Friday, July 27, 2018

Lodged or Handled - CB Bucknor Cradles Pitched Ball

When home plate umpire CB Bucknor ruled that a pitched ball lodged in his person or paraphernalia during Friday's Blue Jays-White Sox game before falling to the ground, he invoked Official Baseball Rule 5.06(c)(7) in calling "Time" and scoring Toronto baserunner Russell Martin from third base to Chicago's chagrin. Was this the correct call?

HP Umpire Bucknor caught a pitched ball.
The Play: With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the 5th inning of the Blue Jays-White Sox game, White Sox pitcher Thyago Vieira's 1-2 fastball to Jays batter Curtis Granderson bounced in the dirt and passed Sox catcher Omar Narvaez, Blue Jays baserunner R3 Russell Martin taking off for home plate as the ball struck HP Umpire CB Bucknor in the left hand before coming to rest in a sling formed by Bucknor's right arm and wrist against his torso. Sensing the ball was trapped between his right wrist and waist, Bucknor parted his arms and called "Time" as the ball, no longer supported by Bucknor's arm, fell to the ground as gravity tends to do.

The Rule: In calling "Time" and declaring the play dead, awarding Martin and his fellow Blue Jays baserunners one base, Bucknor invoked Official Baseball Rule 5.06(c)(7), which states, "The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when—A pitched ball lodges in the umpire’s or catcher’s mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, runners advance one base."

In this sense, Bucknor's administration of the rule in declaring the play dead while awarding each baserunner one base was proper—that's the correct outcome for this rule.

But does a ball getting stuck to an umpire qualify as lodging in his "mask or paraphernalia"?

Precedent: Although the pitched ball decisively did not lodge in Bucknor's mask or equipment, there does exist precedent for declaring a ball out of play pursuant to Rule 5.06(c)(7) if it sticks to the umpire's person, and that precedent is encompassed in a Case Play from earlier this season, when HP Umpire Dan Bellino trapped a pitched ball between his right bicep and midsection, an "umpire's mitt" similar to that formed by Bucknor when he reacted to getting hit with a pitched ball.

In the Bellino play, as in Bucknor's, the umpires ruled the wedged ball dead, though unlike Bucknor, Bellino did something small yet significant that highlights a key part of the rule and likely made Bellino's call a lot easier to explain.
Related PostUEFL Case Play 2018-4 - Bicep of Bellino [Solved] (6/1/18).

When the pitched ball found Bellino's right arm in Colorado, he froze the offending appendage, thus keeping the ball lodged and out of play, wedged against his body. When Bellino called "Time" to signify Rule 5.06(c)(7)'s invocation, he similarly kept his right arm immobilized such that the ball remained out of play and stationary through the entirety of Bellino's one-handed "Time" signal.

Bucknor explains his ruling to Joe McEwing.
By doing this, Bellino ensured that the ball wedged in the crook of his right arm satisfied the "and remains out of play" criterion of Rule 5.06(c)(7).

Compare and Contrast: Bucknor is in a tight squeeze here in more than one way. In general, an umpire calls "Time" by raising both arms and hands with outfacing palms; this is the mechanic Bucknor employs when he realizes the pitched ball has become lodged in his paraphernalia, interpreted—pursuant to the Bellino precedent—to be the "umpire's mitt" created by Bucknor's arm and body.

Unfortunately, when a ball rests atop an umpire's arm or wrist, moving said arm or wrist will invariably cause the ball to become loose, and, as it did here, this will result in the ball falling back into play. This raises the question of whether Bucknor's lodged ball met Rule 5.06(c)(7)'s criterion of "remains out of play."

Catch-22: In order to call "Time," Bucknor needed to move his arm to mechanize the call, but as soon as he moved his arm, the ball dropped back onto the playing field, but at the time that the ball dropped back onto the playing field, Bucknor had already begun to call "Time." You see the conundrum here...

Ball drops as soon as Bucknor's arm moves.
How to Solve This: Bucknor's call is more difficult to explain to White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing (acting manager for the ejected Rick Renteria) because, unlike Bellino in Colorado, Bucknor raised both arms to call "Time" whereas Bellino raised just the left arm—the arm that was not part of the "umpire's mitt."

Accordingly, while Bellino was able to keep the ball stuck to his person, Bucknor was not, since he raised the involved arm to call "Time."

We could debate the merits of a ball getting pinned between an elbow and the body vs a forearm and the body (both of which are inaccessible to the fielder and should therefore be deemed out of play), but the primary difference here is one of perception: Bellino kept his right arm static, thus keeping the ball pinned, whereas Bucknor moved his arm to call time, thus allowing the ball to drop as soon as he parted his hands, but by the time the ball came loose, Bucknor had already made his "lodged" decision and had committed to calling "Time."

It's a lot easier to "sell" when an umpire keeps the ball lodged throughout the "Time" call, as Bellino did.

The one thing an umpire should not do is start, and then stop, in calling "Time," the so-called umpire's balk. In that sense, Bucknor was correct to follow-through with his commitment to killing the play.

BRD Pitfall: This is NOT "Handling a Live Ball": The language of the high school rulebook in particular revolving the phrase "handling a live ball" can be misleading, but know that if a similar play occurs in high school, this is not an example of "handling a live ball," for "handling" requires an intentional act on the umpire's behalf and occurs when the umpire voluntarily reaches for a live ball. In NCAA/OBR, the ball remains live under this circumstance, while in NFHS, the ball would become dead under the "handling a live ball" rule, 5-1-1h. Obviously, the Bellino/Bucknor plays involve accidental touching and lodging, rather than deliberate hand tampering.

