Thursday, April 26, 2018

Funny Foul - Returning Runners When Ball is Dead

Leave it to an Adrian Beltre practical joke to teach us the importance of knowing when the ball has a status of live or dead. Tuesday in Texas, Beltre attempted to advance from first to third base when a replacement baseball handed to a catcher after a foul ball sailed over the pitcher's glove and into center field, Beltre providing one last glimpse of sunshine before landing on the Disabled List.

Beltre's joke gives us a valuable lesson.
The Play: With one out and Beltre on first base, batter Jurickson Profar fouled off a 1-1 offering from A's pitcher Andrew Triggs into the stands behind the third base dugout. After HP Umpire Vic Carapazza handed catcher Jonathan Lucroy a replacement ball, Lucroy's return throw to Triggs was wild and wound up in center field. In his latest hometown hustle, Beltre ran toward second, rounded the base, and sprinted into third as the Arlington crowd roared its approval.

The Call: Naturally, 3B Umpire Greg Gibson raised his hands to signal "Time" and prodded Beltre back to first base while a bemused Carapazza explained to Rangers Manager Jeff Banister why Beltre was being returned to first base.

Analysis: When Profar's batted ball became foul abruptly after his bat struck the pitch, the ball became dead, pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 5.06(c)(5), which portrays one situation under which the ball becomes dead:
A foul ball is not caught, in which case runners return to their bases. The umpire-in-chief shall not put the ball in play until all runners have retouched their bases.
As the sole baserunner who began the play on first base, Beltre was obligated to return to first.

3B Umpire Gibson and Beltre rehash the play.
Though Carapazza handed catcher Lucroy a replacement ball, the rules book is also very clear about precisely when a dead ball becomes live once again; simply handing the ball to a fielder does not signify that the umpire has "put the ball in play."

Instead, Rule 5.12 continues: "After the ball is dead, play shall be resumed when the pitcher takes his place on the pitcher's plate with a new ball or the same ball in his possession and the plate umpire calls 'Play.' The plate umpire shall call 'Play' as soon as the pitcher takes his place on his plate with the ball in his possession."

As for the ball's status, Rule 5.12(a) states, "Between the call of 'Time' and the call of 'Play' the ball is dead."
Related PostCalling Time to Avoid a Balk - When a Ball Becomes Dead (5/10/16).

Thus, because pitcher Triggs never took his place on the pitcher's plate with the ball in his possession, plate umpire Carapazza never called "Play." Because Carapazza never called "Play," the ball was dead during the time in which Beltre attempted to advance from first to third base.

We return to Rule 5.06(c) to see why Beltre is not legally allowed to do this: "While the ball is dead no player may be put out, no bases may be run and no runs may be scored, the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive."

Beltre's hustle is all for laughs & all for naught.
Conclusion: Though it seems a foregone conclusion that a runner cannot advance on a foul ball, it is nonetheless important to know where each baserunner has begun play in the event the runner needs to be instructed to return (as well as in calculating certain base awards as prescribed by rule), and it is similarly vital to note when a live ball becomes dead and vice versa, so as to prevent illegal advancement of runners (and, similarly, so as to avoid an improper balk call, appeal play, or the like).

It seems rather silly—and Beltre has a habit of turning gameplay into smiling situations—but a momentary lapse in judgment or failure to strictly enforce rules pertaining to live vs dead ball status could lead to trouble if a runner is permitted to advance or awarded a base when otherwise prohibited by rule to do so.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: UEFL University lesson on Beltre's dead ball hijinks (UEFL)


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