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:

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Plate Meeting Podcast 8 - Call for Q's - Jerry Crawford announces its eighth Plate Meeting podcast episode with guest Jerry Crawford, a 35-year MLB umpire veteran with 4,371 regular season games, five Division Series, 12 LCS, and five World Series. Now's your chance to ask Jerry questions about his career and any of his 86 career ejections.

Crawford began his professional umpiring career with the New York-Penn League in 1967, and officiated the Florida State, Carolina, Eastern, and International Leagues before his promotion to the National League staff in 1976. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jerry is the son of long-time Major League umpire Shag Crawford and brother of retired NBA referee Joe Crawford.

As we wrote in our recent retro Teachable Moment, Crawford didn't eject relatively often, but was involved in a few intense rhubarbs during his tenure in the majors.
Related PostTeachable - Feisty Ejections, Jerry Crawford Style (12/12/18).

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. Due to the holidays, Episode 8 is presently scheduled for record & release in early January.

To subscribe to The Plate Meetingvisit 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).

Monday, December 17, 2018

Teachable - Handling a Big Moment Ejection

In this Retro Teachable, we hearken and glance back to a rare playoff ejection involving a pitcher and a star one at that. At the time this umpire-pitcher interaction was one of the most controversial moments in sports. Lip readers were breaking down what Roger Clemens said to American League Umpire Terry Cooney to warrant an ejection. To our younger audience this may be new, but to anyone over the age of 40 this should be a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Clemens confronts Cooney.
If you have time, I suggest rewinding and watching the video from the very beginning. First off, if listening to the old CBS baseball theme doesn't bring you chills, I don't know what will. Next, it provides some much needed context leading up to our situation. Anywho, you can fast forward to the 7:33-mark for the main event.

Right before the ejection, and Jim Grey's interesting story on Mike Gallego's glove (remember when sideline/field reports weren't forced into our games), Willie Randolph walks on a pitch Clemens thinks is a strike. When Gallego enters the box, he's looking out towards the mound, sees something, and backs out. Why would he do that? Hold that thought!

A couple seconds later Cooney ejects Clemens in what at the time appeared an EJ that came out of nowhere. As we continue to watch, CBS shows an angle focused on Clemens and I'm not a professional lip reader, but it certainly appears there was a 'F******* Sucks' in there. Interestingly, why did Clemens stay on the mound as if he was going to continue to pitch? It's pretty clear that Cooney gave him a rather large heave ho, a relative rarity for Cooney, who once went nearly three years and 300+ games without an ejection, from August 1986 to May 1989 (Cooney also tossed Marty Barrett, who threw a bucket and other debris onto the playing field during the incident).

Clemens talks to LF Umpire John Hirschbeck.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't get to say anything you want to an umpire in a playoff game.  It's pretty obvious that Clemens, pitching on three-days' rest and getting hit around, doesn't want to be out there. When interviewed afteward, Clemens didn't say that he didn't deserve to be tossed. Instead, he said in a Sports Illustrated article, "I was verbal during the Series, very verbal. Even before that game, I got caught on the bench on TV a couple of times being verbal."

In fact, Clemens was so verbal that the Commissioner's Office led at the time by Fay Vincent hired a lip reader, concluding that Clemens deserved a five-game suspension for bumping an umpire following the ejection and for threatening Cooney; however, MLB determined that the umpires weren't truthful in describing the incident. Clemens was definitely disputing the strike zone, but MLB's lip reader determined that he didn't say anything personal, despite two umpires reporting that Clemens told Cooney, "I'm going to find out where you live. I'm going to get you."

Whether Cooney and crew were guilty of being inaccurate in the report, we'll never know because it wasn't made public, but in your games, you best be accurate. Don't lie. Remember, head coaches and managers and players like nothing more than to call an umpire wrong. If you're in a situation it is hard to get everything 100% perfect, but don't add things that you know didn't happen. Have integrity. Plus, these days, they can go to the 4K HD video and pick everything apart.

But all that is just a sidebar to the real issue here: the player. We've talked about handling pitchers on the mound in a previous teachable and I stand by what I said there (and if you haven't yet, you might want to read that teachable, too). At all costs get your catcher to go out to the mound and save the pitcher. I get it—we are under mound visit restrictions now, but nobody wants to launch the starting pitcher in the 2nd inning, let alone in a playoff game.
Related PostTmac - Situation Handling and Pitcher Disagreement (7/31/17).

Cooney points toward Clemens.
While this EJ was proper, could it have been prevented? If Gallego could see Clemens was unraveling and had time to step out of the box, how did veteran catcher Tony Pena not see it? I understand the dugouts are a mile away in Oakland, but nobody on the coaching staff recognized The Rocket was in outer space? Keeping players in games is often a team effort, and without the help of the adults in the room, an umpire is often left with no recourse, even in a game of this magnitude.

How often have we seen an umpire step out in front of home plate to issue such an ultimatum warning as Kaat suggests Cooney should have done, and then be accused of being the aggressor? An umpire shouldn't march to the mound by any means, but if removing the mask and taking so much as one step toward the pitcher in order to warn is seen as an antagonistic act, how do you think a subsequent ejection will be viewed (answer: "the umpire had it out for me and the video will show it")?

