be quite an accomplishment." Said crew mate Hunter Wendelstedt, "That's an achievement that will never happen again. And that's guaranteed. It will not be able to happen again [due to replay center work and vacations]."

West knows of his controversial status with fans, and he's okay with that: "I just go out there and do my job the way it's supposed to be done. Sometimes that creates confrontation. But I don't think umpires should back down or run away from a situation. If you see a rattlesnake, you don't turn your back on it. That's kind of the way I like to portray this. You cannot back down as an umpire. You can't be scared as an umpire. You have to do what's right."
 Alternate Link: Video tribute to Joe West's 5,000 regular season games as a big league umpire (CCS)

We have over 60 previous posts tagged "Joe West" on the website, which include Replay Reviews, ejections, and miscellaneous Umpire Odds & Ends. Click here to revisit these "Joe West" posts.

Fast Facts - Joe West's umpiring career
First Game - September 14, 1976 (HOU-ATL; 23 Years Old)
First Ejection - September 8, 1977 (PHI-NYM; Steve Henderson & Joe Torre)
First Postseason Game - October 13, 1981 (MON-LA [NLCS])
First All-Star Game - July 14, 1987 (3B)
First World Series Game - October 17, 1992 (TOR-ATL)
First HR Video Replay (as -cc Reviewer) - May 23, 2009 (Nauert; In Play Reversed to HR)
First Expanded Replay Review (as Calling) - April 5, 2014 (Out/Safe [Tag - Home]; Confirmed)
Most Recent Ejection - June 18, 2017 (Jeff Banister; HBP Call; QOC = Correct-Crewmate)
West plays himself in The Naked Gun.

Most Games Umpired, Major League Baseball History
1) 5,375 - Bill Klemm (retired, Hall of Fame umpire)
2) 5,163 - Bruce Froemming (retired)
3) 5,000 - Joe West (active)
4) 4,770 - Tommy Connolly (retired, Hall of Fame umpire)
5) 4,673 - Doug Harvey (retired, Hall of Fame umpire)

Most Years Umpired, Major League History (AL, NL, and/or MLB)
1) 40 - Joe West (active)
2) 37 - Bruce Froemming (retired)
2) 37 - Bill Klemm (retired, Hall of Fame umpire)
4) 36 - Gerry Davis (active)
5) 35 - (Six Tied)

West ejects former Twins skipper Gardenhire.
Most Postseason Games Umpired, MLB History
1) 133 - Gerry Davis (active)
2) 123 - Joe West (active)
3) 111 - Bruce Froemming (retired)
3) 111 - Jerry Crawford (retired)
5) 103 - Bill Klemm (retired, Hall of Fame umpire)

Most World Series Games Umpired, Active Umpires
1) 34 - Joe West
2) 29 - Dana DeMuth
3) 28 - Jeff Kellogg

Postseason and Special Events History, Umpire Joseph Henry West
World Baseball Classic: 2009
All-Star Game: 1987, 2005, 2017
Wild Card Game: 2013, 2014
Division Series: 1995, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2016
Championship Series: 1981, 1986, 1988, 1993, 1996, 2003, 2004, 2013, 2014
World Series: 1992, 1997, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2016