Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sun Belt Suspends Umpires for Officiating Errors

Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson suspended four NCAA Division I baseball umpires for apparent erroneous judgment calls during Sunday's Wright State-Louisiana game in the wake of Louisiana head coach Tony Robichaux's ejection for arguing a reversed home run call in Wright State's 4-3 victory.

Pursuant to Game Misconduct Rule 2-5-15, Robichaux received a two-game suspension for his post-ejection actions. It is important to note that Robichaux's two-game suspension is a mandatory NCAA penalty, whereas the umpires' one-game suspensions were issued by the conference.

NCAA Baseball Rule 2-5-15-a-4 states:
No team personnel may continue to argue or to continue to excessively express themselves with prolonged actions or offensive language after an ejection. PENALTY—After an ejection an additional two-game suspension.
Robichaux's ejection followed a 7th inning fly ball to deep right-center field off the bat of Louisiana's Daniel Lahare, initially ruled a home run, but reversed to a double upon crew consultation. At the center of the debate was whether the ball hit the top of the outfield wall or whether it hit the trunk of a pine tree beyond the fence before caroming back into play.

According to the Ragin' Cajuns—who epitomized the team nickname on Sunday—the umpires erred on several calls, including an out call at home plate, a home run hit by Louisiana's Kole McKinnon that purportedly should have remained in play, and a game-ending play at first base that resulted in an out.

At his Tuesday press conference, Robichaux took responsibility for his team's "mediocre" start to the season, and said, "As I told them when I came out after the ejection...the umpires didn't do anything. We had runners at second and third...

"You've gotta own up to where you are and you can't start blaming anything. You have to have extreme ownership and from there, you have to up your conviction, not lower it...

"You've got so much low hanging fruit that you can hang onto right now, they could survive the rest of the year on it...If I went around blaming something on an umpire or injuries, who cares? Nobody wants to listen about your injuries; [we're] 2-5."

Commissioner Benson declined to comment on any specific play when announcing umpire suspensions:
The baseball umpire crew from the Wright State versus Louisiana series will be relieved of all duties for one game due to the multiple officiating errors that occurred on Sunday, February 25.  The decision was made by Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson on Wednesday.
Wrap: Wright State vs. #20 Louisiana (NCAA Div I Baseball), 2/25/18 | Video as follows:

Perry Barber Wins SABR Lifetime Achievement Award

Veteran professional umpire Perry Lee Barber won the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)'s inaugural Dorothy Seymour Mills Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to candidates with sustained involvement in women's baseball or any woman associated with baseball.

Barber began officiating baseball in 1981, encountering a coach in just her second game as an umpire who took his Little League team off a baseball diamond in Palm Springs in protest of Barber's presence, as a woman, on the playing field.

Perry Barber has umpired for over 36 years.
Said Barber, "My mother loved baseball and encouraged me to start reading about it. I didn't even like baseball until I was 27 years old."

Barber credits historian Larry Gerlach's 1980 book, The Men in Blue: Conversations with Umpires, as steering her toward the umpiring craft, which has drawn assignments in high school, college, amateur, and international baseball, as well as assignor and supervisor responsibilities in the independent Atlantic League. She also has officiated several Spring Training exhibition contests and campaigned for women's inclusion in professional baseball.

The complete list of women to have umpired in the Major/Minor League baseball system includes:
Bernice Gera (1972);
Christine Wren (1975-77);
Pam Postema (1977-89);
Theresa Cox Fairlady (1989-91);
Ria Cortesio (1999-2007);
Shanna Kook (2003-04);
Jen Pawol (2016-);
Emma Charlesworth-Seiler (2017-).

Kate Sargeant additionally made the PBUC evaluation course in 2008, finishing 43rd.

Barber attended Harry Wendelstedt's umpire school in 1982 ('83, '84, '85 & 2005) along with her late twin sister, Warren, "so that we could always work together and guarantee that I wasn't the only woman," and assigned several major league fantasy camps, most prominently, the Mets'.

She is a board member for the International Women's Baseball Center, an advisor at Baseball for All, and continues to assign and officiate several baseball leagues and tournaments.

The award is named for Dorothy Seymour Mills, who collaborated with Dr. Harold Seymour to author various baseball research publications. SABR's existing Seymour Medal is an annual award honoring the best book of baseball history or biography published over the course of the preceding year.

News: Perry Barber wins inaugural Dorothy Seymour Mills Award | Video via "Read More"

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Injury Scout - Brian Knight Out on Spring Training Foul Ball

Brian Knight exited Wednesday's Indians-Angels Spring Training game for precautionary reasons after taking a foul ball off the mask in the later stages of Cleveland's blowout win over Anaheim LA.

Umpire injury befalls BK early in Arizona.
With one out and none on in the top of the 7th inning, Indians batter Will Benson fouled off a 2-0 fastball from Angels pitcher Luke Bard, the ball striking Knight in the center of his traditional-style facemask.

Knight remained in the contest through the completion of the 7th inning, after which he was replaced behind home plate by crewmate Jim Reynolds, as crew chief Ted Barrett and fellow field umpire Alfonso Marquez worked the bases for the remainder of the contest.

Relevant Injury History: Knight missed a majority of the 2017 season due to what he described as a "severe neck injury." Prior to that, Knight left the September 9, 2016 Dodgers-Marlins game on a deflected hit-by-pitch, and the April 18, 2015 Phillies-Nationals game when catcher Jose Lobaton failed to catch a Blake Treinen fastball.

Last Game: February 28 | Return to Play: March 2 | Time Absent: 1 Day | Video as follows:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

So it Begins - Mound Visit Charged on Injury Timeout

When Twins pitcher Phil Hughes walked to home plate to check on catcher Mitch Garver, who had just taken a foul ball off his mask early in Monday's Cardinals-Twins game, Minnesota was surprised to learn that HP Umpire Jeff Kellogg had charged them with a mound visit, one of six allowed under baseball's new pace of play rules for 2018.
Related Post2018 Pace of Play Changes Limit Mound Visits, No Clock (2/19/18).

A pitcher conferring with an injured catcher?
Pursuant to MLB's new mound visit limit, any pitcher who leaves the mound to confer with a teammate during an at-bat shall cause his team to incur a charged mound visit. Although the rule provides an exemption for a pitcher who may be injured, there is no reciprocal exemption for another position player who may be hurt, and who is attended to by the pitcher.

Though Hughes stated his visit to Garver strictly pertained to a check on his catcher's wellbeing, rather than a discussion of strategy, he also understood from Kellogg that such a visit fits the pace-of-play bill—at least for now.

Twins Manager Paul Molitor vowed to take up the issue with MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre in the hopes of carving out a formal exemption that would allow a pitcher to attend to a potentially injured catcher during an at-bat without being charged a mound visit, as already exists for a catcher who might attend to a potentially injured pitcher.

If the rulebook says "catcher," it's only F2.
SIDEBAR: We ran into a somewhat similar problem of pitcher vs. catcher language in the rules book during a June 2014 game at Dodger Stadium, when plate umpire Mike Everitt ruled Dodgers baserunner Dee Gordon out at home plate on a wild pitch that eluded Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who threw to pitcher Lance Lynn as Gordon slid into home plate. Though replays clearly indicated that Lynn appeared to block home plate in contravention of then-Rule 7.13, closer examination of the rule indicates that the catcher is the restricted fielder: the rule as written did not apply to the pitcher, and a Replay Review decision upheld Everitt's initial out/no violation call.
Related Post: MLB Instant Replay Review 618: Mike Everitt (04) (6/28/14).

The language issue persists in modern-day rule 6.01(i)(2), which states, "Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score." The language "or other player covering home plate" applies only to 6.01(i)(1), regarding a runner who may be declared out from deviating "from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate)."

Thus, it would be reasonable to conclude that if the Rules Committee wrote a pace-of-play rule to specifically identify "the pitcher" as opposed to "a fielder," then that rule only applies to "the pitcher"—at least for now.

Molitor hopes an exception will be made, a memo released, or the rule rewritten, to encompass any injury, such as a pitcher attending to an injured catcher or a catcher visiting the mound to allow a downed plate umpire time to recover from a foul ball injury.

Meanwhile, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle, in the aftermath of his own discussion with Torre, reminded baseball fans regarding the new pace of play rules, "it's not a finished product."