Thursday, December 20, 2018

Brawl - State of Venezuelan Winter League Coverage

A huge bench-clearing brawl during Wednesday night's Venezuelan Winter League Leones del Caracas-Tiburones de La Guaira game reminds us of MLB's half-hearted "Caribbean Baseball" association, ejections which we haven't featured as of late due primarily to lack of video. By contrast, the Australian Baseball League posts full video of most games on its YouTube channel.

Fight turns uncontrollable in Venezuela.
This time around, the grainy fan video is useful due precisely to its unique angle, but moreso, it relies on a corresponding TV video for context. We'll go over that a little later on, but let's start by saying this is a pitcher-throwing-at-batter & batter charging the mound situation.

In the 9th inning, HP Umpire Jorge Teran ejected Leones DH Jesus Guzman, SS Wilfredo Tovar, 1B Felix Perez, and Tiburones pitcher Jorgan Cavanerio for fighting after Perez took exception to an inside pitch from Cavanerio. With none out and none on, Cavanerio threw a 0-0 fastball behind Perez, a 1-0 strike, and a 1-1 fastball behind Perez, upon which Perez charged the mound, resulting in a benches-clearing incident. At the time of the ejection, los Tiburones were leading, 6-2, and ultimately won the contest by that same score.

We have two videos for this play: one is from a local television broadcast and one is a fan video. The contrast between the two videos indicates the problem with much footage we see from the winter leagues—the TV video is useful because it shows the entire sequence leading up to the fight. We have a first-pitch fastball thrown behind the batter and, two pitches later, a repeat of ball one and mound charge. This is good to know and better to see.

TV footage is useful for analysis.
We can debate whether warnings should have been issued (there were no earlier HBPs, but, again, we don't have the benefit of the context of the full game, nor any information as to potential history between the teams or players), but at the very least, we do have video of the entire incident.

We have a press box/mid-home video showing what the fight looks like along the infield, and we can discuss such concepts as separating the teams and how to time implementation of the division of halves strategy, etc.
Related PostDodger vs Giants Bench-Clearer and Division of Halves (5/17/17).

Archived pic: What INF Halves look like.
On the other hand, the fan video, taken from the spectator area above the third-base dugout, begins well after both teams have come together on the mound. An angry Leones player is held back on the warning track in foul territory, breaks free, and re-enters the fray, igniting a chaotic brawl that spills into the dugout as fans get involved, throwing drinks and other debris on the players.

The one thing the fan video does help illustrate, however, is how the baseball gathering at the pitcher's mound turned into an all-out fight, thanks to an uncontrolled instigator well removed from the mass of humanity.

We sometimes may wonder why, during a bench-clearing, an umpire will stay with one player well away from the large gathering. We see an umpire take a player (generally, the principal combatant who is at a 10-out-of-10 on the emotional scale) out of the pile and stay nearby that player while the meeting breaks up. Is it a good idea to isolate ourselves "one-on-one" so to speak and leave the rest of the crew to fend for themselves in regard to the remaining 50 people on the field? HINT: The answer will vary depending on the size of the crew.

Fan video angle from third base.
Well, this time, we see what happens when we don't stay with the 10/10 emotional player. Thanks to the fan video, we see that this player breaks free from his teammates' restraint and restarts something that looked to be calming down.

Lesson: In a mound charging situation, don't lose sight of the batter or the pitcher, because in general, these are the two people who are most likely to cause or participate in a fight, especially if they have the opportunity to get lost in the shuffle. This is where sensitivity becomes an umpire's greatest asset. If you notice—or sense—a 10/10 emotional player, whether it's the pitcher, batter, or someone else, you'll want to give them more time and attention than you would to a 5/10 or someone else who is just there for the sake of being part of the ruckus.

Get them out of the pile and keep them out. If you can afford to, stay with them until it's absolutely clear they are no longer a threat to spark an all-out melee.

On Winter Coverage: It's not that ejections aren't happening (indeed, HP Umpire Jose Navas [MiLB, 2018 Southern League] ejected Cardenales de Lara Manager Jose Moreno yesterday as well), it's that video is scant and when video does emerge, rarely is it useful for education purposes—often fan-provided footage that begins too late, leaves out the play or other relevant event, and is otherwise far below our expected quality standard.

In the aforementioned fight, our fan footage 1) fortuitously featured the problem player, and 2) was accompanied by TV film that provided much-needed context for the fight. With fan footage alone, we'd know the player was angry, but we wouldn't as easily know why. Without the TV video, the fan footage greatly loses value.

Watching a fight without any knowledge as to the play that preceded it isn't too educationally valuable, other than to determine whether or not we'd need to forfeit the game (and the lower the level, the greater likelihood that the corresponding answer would be "yes").

This time, however, the fan video just happened to catch the primary problem player at exactly the right time.

Wrap: Leones del Caracas vs Tiburones de La Guaira (Venezuelan), 12/20/18 | Videos as follows:

Alternate Link: Contentious at-bat precedes bench clearing, extensive fight (DTV)
Alternate Link: Benches clear and brawl spills into dugout late Wednesday night (Fan Video)


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