Video as follows:

MLB Ejections 106-107 - Fieldin Culbreth (1-2; CWS x2)

3B Umpire Fieldin Culbreth ejected White Sox Pitching Coach Don Cooper and Manager Rick Renteria (checks swing ball four call) in the top of the 1st inning of the Blue Jays-White Sox game. With none out and one on, Blue Jays batter Kendrys Morales attempted to check his swing on a 3-2 fastball from White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, ruled a ball and no swing by HP Umpire CB Bucknor and affirmed on appeal as no swing by 3B Umpire Culbreth (the pitch was properly officiated location-wise as a ball; pz 1.194 [sz_bot 1.565]). Play was adjudicated and reversed by the UEFL Appeals Board, the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Blue Jays were leading, 2-0. The Blue Jays ultimately won the contest, 10-5.

These are Fieldin Culbreth (25)'s 1st and 2nd ejections of 2018.
Fieldin Culbreth now has -4 points in the UEFL Standings (2 Prev + 2 MLB + 2*[-4 Incorrect] = -4).
Crew Chief Fieldin Culbreth now has 2 points in Crew Division (2 Previous + 2*[0 Incorrect Call] = 2).

This is the 106th and 107th ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 44th Manager ejection of 2018.
This is Chicago-AL's 5/6th ejection of 2018, 1st in the AL Central (CWS 6; KC 4; DET, MIN 3; CLE 1).
This is Don Cooper's first ejection since May 16, 2017 (Tripp Gibson; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Rick Renteria's 4th ejection of 2018, 1st since July 14 (Adam Hamari; QOC = Y-C [Check Swing]).
This is Fieldin Culbreth's first ejection since June 29, 2017 (Bryan Price; QOC = Y [Replay Review]).

Wrap: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Chicago White Sox, 7/27/18 | Video as follows:

UEFL Case Play 2018-7 - What's the Hold Up? [Solved]

The Colorado Rockies defeated the Astros in come-from-behind fashion thanks in part to a wild sequence in the 7th inning when baserunner Raimel Tapia sprinted home on batter Nolan Arenado's pop foul out to Houston third baseman JD Davis along the warning track outside his team's dugout.

Astro teammates hold Tapia up at Coors Field.
With Davis all but falling into the dugout if not for the actions of his teammates after the fly ball disappeared into his glove, the question then becomes whether or not the ball should have been declared dead, and a base awarded, based on the rationale that Davis would have fallen into the dugout, if not for the actions of his teammates holding and appearing to even push him back onto the playing field.

The Play: With one out and the bases loaded, batter Arenado popped out to Davis, who began to fall over the railing into the dugout, but was held up and pushed by his teammates back onto the playing field before he ever had a chance to touch the dugout ground, resulting in an out call from 3B Umpire Vic Carapazza, who kept play alive. During this event, Rockies baserunner Tapia tagged up and hustled home as Davis threw wildly, allowing the trail Rockies runners to each advance a base, effectively allowing each runner to advance one base on the play, same as what would have occurred had the ball been declared dead for a player "falling" into the dugout, stands, or other out of play area.

Question: Is this a live ball or a dead ball; should the runners have been given a base automatically pursuant to Rule 5.06(b)(3)(C) Comment or does Rule 5.01(a) Comment apply, even though the fielder may have already caught the ball when he was "held up" and assisted by his teammates? Assume no runners tagged up on the play—would you award R3 home plate (and thus, R2 third base and R1 second base, as well)?

Answer: The umpires properly officiated this play. The relevant rule in the Library below is 5.01(a) Comment/Definition of Terms (Catch) Comment, which allows bench personnel to hold or brace a player attempting to catch a live ball with no penalty.

U3 Marquez rules 3BC Anderson interfered.
Unlike base coach interference, which results in an out (it is interference when, as in Rule 6.01(a)(8), "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", or 6.01(a)(9), "the base coach leaves his box and acts in any manner to draw a throw by a fielder," or 6.01(b), "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"), the 5.01(a) Comment pertains to both teams, rather than just the team at bat.
Related PostUmpire Odds & Ends: Interference Ends Game (Alfonso Marquez/3B Coach) (9/5/10).

In other words, a fielder reacts to a live ball and runs towards the dugout without regard to which team the dugout belongs to, and, accordingly—other than the case of the offense's dugout actually interfering with the fielder—the rule does not discriminate between the dugouts of the team at-bat vs the team in the field, and accordingly does not deem players bracing a fielder as illegal assistance in the same way a base coach who holds or pushes a runner is deemed to have illegally assisted the runner in advancing or returning to/remaining on a base.

As for the argument that the rule pertains to "attempting a catch" and the fielder has presumably already caught the ball...this isn't true. Had the fielder in this play dropped the ball in the dugout, chances are the play would be ruled a foul ball—no catch. We know per the catch rule that the criteria for deeming a catch legal include, "getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it," "It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball," and, perhaps most importantly, "In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional."

Until the fielder's momentum is arrested and he emerges from his precarious position on the railing, this remains and attempted, but not a completed, catch, which means Rule 5.01(a) applies, even by the strictest of standards pertaining to the phrase, "attempting a catch at the end of the dugout."

This is a legal play and, as long as the fielder does not fall onto or stand upon the ground in dead ball territory, the fielder is authorized to complete the play and throw the ball if so desired.

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR Rule 5.01(a) Comment & Definition of Terms (Catch) Comment: "If a fielder, attempting a catch at the edge of the dugout, is 'held up' and kept from an apparent fall by a player or players of either team and the catch is made, it shall be allowed."
OBR 5.06(b)(3)(C) Comment: "If a fielder, after having made a legal catch, should step or fall into any out-of-play area, the ball is dead and each runner shall advance one base."

Video as follows:

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fact Check - Bregman's Fan Interference Out

Something about the left field wall and fan interference at Coors Field in Colorado invites controversy. Wednesday night, it was Astros batter Alex Bregman who fell victim to a Replay Review decision that overturned 2B Umpire Greg Gibson's " in play" call, awarding a fly out to the Rockies at Houston's expense, something Bregman wasn't all that pleased with...

