Monday, April 23, 2018

Stayin' Alive - The Umpire-Aided Triple Play

Knowing when umpire's interference occurs and when it does not can be crucial, especially when baserunners are involved and a ball bounces off the umpire in an unusual and unexpected way.

Ump INT no-call turns into AAA triple play.
Sunday afternoon in Pawtucket, 1B Umpire Jeremy Riggs had to think quickly when a batted ball bounced off him and back toward Red Sox pitcher William Cueves, who stepped on first base to force out Gwinnett batter-runner Rio Ruiz, before throwing to several teammates who tagged out baserunners Ronald Acuna and Ezequiel Carrera, who were wandering off their bases as if the ball had become dead. So what is the correct call?

Answer: Because batter Ruiz's fair batted ball passed Red Sox first baseman Sam Travis before striking umpire Riggs, umpire's interference did not occur, and the ball was properly kept live and in play. This correctly officiated triple play and potential lack of rules knowledge on the bases may have cost Gwinnett the game, as Pawtucket eventually walked off in extra innings.

Official Baseball Rule 6.01(f) Comment concerns two types of umpire's interference, and states:
Umpire’s interference occurs (1) when a plate umpire hinders, impedes or prevents a catcher’s throw attempting to prevent a stolen base or retire a runner on a pick-off play; or (2) when a fair ball touches an umpire on fair territory before passing a fielder. Umpire interference may also occur when an umpire interferes with a catcher returning the ball to the pitcher.
NOTE: The interference shall be disregarded if the catcher's throw retires the runner. (Rule 5.06(c)(2)).

The penalty for umpire's interference is a dead ball and runners return to their bases occupied at the time of the pitch unless forced to advance by virtue of the batter becoming a runner, in which case the forced runners shall be awarded one base.

To review, umpire's interference only exists if the following conditions are met:

Umpire interference during a catcher's throw.
Type 1 Interference) The catcher must possess the baseball and be attempting a throw on a baserunner. There is no interference if the umpire is hit by a pitched ball or becomes entangled with a catcher who is attempting to field a loose ball. There is no interference if the umpire makes contact with the catcher attempting to retire a batter. Type 1 interference cannot occur during a batted or pitched ball, and does not apply to any umpire who is not the plate umpire nor any fielder who is not the catcher.
Note to plate umpires: If you recognize umpire's interference, keep play alive until the baserunner has been successfully thrown out or not. If the runner is thrown out, disregard the interference. If the runner is not thrown out, call the interference and enforce the penalty (dead ball, runners return). This is a de facto delayed dead ball.

Umpire INT can only occur in certain cases.
Type 2 Interference) The umpire must make contact with a) a fair batted ball, which b) has not passed an infielder other than the pitcher or catcher, and which c) has not made contact with any player on the defensive team (including the pitcher or catcher). It is not interference if an umpire does not touch the baseball in the aforementioned manner. Type 2 interference cannot occur during a thrown, deflected, or pitched ball.

The accompanying video discusses the case of umpire's interference with a multitude of video examples elucidating what is and is not eligible for this particular ruling:

Alternate Link: UEFL University lesson on umpire's interference, definition, and examples (UEFL)


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