Monday, November 5, 2018

Case Play 2018-9 - Walk-off Appeal Madness

As the 2018 Arizona Fall League All-Star Game ended on a walk-off base hit, 1B Umpire Nestor Ceja lingered for a few extra seconds as first baseman Peter Alonso tried calling for an appeal, claiming that batter-runner Meibrys Viloria failed to touch first base.

East All-Star Alonso calls out to deaf ears.
The Play: With one on (R3) and two out in the bottom of the 9th inning of a tied ballgame, West All-Stars batter Viloria hit a line drive to the gap in right-center field, easily scoring baserunner R3 Buddy Reed from third base. As Viloria approached and rounded first base, an onslaught of celebrating teammates pushed and shoved him away from the bag such that Viloria was unable to touch first base as he ran by.

Both U1 Ceja and F3 Alonso noticed Viloria's struggle and non-touch, as Ceja remained in the vicinity and Alonso tried calling for the ball to retire Viloria for the inning's third out and send the AFL's Fall Stars game into extras.

Ceja, waiting for appeal, is trapped in the mob.
The theatre turned out to be all for naught, as Viloria, after rounding first base without actually touching it, fought through a mob of celebrating teammates to return to and touch first base, all while the baseball remained in right-center field, the East All-Stars having given up on the play.

Question: Assume Alonso's teammates in the outfield were actually paying attention and threw the ball to Alonso as Viloria fought through his teammates to return to first base. What would be the proper ruling if... A) Alonso tagged Viloria while off his base (or tagged first base before Viloria returned to touch it)? B) Alonso was unable to get to Viloria (or the base) before Viloria returned due to the human traffic jam caused by the West All-Star celebration?

And, if you're really daring, C) A security guard picked up the baseball and threw it back to Alonso, who then tagged Viloria while off his base (go ahead and assume the bases were loaded, too)?

This Q resembles a 2015 play in AZ.
Yes, this is meant as a reference to the walk-off non-appeal play in Arizona from 2015, when Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips tried to appeal R2 and R3's failures to touch their respective bases on a bases loaded, one-out, walk-off single. A security officer retrieved and threw the ball to Phillips, who tagged several bases in an attempt to appeal the baserunning infractions. Crew Chief Larry Vanover said that because R3 touched home and BR touched first, the game was over, thus leaving the security guard issue unanswered.

MLB added an interpretation to Rule 5.08(b) since then [formerly known as 4.09(b)] to state that a base hit does not qualify as a 5.08(b) game-ending play since 5.08(b) now requires an event that "forces the batter and all other runners to advance without liability of being put out." The rule used to say "...which forces the runner on third to advance" only. MLB since made it clear that 5.08(b) (f/k/a 4.09(b)) only applies to bases-loaded without liability of being put out situations. This time, the batter-runner hasn't yet touched first, so we ask the question again.
Related PostCase Play 2015-07, Merkle Revisited [Solved] (8/10/15).

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR 5.09(c)(2): "Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when—With the ball in play, while advancing or returning to a base, he fails to touch each base in order before he, or a missed base, is tagged."
OBR 5.09(c): "Any appeal under this rule must be made before the next pitch, or any play or attempted play. If the violation occurs during a play which ends a half-inning, the appeal must be made before the defensive team leaves the field...For the purpose of this rule, the defensive team has 'left the field' when the pitcher and all infielders have left fair territory on their way to the bench or clubhouse."
OBR 6.01(a)(4): "It is interference by a batter or a runner when—Any member or members of the offensive team stand or gather around any base to which a runner is advancing, to confuse, hinder or add to the difficulty of the fielders. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate or teammates."
OBR 6.01(a)(8): "It is interference by a batter or runner when—In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base."
OBR 6.01(b) [Fielder Right of Way]: "The players, coaches or any member of a team at bat shall vacate any space (including both dugouts or bullpens) needed by a fielder who is attempting to field a batted or thrown ball...If a member of the team at bat (other than a runner) hinders a fielder’s attempt to field a thrown ball, the ball is dead, the runner on whom the play is being made shall be declared out and all runners return to the last legally occupied base at the time of the interference."
OBR 6.01(d) [Unintentional Interference]: "In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the team at bat who are participating in the game, or a base coach, any of whom interfere with a fielder attempting to field a batted or thrown ball; or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference."

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: While West celebrates Fall Stars win, ump & players try to complete the play (MLBN)


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