The interference is clearly apparent on film.
The Play: Bregman led off the 6th inning of Wednesday's Astros-Rockies game with a fly ball to deep left field where outfielder Gerardo Parra jumped in attempt to catch the ball, which fell back onto the playing field as Bregman circled the bases, winding up at third base before all was said and done.

The Challenge: Upon Replay Review as the result of a challenge by Rockies Manager Bud Black, it was determined that a spectator interfered with Parra by reaching out of the stands and touching a live ball, hindering Parra's opportunity to make the catch, and the Replay Official thus declared batter Bregman out on the play.

Bregman's Postgame Comments: After the game, Bregman took issue with the Replay Official's decision to overturn Gibson's call and declare the batter out, becoming yet the latest player to harshly criticize umpires in postgame comments belying the complainant's extensive vocabulary:
"It was a f* joke, and they should be f* ashamed of themselves. Obviously, the guy has never played f* baseball before in his life, the guy in charge of whoever made that decision.
"There is no possible way you can say that a left fielder jumping backwards into a wall is guaranteed to make a catch. It changed the whole f* game. We're up 2-1 at the time, I'm at third base. We need a fly ball to the outfield to get me in, and it's 3-1. It's f* horrible."
Said Parra, "I never saw the fan touch the ball until I saw the replay, but I feel I would have had that ball."

This isn't the first fan INT play at COL in 2018.
Deja Vu: If you feel like we've been here before, that's because we have, yet with the opposite result. This is the second time in 2018 that a visiting team has taken umbrage with a Replay Review decision concerning potential fan interference on a fly ball to deep left field at Colorado's Coors Field.

The first play of the season occurred on April 9, 2018, when 2B Umpire Brian Gorman ejected Padres Manager for arguing a review decision that affirmed 3B Umpire Dan Iassogna's spectator interference no-call that awarded Rockies batter Carlos Gonzalez with a home run. The write-up for that ejection report is at the following related link.
Related PostMLB Ejection 011 - Brian Gorman (1; Andy Green) (4/9/18).

The Rule: By definition, "Spectator interference occurs when a spectator (or an object thrown by the spectator) hinders a player’s attempt to make a play on a live ball, by going onto the playing field, or reaching out of the stands and over the playing field."

Bregman was slightly upset with the call.
Pursuant to Rule 6.01(e), "When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference."

Furthermore, "APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out."

The Claim: Bregman said, "there's no possible way a left fielder jumping backwards into a wall is guaranteed to make a catch."

Fact Check: This statement is factually true. There is no way that such a catch is guaranteed.

Rules-wise, the claim as false as most of George Washington's teeth.

Rule 6.01(e) states that if interference "clearly prevents" a fielder from catching a fly ball, the batter is out. Bregman's statement—"is guaranteed to make a catch"—is 1) a much higher standard, and 2) not in the rulebook.

I actually searched the Official Baseball Rules for the words "guaranteed" and "guarantee," and neither appear anywhere in OBR.

So while Bregman is correct in that the catch is not guaranteed, the rules don't require this level of strict scrutiny in order to declare the batter out—if a catch is clearly prevented, it's an out.

To be clear, this is not an "ordinary effort" situation, either—spectator interference only concerns itself with whether the interfering act "clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball."

In my view, it clearly did.

Gil's Call: How many times has a player, coach, or manager said something about an official that makes you want to respond and correct the plethora of inaccuracies that have just spewed forth?

The spectator interference rule inaccuracy notwithstanding, Bregman made it personal by stating, "Obviously, the guy [in charge] has never played f* baseball before in his life"—let's entertain this statement.

According to scheduling & stats scout Russ, Brian Gorman and Gary Cederstrom's crews are in Replay this week. Gorman—well, we all know the Tom Gorman story of how Brian grew up with baseball—and Cederstrom lettered in baseball for the Minot State College Beavers.

As for Senior Director of Instant Replay Justin Klemm, this interview with Midwest Ump Pete Reiser revealed that Klemm played ball at Temple University before starting his minor league umpiring career.

Regardless, pursuant to Bregman's logic, unless one is familiar with the fielding acumen required for a particular play, one has no authority to rule on it.

Video: Parra makes a catch while...
...jumping backwards into a wall.
Thus, as for Bregman's claim that an outfielder jumping backwards into a wall lessens the likelihood of a catch...Bregman is an infielder who has played a total of 3.2 innings in the outfield over the course of his three-year career.

...which means that 3.2 innings in a Major League outfield may or may not be enough experience to determine what a career outfielder like Parra is and is not capable of.

In my estimation as a center fielder who never quite made it past high school ball, if a fan reaches out of the stands and puts a hand in front of my glove while I'm tracking a fly ball, even jumping for it, the fan has clearly prevented me from catching said fly ball.

Perhaps it's the fielder in me, but I have an out...though your mileage may vary.

Videos as follows:

Injury Scout - SoCal Heat Wave Finds Gerry Davis in LA

With temperatures and humidity clashing near Los Angeles, this week's Southern California heat wave found Gerry Davis during a day game at Angel Stadium, the veteran MLB umpire and crew chief leaving his afternoon assignment in Anaheim due to dizziness.

Gerry Davis left early during a hot SoCal day.
At the conclusion of the 6th inning of Thursday's White Sox-Angels game, HP Umpire Davis exited the field and was replaced by 2B Pat Hoberg, leaving 1B Umpire Ryan Additon and 3B Umpire Brian Knight in the field for the contest's remaining two-and-a-half innings (the home team won).

How hot was it? Officially listed in the box score as 84-degrees at first pitch, temperatures at Angel Stadium climbed toward 90-degrees (Fahrenheit) with humidity upwards of 60%, but with sunny conditions, the field must have been so hot that Davis was seen wearing MLB umpiring's "hot weather" blue polo along with a wet towel on his neck—a look rarely seen on the 37-year big league vet.

Sidebar: We almost lost a second umpire in this game. Coming out of the tunnel, replacement plate umpire Hoberg hit his head on the low doorway/bar headed to the playing field. Thank goodness it's padded.

Relevant Injury History: N/A.

Last Game: July 26 | Return to Play: July 30 | Time Absent: 3 Days | Video as follows:

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

MLB Ejection 105 - Sean Barber (3; John Gibbons)

HP Umpire Sean Barber ejected Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons (balls/strikes; QOCY) in the top of the 11th inning of the Twins-Blue Jays game. With none out and none on, Jays pitcher Jake Petricka faced six Twins batters: Eddie Rosario (groundout), Eduardo Escobar (groundout), Brian Dozier (double), Logan Morrison (walk), Jorge Polanco (walk), and Max Kepler (HBP). Replays indicate that of the 17 callable pitches during the inning prior to Gibbons' ejection, Barber officiated all 17 properly (17/17 = 100% accuracy), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Twins were leading, 7-6. The Twins ultimately won the contest, 12-6, in 11 innings.

This is Sean Barber (29)'s third ejection of 2018.
Sean Barber now has 12 points in the UEFL Standings (8 Prev + 2 AAA + 2 Correct Call = 12).
Crew Chief Larry Vanover now has 16 points in Crew Division (15 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 16).

This is the 105th ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 43rd Manager ejection of 2018.
This is Toronto's 6th ejection of 2018, 2nd in the AL East (NYY 7; TOR 6; BAL 3; BOS 2; TB 1).
This is John Gibbons' 5th ejection of 2018, 1st since July 7 (Lance Barrett; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Sean Barber's 3rd ejection of 2018, 1st since June 13 (Matt Kemp; QOC = U [Fighting]).

Wrap: Minnesota Twins vs. Toronto Blue Jays, 7/25/18 | Video as follows:

Plate Meeting Podcast #2 Teaser, Call for Q's - Dale Scott

Tmac and I are excited to announce the second episode of The Plate Meeting podcast from with our second guest, a 32-year MLB umpire, 16 as a crew chief, 3,897 regular season games, 3 World Series...It's Dale Scott!

Dale Scott will answer your Q's on the show.
Just like last time, we need your help with questions you'd like to ask Dale on the show (and not to worry, we'll get to the remaining questions for Bob Davidson that didn't get answered in Episode 1 on a future Plate Meeting).

There are two ways to submit your questions:
1) Reply as a comment to this post, or;
2) Call the CCS voicemail line at (507) 400-UEFL [aka 507-400-8335] and leave a message.

As we did with Episode 1, we'll leave this thread open for about a week and record our episode shortly thereafter.

And if you haven't yet listened to episode one (and, if so, where've you been?), see the following link to hear our interview with Bob Davidson.
Related PostPlate Meeting Podcast Episode 1 - Bob Davidson (7/17/18).

As for Episode 2, Dale has a message for all of you!
Related Audio: Dale Scott Podcast Teaser (embedded below; click the image/video to play).

The Plate Meeting, a Left Field Umpire Podcast is CCS's official audio show where we talk umpiring with umpires, and discuss officiating related issues, including analysis or other conversation pertaining to plays, ejections, rules, and more.

To subscribe to The Plate Meeting, visit our page, which offers external links to popular podcast providers, such as Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Spotify, Radio Public, and, coming soon, Google Podcasts.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter 🐦 (@UmpireEjections) and like on Facebook 👍 (/UmpireEjections).

False Fourth Out - Ball Stays Alive After Third Out

Meet the Mets, for New York's NL squad has introduced, and replicated, the fourth out play—Replay Review style—which we'll dub the "false fourth out," named so because this unique play resulted in a failed run actually scoring while a trailing runner was declared out when the defense, sensing that a third out call at home plate may be subject to Replay Review, played upon a trailing runner to secure a fourth out in the event that the third out at home were to be overturned (which is precisely what happened).

False or reverse fourth out: a logical proof.
Today's Ask the UEFL column utilizes a logical proof to find out what exactly is and isn't legal here—it's a real headache, considering that two out of the three codes fail to formally recognize that which umpires have stipulated for generations: A half-inning cannot categorically end until the potential for a fourth out or similar appeal has ended.

By now, we've run through our fair share of fourth out plays (defined in Official Baseball Rule 5.09(c) as a play in which the defense appeals that a runner who scored prior to the third out, which was declared upon a trailing teammate, has committed a baserunning infraction, such as leaving early on a caught fly ball or failing to touch a base, such that this "fourth out" supersedes apparent third out on the trailing runner and, thus, the cancels the apparent run), but now it's time to meet the Replay Review version of this extra out.

First, the terminology. Since this isn't an appeal play—it's simply a play on a runner—this isn't a true fourth out play, as in 5.09(c). This is a simple "tag the runner off the base" play, as in 5.09(b)(4), so we'll call it a "false fourth out."

Sidebar: For an example of a "real" and old-fashioned fourth out play, see the following related post.
Related PostUEFL Series: Baseball Rules in the Real World (Fourth Out) (1/18/14).

The History: Shortly after expanded instant replay's invocation in 2014, an April contest between the Braves and Mets first drew our attention to false fourth outs when, with two outs and one on, a ground ball to the second baseman and close play at first base where the batter-runner was ruled out by 1B Umpire Eric Cooper, gave way to a play at third base on lead runner R1.

Umpires discussed the '14 false fourth out play.
That's right: Although Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman drew an out call from Cooper on the batter-runner for the third out of the inning, he nonetheless threw the ball to third base, where third baseman Chris Johnson tagged out Lucas Duda for the potential fourth out of the inning.

Satisfied with Cooper's call at first base—not that any potential runs could have been scored on the play—Mets Manager Terry Collins opted not to challenge, but had he challenged, and had the play at first base been overturned, the Braves' election to pursue a false fourth out at third might very well have ended the inning regardless.
Related PostBaseball Rules Series: Replay's New Normal (Fourth Out) (4/19/14).