Cuzzi warns Vogelsong before tossing him.
For instance, Phil Cuzzi took his mask off, put up a stop sign, and didn't even step toward the mound before ejecting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (and skipper Bruce Bochy) in 2015...yet the broadcaster's analysis was, "Phil's having a bad night...If Phil Cuzzi turns around and says to Boch, 'I missed that pitch,' there's no argument." Naturally, QOC for these ejections was Correct, but let's not allow facts to get in the way of an ex-player's grievance. Earlier, we spoke to an umpire needing help from the coaching staff, but here it looks like Bochy is hurting Vogelsong, which makes it absolutely impossible for Phil to keep either man in the game. This is a case of a manager actively helping his pitcher to get ejected.

On the plus side, we did get a, "that's an inexperienced catcher right there."
Related PostMLB Ejections 116-117: Phil Cuzzi (3-4; Vogelsong, Bochy) (7/5/15).

Succinctly, when an umpire is hung out to dry, some things simply don't get the intermediate step of an informal "stop sign" style warning.

Don Denkinger analyzed the ejection.
SIDEBAR: If you watch the extended version, you're in for a special treat around the 13-minute mark. Don Denkinger, who was an American League umpire at the time, provides his insight as a studio analyst.

We've talked many times about non-officials' general lack of rules knowledge, whether it is the managers (6.6 out of 10), players (5.5), media (4.4), fans (3.7), or Aaron Boone (1.0 out of 10...on a 10-question true/false quiz). Bob Davidson has told us many times not to listen to the broadcasters because they just don't get it.

I'm pretty sure many of us who frequent this website would be able to provide better insight as to officiating and the rules of baseball than most of the current broadcasting crop that has zero umpiring experience. How refreshing it is to see Denkinger in the studio ready to provide an umpire's wisdom in real-time to a national television audience.
Related PostESPN Baseball Quiz: Media Scores Low, Players Run Gamut (6/18/13).

Katt wanted Cooney to go "above the rule."
After Denkinger's explanation, Jim Kaat opts to speak "over and above the rule," saying that he believes common sense should have prevailed. Which, given Kaat's introductory statement of going "over and above the rule," logically means that, in Kaat's opinion, Cooney should have treated Clemens as if he were "above the rule."

It should go without saying that an umpire is prohibited from going outside of (or "above") the rules to administer a baseball game.

We also see Clemens refusing to leave the dugout such that Jim Evans ultimately has to prod Boston to get him to leave.

Finally, if you've read to here, you deserve an inside scoop! Wednesday we'll announce our next guest on The Plate Meeting and we think you're going to love who we have in store. That means we'll be calling for your questions. So come back later this week for the big news!

Video as follows:

Sunday, December 16, 2018

ABL Ejection - Stewart Howe (Lim/Korea [HP Collision])

HP Umpire Stewart Howe ejected Geelong-Korea 2B Jong-Hyuk Lim (home plate collision/illegal contact; QOCU) in the bottom of the 3rd inning of the Auckland Tuatara-Geelong-Korea game. With one out and two on (R1, R3), baserunner R3 Lim attempted to steal home on throw from Tuatara catcher Taka Kaneko's to shortstop Taylor Snyder, Snyder catching Kaneko's throw in front of second base and returning the ball to F2 Kaneko as R3 Lim arrived at home plate. Replays indicate Kaneko tagged the runner well in advance of home plate and, in doing so, legally blocked the runner's access to home plate by virtue of Kaneko possessing the baseball prior to the runner's arrival, and that R3 Lim ran into the catcher, resulting in injury.* At the time of the ejection, Geelong-Korea was leading, 1-0. Geelong-Korea ultimately won the contest, 3-0.

*Rule 6.01(i)(1) pertains to the baserunner's responsibility during a home plate collision situation and states, "A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate), or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision." 6.01(i)(1) comment states, in part, "The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 6.01(i), or otherwise initiated a collision that could have been avoided...

"If a catcher blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall not find that the runner initiated an avoidable collision in violation of this Rule 6.01(i)(1)."

Is R3 legitimately trying to reach the plate?
Replays indicate R3 ran toward the foul territory side of the baseline and remained rather upright such that he did not lower his shoulder or push through the catcher, as in 6.01(i)(l) Comment. R3 also stepped on home plate, or by his actions, indicated an attempt to reach home plate.

Gil's Call: I don't believe the runner has deviated from his direct pathway to to the plate to initiate an avoidable collision. The runner has made an effort to touch the plate, kept his shoulder upright, and has not pushed through with his arms, hands, or elbows. The catcher legally blocks the runner's path by virtue of possessing the baseball. This is a legal collision and the runner is out for having been tagged while off his base.

To review, under OBR, this likely is not a 6.01(i)(1) violation on the runner's behalf and, even if it were, is not an automatic ejection using the code under which MLB/MiLB abides. ABL guidelines may vary, which may explain the basis for this ejection.

NFHS/NCAA Rules Differences: That said, this may be deemed malicious contact under the NFHS/high school ruleset, which does carry the penalty of ejection. Obviously, the Force Play Slide Rule (FPSR) does not apply here as this was not a force play. NCAA/college Rule 8-7 pertains to collisions and states, in part, "If the defensive player blocks the base (plate) or base line with clear possession of the ball, the runner may make contact, slide into or make contact with a fielder as long as the runner is making a legitimate attempt to reach the base (plate). Contact above the waist that was initiated by the base runner shall not be judged as an attempt to reach the base or plate." If the contact is flagrant or malicious, the runner is ejected from the game.

Wrap: Auckland Tuatara vs. Geelong-Korea (ABL DH Game 2), 12/15/18 | Video as follows: