Friday, June 29, 2018

NCAA World Series Lesson - Keep a Batter in the Box

With Chicago's insinuation of unbecoming motives behind Greg Gibson's ejection of Cubs Bench Coach Brandon Hyde with batter Willson Contreras at the plate during a dead ball, we turn to pace-of-play considerations relative to an umpire's enforcement of Official Baseball Rule 5.04(b)(4), better known as The Batter's Box Rule.

The Play: After taking a called second ball, Cubs batter Contreras, dissatisfied with the length and delay of Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani's pre-pitch timing, briefly exited his hitting stance and stepped back, then stepped back into his stance again, before stepping back a second time as HP Umpire Gibson motioned "Time" to the pitcher, with his arm outstretched and palm visible. Contreras then exited the batter's box as Hyde engaged Gibson, leading to Hyde's ejection from the game.
Related PostMLB Ejection 076 - Greg Gibson (1; Brandon Hyde) (6/23/18).

Greg Gibson and Willson Contreras.
After the game, the Cubs alleged that Gibson engaged in improper acts by arguing with Contreras over whether the catcher had properly thanked the umpire (?), stating that Gibson was at fault for Hyde's ejection.

Meanwhile Gibson—well, MLB never releases ejection reports, so we won't hear the umpire's side of the story—audio replay suggests Gibson said something to Contreras along the lines of "are you ready?" before the verbal spat from the dugout.

For what it's worth, Rule 5.04(b)(4)(A) states, "The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter’s box throughout the batter’s time at bat, unless one of the following exceptions applies, in which case the batter may leave the batter’s box but not the dirt area surrounding home plate."

This isn't the first batter's box incident.
The exceptions include a swing, appealed check swing, pitch that forces batter off balance, "Time" is requested and granted, defense attempts a play on a runner, fake bunt, wild pitch/passed ball, pitcher leaves the mound, catcher leaves the box. Injuries, conferences, and substitutions are also acceptable exemptions.

Click through for another example of an ejection for a batter's box-related issue when Marvin Hudson—after arguing with the Nationals dugout over a strike call Harper himself didn't appear to take much exception to until the dugout got involved—orders Bryce Harper back into the box.
Related PostRelated Post: MLB Ejections 051-052: Hudson (1-2; Harper, Williams) (5/20/15).

Keep the batter in the box.
Other than that, MLB calls upon the plate umpire to warn the batter for his first violation of The Batter's Box Rule, while subsequent violations are not handled on the field, but by the League Office (and only if the Commissioner wants to get involved). In Minor League ball, the second+ violation results in an automatic strike and dead ball.

This means that at the MLB level, there isn't a disciplinary follow-through for repeated batter's box violations other than a potential administrative penalty "off the field."

NCAA: The college rule is similar to the professional one: Rule 7-1-d (also called the Batter's-Box Rule) states that the batter must keep at least one foot in the box throughout the at-bat with exceptions similar to those in OBR. The NCAA penalty is an automatic strike, but unlike OBR, the ball remains live.

Video example (as follows): The umpire instructs the batter to remain in the box during the dead ball, even moving play along with an "alright, here we go" verbalization. Perhaps things would have been different if the batter objected as the Cubs' version of events implies Contreras as doing.

NFHS: The high school rule (7-3-1) is listed as a "batting infraction" and states that delaying the game by leaving the box if an exception does not apply—in HS, the batter must also be ready within 20 seconds of the pitcher receiving the ball—results in an automatic strike and, like NCAA, the ball remains live under the NFHS code.
Alternate Link: The batter is instructed to remain in the batter's box during the "Time" call (ESPN)


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