The Play: Fast forward to Tuesday, July 24, 2018, also at Citi Field, when Padres Manager Andy Green challenged the following play in the top of the 3rd inning of the Padres-Mets game: With two outs and the bases loaded, Padres batter Wil Myers singled on a line drive to left fielder Michael Conforto, baserunner R3 Austin Hedges scoring easily.

Conforto threw to catcher Devin Mesoraco in an attempt to retire baserunner R2 Manuel Margot, attempting to score from second base, ruled out on Mesoraco's tag by HP Umpire Manny Gonzalez for the apparent third out of the inning.

The Mets played on R1 after the third out.
Sensing a false fourth out play and challengeable call at the plate (i.e., that the runner might have actually been safe), catcher Mesoraco continued playing and threw to third baseman Phillip Evans as Padres baserunner R1 Carlos Asuaje, having seen HP Umpire Gonzalez's third out call, slowed up and jogged into Evans' halfhearted tag, observed by 3B Umpire Laz Diaz as a potential fourth out.

The Replay: When video replays conclusively indicated that baserunner Margot was safe at home plate, the Replay Official quickly overturned that element of the play before turning his attention to third base, whereupon he applied a reverse fourth out of sorts to baserunner Asuaje, thus declaring Margot safe at home on the Mesoraco's missed/late tag and time play, and Asuaje out at third base for the official third out of the inning—the opposite, or reverse, of what usual fourth out appeals look like.

The Rule: The biggest question before us is whether reverse or false fourth out plays are covered in the Replay Review regulations—they actually are, in a roundabout way—and whether they are legal. Here's what regulation IV says about correcting an incorrect call, as it relates to its effect on other players:
If Replay Review results in a change to a call that had been made on the field, the Replay Official, to the extent feasible, shall exercise his discretion to place both Clubs in the same position they would have been in had the call on the field been correct. This shall include placing runners where he thinks those runners would have been at the conclusion of the reviewed play if the reviewed call had been correctly made in the first instance.
Ok, so if the Replay Official thought that the trailing runner would have been out at third had the correct call (in this instance, "safe") been made at home plate in real-time, then declaring said runner out as a result of the overturned call is the proper move.

But what if the umpire's incorrect call (or mechanics) caused the trail runner to alter his behavior?

According to IV.A.3., the Replay Official is to consider five factors when placing runners. They are:
a) the depth of fly balls [not applicable for this particular play];
b) the speed of the runners;
c) location of runners at time of initial call;
d) number of outs at the time of the play;
e) "whether the incorrect call affected the subsequent behavior or conduct of the offensive or defensive players."

To summarize, the Replay Official is essentially tasked with mentally simulating what would have happened had the correct call been made, and may allow a call subsequent to the initial incorrect call to stand if the Replay Official believes that this subsequent call was not affected by the initial incorrect call.

Little did MLB know, it was Pandora's box.
The Problem: The aforementioned principles are fairly easy to grasp when overturned calls occur with less than two out, but what if a third out is part of the equation?

The initial incorrect call here results in the third out of the inning, and Regulation IV.A.4. states, "The Replay Official may not declare a runner out based on a play the umpire believes would have occurred subsequent to the play subject to Replay Review."

The Point: So what's the big deal? The defense threw to third anyway and got a fourth out. That's not a play that "would have occurred"—that's a play that actually did occur.

The Counterpoint: The fact that the umpire declared the third out means the inning is over, so any action that follows the third out is no longer an actual play—it's now a play that "would have occurred" and by rule the Replay Official can't declare a runner out based on a play the umpire believes "would have occurred."

These are both solid arguments, but which is correct?

The Proof: The primary argument against declaring the "fourth out" runner going to third out on review is that the play technically didn't occur since the apparent third out at home plate killed the inning or otherwise caused the half-inning to end. Yet this is not accurate and makes an underlying assumption that is not true regarding when the ball becomes dead—though it is supported by a series of odd and largely inapplicable rules and interpretations, which we will refer to momentarily.

We know that when the ball is dead, no bases may be run and no runs scored, or outs recorded except for actions which occurred while the ball was live (the specific rule here is 5.09(b)(4): "a runner is out when—he is tagged ,when the ball is alive, while off his base")...but does the third out actually cause the ball to become dead?

Rule 5.09(e) states, "When three offensive players are legally put out, that team takes the field and the opposing team becomes the offensive team."

Furthermore, 5.09(c) regarding appeals states that any appeal of a violation that "occurs during a play which ends a half-inning, the appeal must be made before the defensive team leaves the field."

Rule 5.09(c) Comment also states, "Time is not out when an appeal is being made." We've long known that professional baseball requires live ball appeals (as opposed to dead ball appeals in NFHS).
Related PostRare Real-Time Appeal Retires Runner over Retouch Rule (6/15/17).

Yes, the ball can stay alive after out #3.
Thus, time is not out simply because the third out has occurred. In this case, time is only out when the defense has left the field, thrown the ball out of play, etc. And we know this because the ball is always live when an appeal is made and if the ball is always live during an appeal, and an appeal can occur after the third out of the inning, then, transitively speaking, the ball must be live during an appeal effected after the third out of the inning.

Since the defense leaving the field, the ball being taken out of play, etc. is what usually happens after the third out, it's not too far of a leap to lump in "third out" and "dead ball" together, but, as Rule 5.09(c)'s fourth out illustrates, the ball remains live in the immediate aftermath of the third out. It becomes dead as the result of an action that could potentially occur simultaneously with the third out being recorded, but the act that causes the ball to become dead is not the third out itself.

The Counterpoint view that equates "third out" with "dead ball" is not entirely illogical, either, though it is not always true. After all, only NCAA acknowledges that the half-inning is not over until the fourth out potential has concluded—even the high school rule, which is fairly detailed, fails to formally acknowledge that the half-inning does not always end upon the third out, and the only OBR interpretation related to when a half inning begins pertains expressly to situations concerning curfews and time limits.

NFHS: "A half-inning ends when there is a third out or when, in the last inning, the winning run is scored. In either case, if there is a delayed out declared by the umpire for a baserunning infraction, a possible fourth out may be recognized";
NCAA: [Not Covered, but interpreted as...]: "The half-inning ends when the third out has been recorded or, in the case of a possible appeal that would extend the half-inning, when the pitcher and all infielders have left fair territory";
OBR: [Not Covered, but interpreted as, PBUC, in the specific context of curfews and time limits...]: "An inning or half inning starts immediately after the third out is made in the preceding inning."

The third out does not "kill" the inning.
Ever since replay came to the big leagues, however, it has been all but codified in actual rules and interpretations that a half-inning does not end upon the third out, so long as a manager is able to challenge a call.

Instead, the Replay Review regulations introduced a new term to the rules lexicon, one that existed in broadcasting for quite some time: that of the "inning break," a purgatory state between two half-innings that, by rule, does not begin until the manager has either decided not to challenge a third out call, or the challenged call has resulted in the third out of the inning (II.E.1).

Thus, if the "inning break" cannot commence until a play is either challenged or accepted as final, then it logically would follow that the entirety of the preceding half-inning has not, in fact, ended until finalization of the third out, which means F2 is legally allowed to play on R1 as a false fourth out based on his belief that the play could be challenged and the call overturned.

"A DEAD BALL is a ball out of play because of a legally created temporary suspension of play"—thus, the inning break, and not the third out, creates this temporary suspension of play.

Conversely, "a LIVE BALL is a ball which is in play." Got it? In = Live, Out = Dead.

As Manny calls "out", F2 isn't playing on R1.
Putting it another way, if the third out truly ended the half-inning at the moment of the out, then the accompanying photograph of the plate umpire calling the runner out while the catcher is sprawled on the ground, prior to his play on R1, would indicate that the Replay Official was incorrect in overturning the call at third base and, moreover, and more to the point, that all fourth outs would be impossible given the inning's conclusion at the moment of the third out due to appeals' requirement that the ball remain "in play."

Accordingly, if there is a continuation of play that results in the apparent third out of the inning—such as a fourth out appeal or false fourth out that keeps the ball "in play" like that which occurred in New York Tuesday night—the ball remains alive until such time as playing action has ceased and the defense has left the field (or the ball has become dead for another cause, such as being removed from the playing field, expiration of the Replay Review decision-making time limit and the inning break's commencement, etc.), at which time the Replay Official simulates what would have happened had the initial incorrect call been a correct call, knowing full well that F2's actions in securing a false fourth out indicates that, had the correct call been made, the third out likely would have been made at third base.

Conclusion: Because time is not out in the immediate aftermath of the third out, this affords the Replay Official discretion to call the baserunner jogging toward third base out on a false fourth out tag attempt, thus scoring the run while declaring the trail runner out and, finally, judging the inning to have concluded.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Injury Scout - Tom Hallion Out on Extra Inning Foul to Jaw

An extra inning foul ball found home plate umpire Tom Hallion's mask in Philadelphia, prompting his early exit from a lengthy game already threatened by rain.

In the top of the 10th inning of Tuesday's Dodgers-Phillies game, Dodgers batter Joc Pederson fouled a first-pitch 93.8-mph cutter from Phillies pitcher Tommy Hunter into the lower portion of Hallion's traditional-style facemask.

Hallion left the game at the conclusion of the half-inning, with 2B Umpire Phil Cuzzi taking over behind the plate as acting crew chief, while 1B Umpire Adam Hamari and 3B Umpire Ryan Blakney manned the foul lines.

Relevant Injury History: Hallion suffered a foul ball injury to the head in Baltimore on August 19, 2017, missing eight days in its aftermath, having left his July 1, 2015 assignment due to another foul ball to the facemask.

Last Game: July 24 | Return to Play: August 6 | Time Absent: 12 Days  | Video as follows:

10-Year-Old Vincent Stio - MiLB Umpires' Biggest Fan

Meet 10-year-old Vincent Stio, an officiating aficionado and aspiring umpire who works his games alongside MiLB umpires near Raleigh, North Carolina, home of Minor League Baseball's Class-A Mudcats. Vince wears a full uniform, mask, bag, and plate shoes, and carries around a plate brush, just in case home plate falls prey to a few too many peanuts and Cracker Jack.

You might recall our brief article on Grant from Moline, Illinois, who called balls and strikes from the stands at a Single-A Midwest League game at Quad Cities. Well, looks like he has some competition.
Related PostStarting Young - Kid Umpire Calls MiLB Game from Stands (5/13/18).

Umpires Phillips (L), Basner (R), and Stio.
As CBS correspondent Steve Hartman reports, Stio knows his stuff—he's trained with aspiring umpires on the field and in the cage—and calls the game alongside the on-field umpires; in this case, Reed Basner and Ben Phillips served as the on-field crew with Stio supervising from the front row, mimicking Basner's calls behind home plate.

As Stio said to ESPN, "for a strike you say, 'strike,' but for a ball you don't say, 'ball.'"

And, as the ESPN piece continued, "when an umpire ejects a player, he's captivated."

Looks like we might have found a future fan for Close Call Sports & the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League...or, perhaps, a future draft pick.

MiLB Umpire Brock Ballou first noticed Stio in the grandstand during the 2016 season: "out of my peripheral, I just saw this young kid, he had an umpire mask on, and he was calling strikes with me. I started wiping off the plate and he started doing the same thing. I've never seen that before."

When Stio visited an MLB Umpire Clinic, Director of Umpire Development Rich Rieker asked the attendees, "how many people got into umpiring before they were 12?" Seeing no takers, Rieker continued, "That's you, Vince. One guy."
Related PostMLB Umpire Camp - Aug 18 in Houston (7/17/18).

Stio ejects Carolina Manager Rocket Wheeler.
Ballou and partner Cody Clark met with Stio after the 2016 game for some feedback: "They thought he had great mechanics, they said they loved what he was doing...that was like everything to him and he just took off after that," said mom Maria.

As Basner said, "every fan we can get is a plus."

Added Phillips, "Last night, there was a time somebody said, 'Put the kid in!'"

Maybe one of these days, somebody will put the kid in: after all, Vincent hopes to grow up to be an umpire.

Videos as follows:

Monday, July 23, 2018

MLB Ejection 104 - Nic Lentz (1; Kevin Long)

HP Umpire Nic Lentz ejected Nationals Hitting Coach Kevin Long (strike three call; QOCY) in the top of the 2nd inning of the Nationals-Brewers game. With none out and none on, Nationals batter Trea Turner took a 1-2 slider from Brewers pitcher Jhoulys Chacin for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner half of home plate and at the hollow of the knee (px -.472, pz 1.534 [sz_bot 1.589 / RAD 1.466]) and that all other pitches during the at-bat were properly officiated, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Nationals were leading, 1-0.

This is Nic Lentz (59)'s first ejection of 2018.
Nic Lentz now has 9 points in the UEFL Standings (5 Prev + 2 AAA + 2 Correct Call = 9).
Crew Chief Mark Wegner now has 3 points in Crew Division (2 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 3).
*This pitch was located 1.812 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.

This is the 104th ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is Washington's 4th ejection of 2018, 2nd in the NL East (NYM 5; WAS 4; MIA 3; ATL 2; PHI 0).
This is Kevin Long's first ejection since May 21, 2016 (Adrian Johnson; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Nic Lentz's first ejection since May 23, 2017 (Clint Hurdle; QOC = Y [Out of Base Path]).

Wrap: Washington Nationals vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7/23/18 | Video as follows:

UEFL Case Play 2018-6 - Kicked Out of Play [Solved]

Tropicana Field turned into a Little League funhouse Friday night when Marlins batter JT Realmuto hit a double, only to advance all the way to home plate, scoring a run, thanks to a fortuitous base award and series of errors by Tampa Bay Rays fielders Adeiny Hechavarria and Daniel Robertson, highlighting the importance of timing and rules application when it comes to base awards for balls that fall out of play.

Did umpires correctly award bases?
The Play: With one out and one on (R1) in the top of the 7th inning of Friday's Marlins-Rays game, Marlins batter Realmuto hit a fly ball to Rays left fielder Jake Bauers, who fielded the batted ball on a carom off the outfield wall and threw to shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who fumbled the throw (Tampa's first error), which bounced into foul ground, spurring third baseman Daniel Robertson to run in and accidentally kick the ball out of play and into the third base dugout (Tampa's second error), resulting in two-base awards for baserunner R1 Brian Anderson and batter-runner Realmuto, which, for both runners, so happened to be home plate.

Case Play Question: Was this the correct ruling (BR and R1 to home plate) or should the base award have been less generous (e.g., BR to third base and R1 to home plate, etc.)? Better yet, imagine yourself as the Replay Official and Rays Manager Kevin Cash opted to challenge the runner placement call. What would you do?

For the sake of simplicity, let's stipulate that batter-runner Realmuto and baserunner R1 Anderson occupied the following positions at the times of the following events by Tampa Bay's fielders:

Defensive Event BR's Position R1's Position
F7's Throw Rounding 1B Past 2B
F6's Error Past 1B At 3B
F5's Error Past 2B Past 3B

Accordingly, in the ever-popular "Time of Pitch vs Time of Throw" (TOP vs TOT) base awards debate, it would appear that umpire Jeff Nelson's crew used a third term: TOE, or "Time of Error." Is this a correct application of rules?

Answer: There are several trains of thought pertaining to this play, which appears by all accounts to be a throw and two accidental kicks, causing the ball to fall out of play. Naturally, if your judgment holds that F5's kick was intentional, then the matter becomes a "Time of Error" (specifically, F5's error) play, with both runners awarded home, and you can stop the analysis right there.

If you believe the fielder accidentally kicked the ball out of play, by strict interpretation of the rule—and interpretation manual—we consider the runners' positions at the time of the throw, and award the batter-runner third base (1B + 2 = 3B).

This play illustrates a rules complication.
Pitfall: A more common sense principle, however, given the complication of two fielders accidentally kicking a ball out of play, suggests a potential consideration of awarding both runners home plate (pursuant to the omnipresent "elastic clause" of umpiring regarding an issue not specifically mentioned in the rules), simply because this is the "common sense and fair play" thing to do for a rule that doesn't precisely fit in this situation.

Neither the original rule nor interpretation manual specifically discusses the issue of a thrown ball that comes to rest (the only consideration is whether or not the ball has remained on the playing field prior to it being kicked/deflected out of play), so there isn't rules support for judging this play based on an impetus-of-the-ball or change of direction/momentum rationale.

However, it is similarly not within the spirit of the rules to allow a thrown ball to remain "thrown" indefinitely. By strict interpretation of the rule, say that a batter hits a sharp ground ball to the right fielder, who attempts to throw him out at first base. The throw deflects off the first baseman's glove and protractedly rolls along the infield, possibly being unintentionally kicked a few times while the batter-runner is able to make it all the way around the bases and to home plate as the fielders unsuccessful pursue this unusually slippery ball, with the shortstop unintentionally kicking the ball into foul territory near left field.

As the batter-runner rounds third base, the third baseman unintentionally kicks the ball into the dugout, and the ball falls out of play a split second before the batter-runner touches home plate. Since the throw initiated by the right fielder occurred prior to the batter-runner touching first base, and this thrown ball was subsequently kicked out of play, strict interpretation of 5.06(b)(4) and the manual would hold that the batter-runner is to be awarded two bases from the time of the throw, or second base (HP + 2 = 2B), even though he has already scored.

Which doesn't make much sense at all...yet, that's what the rule says in its strictest terms. Thus, at some point, this "thrown ball" can no longer be considered a "thrown ball," for the purposes of determining the point of "Time of X." When is a thrown ball no longer a thrown ball? The Definition of Terms might help:
> "A PITCH is a ball delivered to the batter by the pitcher," and;
> "All other deliveries of the ball by one player to another are thrown balls."

The batter is short of 2B upon F6's error.
Thus, when a ball is no longer being delivered by one player to another, it can no longer be considered a thrown ball (naturally, it remains a "live ball"). The problem, then, is MLBUM/PBUC's interpretation that states, "If a thrown ball goes through or by a fielder and remains on the playing field and is subsequently kicked or deflected out of play (unintentionally in either case), the award is two bases from the time of the throw."

Whether or not the ball is "thrown" at this point is immaterial: per MLBUM, the thrown ball went through or by a fielder (F6) and was subsequently kicked or deflected out of play, unintentionally, by F5—there's no time limit, and there's no player limit—the accidental deflection out of play occurred subsequently to the thrown ball that went by a fielder and remained on the playing field. Per the manual, that's two bases from the time of the throw.

Gil's Call: This extreme example of a batter-runner who has already scored being sent back to second base illustrates that, surprise surprise, there's a problem with the rule regarding this situation. The rule doesn't say anything about resetting the so-called "Time of X" timer depending on who touches the ball and when—we just know if the kick was intentional, it's two bases from the time of the kick, and if it was unintentional, the rule wants two bases from the time of the throw, which makes less and less sense the longer the thrown/kicked ball remains alive and on the playing field as the runners continue to advance.

The tag-up rule operates on a similar principle.
Imagine a runner on third base having to wait to tag up on a fly ball until the outfielder catches the batted ball by firmly securing it in his glove—the fielder could easily bobble the ball all the way back to the infield and hold the runner at third (or even double-up the runner for "leaving early"). Thank goodness the powers-that-be put the fielder's first touch into the tagging-up rule—and that rules change was a fairly recent development, too!

SIDEBAR: The retouch rule is another part of OBR that is, shall we say, conflicting, as the Definition of Terms correctly refers to "the instant the first fielder touches the ball," while Rule 5.09(b) states, "legally caught."
Related PostClearing Up a Myth - Timely Retouch of a Bobbled Fly (4/27/17).

For this reason, the proper call for this Case Play, in my estimation, is to refer to Rule 8.01(c): "Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules."

And because this is an 8.01(c) call, there are two possible solutions to this Case Play: Either award BR third and score R1, or score both runners. This is what Nelson's crew appeared to have done, and whether because of the crew's decisiveness in awarding bases or Tampa Bay's ignorance, manager Kevin Cash declined to challenge, much less argue the issue of runner placement.

As long as you can explain the rule—including an affinity to understand its shortcomings and being able to apply 8.01(c)—the book will support either decision. The only conclusively incorrect call here would be to hold BR at second and/or prevent R1 from scoring, since two bases are required, the only question being, "from when?"

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR 5.06(b)(4): "Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench...When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made."
MLBUM (and PBUC): "If a thrown ball deflects off a fielder and goes directly out of play, the award is two bases" [from TOP or TOT, as applicable].
MLBUM (and PBUC): "If a thrown ball goes through or by a fielder and remains on the playing field and is subsequently kicked or deflected out of play (unintentionally in either case), the award is two bases from the time of the throw."
MLBUM (and PBUC): "If a fielder has complete possession of a batted or thrown ball and subsequently deflects or kicks the ball out of play, the award is two bases from the position of the runners at the time the ball was kicked or deflected."
MLBUM (and PBUC): "If, in the judgment of the umpires, a fielder intentionally kicks or deflects a batted or thrown ball out of play, the award is two bases from the time the ball was kicked or deflected."
Related PostCase Play 2017-9 - The Deflected Error Triple [Solved] (9/14/17).

Video as follows:

Sunday, July 22, 2018

MLB Ejection 103 - Andy Fletcher (3; Cameron Maybin)

HP Umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Marlins RF Cameron Maybin (strike two call; QOCN) in the top of the 4th inning of the Marlins-Rays game. With none out and one on (R1), Maybin took a 1-1 slider from Rays pitcher Chris Archer for a called second strike, before subsequently striking out on a 2-2 pitch. Replays indicate the 1-1 pitch was located off the outer edge of home plate and thigh-high (px 1.075, pz 2.005) and the 2-2 pitch was located over the outer half of home plate and at the hollow of the knee (px .600, pz 1.604 [sz_bot 1.69 / RAD 1.813]), the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Marlins were leading, 4-1. The Rays ultimately won the contest, 6-4.

This is Andy Fletcher (49)'s third ejection of 2018.
Andy Fletcher now has 0 points in the UEFL Standings (2 Prev + 2 MLB - 4 Incorrect Call = 0).
Crew Chief Jeff Nelson now has 2 points in Crew Division (2 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 2).
*Despite the correctness of the strike three call, E-QOC is incorrect pursuant to UEFL Rule 6-5-c (and 6-5-c-5-a) pertaining to the 1-1 pitch located off the plate and ruled as strike two.
*Related: Intra-AB ball/strike QOCU proposal was voted down during the 2017 UEFL Rules Summit.
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
*The 1-1 pitch was located 1.932 horizontal inches from being deemed a correct call.

This is the 103rd ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 51st player ejection of 2018. Prior to ejection, Maybin was 0-1 (SO) in the contest.
This is Miami's 3rd ejection of 2018, T-2nd in the NL East (NYM 5; MIA, WAS 3; ATL 2; PHI 0).
This is Cameron Maybin's first ejection since September 25, 2016 (Dan Iassogna; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Andy Fletcher's 3rd ejection of 2018, 1st since June 19 (Don Mattingly; QOC = U [Throwing At]).

Wrap: Miami Marlins vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 7/22/18 | Video as follows: