Tuesday, December 31, 2019

ABL Ejections - Greg Howard's Happy New Year

Australian Baseball League umpire Greg Howard closed out 2019 with a pair of Canberra Cavalry ejections prior to Geelong-Korea's year-ending, come-from-behind, walk-off victory and following a profane rant from an aggravated pitcher.

HP Umpire Greg Howard ejected Cavalry pitcher Steven Kent and Manager Keith Ward (ball four call) in the top of the 9th inning of the Cavalry-GK game. With none out and none on, Geelong-Korea batter Seung-Hyun Baek took 0-1, 1-1, 2-1, and 3-1 pitches for called balls, upon which Kent was warned then ejected for arguing balls and strikes; his manager followed shortly thereafter.

At the time of the ejections, the game was tied, 3-3 (Canberra had been leading 3-1 prior to the bottom of the 8th). Geelong-Korea ultimately won the contest, 4-3.

Wrap: Canberra Cavalry vs Geelong-Korea (ABL), 12/28/19 | Video as follows:

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

ABL Bandits P Blackley Clears Benches in Brisbane

Benches cleared in the Australian Baseball League after Brisbane Bandits pitcher Travis Blackley hit Auckland Tuatara leadoff batter Jared Walker with a pitch. As for ejections, HP Umpire Mal Mackay and crew-mates Paul Latta and Tom West did not eject anyone during the incident, but word has it that the ABL suspended Blackley for as many as four games after he allegedly uttered a racial slur at a Japanese player.

Leading off the sixth inning for Auckland in a 5-2 ballgame, Walker took a 0-2 pitch in on the hands for a hit-by-pitch. Following the HBP, words and gestures were exchanged between batter Walker and pitcher Blackley, leading to a bench-clearing situation.

We first discussed INF separation in 2017.
The following video analysis breaks down the incident, and shows a flareup in the "biggest mound conference in the country" after what appears to be an interaction between Blackley and opposing player Yujo Kitagata, who played in 13 games for the Arizona League's Dodgers in July and August 2019 before his ABL debut with Auckland in November. He previously played in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League.

We refer to an old concept of ours—the Division of Infield Halves—and possible priorities for umpires who, in a crew of any size, are outnumbered by team personnel on the field, as well as a potential explanation for why no one was ejected.
Related PostDodger vs Giants Bench-Clearer and Division of Halves (5/17/17).

Conclusion: Priorities to Bear in Mind
First: Calling umpires are first onscene and should be prepared to respond to high stakes situations, such as HBP events or hard slides.
Second: Separate the teams via the division of halves principle as soon as practicable.
Third: Remain aware of high-risk players: namely, incident instigators (i.e., pitcher & batter).

Video as follows:

Saturday, December 21, 2019

MLB, Umps Union Reach Tentative Agreement

MLB and the MLB Umpires Association (MLBUA) reached a tentative labor agreement through 2024, subject to ratification, that purportedly includes a provision in which umps will help develop an automated ball/strike system (electronic K-zone).

The five-year CBA would ensure continued labor peace amongst the major league umpiring ranks since a 1999 dispute led to the resignation of 22 umpires, several of whom were eventually rehired by affiliated baseball.

MLB's announcement bore no details of the deal, other than its five-year term, which mirrors past practice with the World Umpires Association's five-year agreements (as part of a 2018 rebrand, WUA changed its name to MLBUA last season).

Relations between MLB and its umpires have been shaky in recent years, ultimately resulting in a white wristband protest in 2017, MLBUA calling for the commissioner's office to act after personal attacks on umpires in 2018, complaint bemoaning MLB's "inaction" after Manny Machado's purportedly violent post-ejection misconduct in June 2019.
Related PostWUA-MLB Relations Deteriorate with New Umpire Protest (8/19/17).
Related PostMLBUA Calls for BOC Action After Latest Umpire Abuse (9/23/18).
Related PostMLBUA Objects to MLB "Inaction" on Machado (6/18/19).

Given this extended tension, the 2019 edition of negotiations appears healthier than 2014's go-around, as at one point a lockout was rumored on the horizon as talks broke down in December between WUA and MLB.
Related PostMLB-WUA Contract Talks Stall, Lockout Possible (Source) (12/9/14).

Perhaps MLB made the umps a deal they couldn't refuse what with pensions, electronic strike zone technology, and other issues in the mix.

Listen to Gil's thoughts on news of this proposed agreement via the following video:

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Tmac - Perceptions in Panama or Perilous Precipitation

A pair of perilous plays in Panama produced parallel perceptions of procedural process as umpires correctly officiated an out/safe call at second base followed by the decision to enter a rain delay.

Neither of the calls were particularly controversial from an objective point of view—the runner was safe at second because the fielder failed to firmly and securely possess the baseball in his glove prior to the runner's arrival (upheld via replay), while the rain and field conditions all but necessitated a stoppage of play—but perceptions abounded with the umpires' handling of these two situations.

Sure the calls were correct, but could the crew have looked better making them?

In this Teachable Moment, tmac talks about situation handling and game management: the out/safe call at second was fine and the safe mechanic was fine, but how should an umpire react to a dissenting player afterward?

For example, the Official Baseball Rules' General Instructions to Umpires concludes with, "Finally, be courteous, impartial and firm, and so compel respect from all."

Calling for the tarp was proper, as well, yet could this situation have turned out differently and what of the visiting manager's post-tarp argument?

This situation handling Teachable brought to you by Umpire Placement Course (UmpCourse.com).

Video as follows:

Monday, December 16, 2019

ABL Ejection - Ryan Harder's Game Ending K

HP Umpire Ryan Harder ejected Geelong-Korea 2B Joo-Hyung Kim (strike three call) in the top of the 9th inning of the Australian Baseball League's GK-Heat game. With two outs and the bases loaded, Joo-Hyung Kim took a 2-2 pitch from Heat pitcher Josh Rawlinson for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located near the inner edge of home plate and belt-high, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the ejection, the Heat had won the game, 9-7.

To whit, there have been other ejections in the ABL this month...and this is one of them that actually has better than average video coverage, relative to the others.

Wrap: Geelong-Korea vs Perth Heat (ABL), 12/13/19 | Video as follows:

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Teachable - Whitson's Haywire Hot Corner Tag

Chad Whitson, new to the MLB full-time staff, showed his mettle during a White Sox-Angels Teachable in Anaheim. Tmac breaks down the 3B Umpire's haywire play at third base in which Whitson gets knocked down, only to get back up again and rule on the sliding runner at the hot corner.

With a runner on second and none out, Whitson anticipates a tag-up situation and potential play at third base on a fly ball to Angels center fielder Mike Trout.

As Trout's throw arrives at the glove of third baseman Matt Thaiss, Whitson moves into foul territory on the home plate side and behind third base, having read White Sox baserunner R2 James McCann's slide to the home plate side of third base, thus giving himself a keyhole angle to see this leading edge of the bag.

Even on ground, Whitson keeps his angle.
As McCann's hook slide veers past third base, the runner inadvertently trips up the umpire, who scrambles back toward the foul line as the runner overslides the base: the keyhole angle now concerns the edge of third base facing foul territory and Whitson adjusts his position to see it...to the best of his ability.

Although McCann's trip momentarily stumbles Whitson, he does his best to stay on the foul line just in time to observe the runner's diving effort into the gloved arm of the fielder, ruling the runner out on the tag in a call affirmed via Replay Review following Chicago manager Rick Renteria's challenge.

This play serves as a reminder to stay engaged with the play—even when things go sideways—and find a way to observe and confidently call the action. By calmly adhering to angle and position adjust principles, an umpire can put him or herself into the best position possible, all things considered, to see a play, even if the most optimal angle is sacrificed due to an unexpected circumstance.

This Tmac's Teachable Moment was sponsored by Umpire Placement Course (UmpCourse.com).

Video as follows:

Friday, December 6, 2019

ABL Ejection - Joshua Weschler Ejects Two Tuatara

Australian Baseball League HP Umpire Joshua Wechsler ejected Auckland SS Josh Morgan and Manager Steve Mintz (strike three call) in the bottom of the 6th inning of the Cavalry-Tuatara game. With one out and two on (R2, R3), Morgan took three consecutive pitches from Cavalry pitcher Steven Kent for called first, second, and third strikes. At the time of the ejections, the game was tied, 5-5. The Cavalry ultimately won the contest, 7-5.

Notice anything about the difference in commentary quality between the local vs American broadcasters?

Umpires were Josh Wechsler (as Joshua Weschler) (HP), Warren Van Rooyen (1B), and Travis Watson (3B).

Wrap: Canberra Cavalry vs. Auckland Tuatara, 12/5/19 | Video as follows:

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Teachable Tripp Gibson's Scramble at First Base

In today's Teachable, Tmac takes to Tripp's transit on a play at first base as 1B Umpire Gibson adjusts his position on a diving tag attempt in New York, a safe call affirmed via Replay Review.

During a Nationals-Mets game, Nats batter Juan Soto hits a slowly bouncing ground ball up the first base line, fielded by Mets first baseman Pete Alonso. With Soto hustling down the line, Alonso gloves the ball and immediately lunges toward Soto in an attempt to tag him out.

In this Teachable, we watch umpire Gibson's positioning as he jogs into position to observe the attempted play on the runner. Tripp slots into the keyhole angle to see the missed tag while still maintaining a look as to Soto's touch of first base. Having ruled the runner safe, Gibson patiently waits for the action to somewhat subside before indicating "safe" due to the missed tag.

Gibson's read of a potential tag and subsequent positioning to observe said tag attempt while still peeking at his secondary play of the base touch allows him to prepare to rule on any potential appeal play that may occur in the aftermath of the initial tag attempt. HP Umpire and Crew Chief Mark Carlson, meanwhile, observes whether the batted ball was fair or foul; this is a play wherein the home plate umpire, who ordinarily has fair/foul responsibility for batted balls in front of first/third base, clearly has the fair/foul call pursuant to the standard mechanic.

This Tmac's Teachable Moment was sponsored by Umpire Placement Course (UmpCourse.com).

Video as follows:

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

By Rule - Legal Analysis of Angel's Amended Complaint

Update: MLB umpire Angel Hernandez's team filed an amended complaint in his racially-motivated discrimination lawsuit against Major League Baseball based on new evidence that the umpiring/crew chief promotion selection process is subjective and, thus, as Hernandez argues, open to discriminatory practice that has a disparate impact on minorities.

Gil's Call:  This is based on the premise—also in use by sports officials—that objectivity & following the rules as written are more ethical and reliable activities than discretion, subjectivity, and "winging it." That's why many an explanation from an umpire or referee to a coach or player begins with "by rule." When something is objective, it carries more weight—realistically and legally too—than when subjectivity is involved and goalposts may be moved without warning.

With Hernandez's prima facie case made (protected class, adverse employment decision, non-protected favored despite stats to contrary), MLB has the burden to respond to why Hernandez hasn't been promoted/assigned.

As Hernandez's team stated when it first filed this suit in 2017, objective reports and performance metrics indicated that Hernandez was an above-average umpire comparable or better than other, "less qualified" white umpires who received promotion/assignments to crew chief and World Series.
Related PostAngel Hernandez Sues MLB for Racial Discrimination (7/3/17).

By admitting in the following depositions that its process is subjective—and that Hernandez performed well during the relevant period—MLB's difficulty now lies in defending its decisions not to promote Hernandez to crew chief or assign him to the World Series despite favorable evaluations while awarding positions to non-protected class (white) umpires who may not have been more than or equally qualified for the job or, as Hernandez originally alleged, were "less qualified."

Monday, December 2, 2019

2019 UEFL Rules Summit Results & Runoff

The first round of voting for the 2019 UEFL Rules Summit is now complete, with all but one proposal final. The sole question for runoff consideration is whether to eliminate the Margin-of-Error for preliminary, but not post-game processed pitch location data.

Run-Off Ballot:
Prop 6-2-a: Qualified Elimination of Margin of Error
Proposes elimination of all references to Margin of Error for pitch location data if numbers have been adjusted pursuant to postgame processing. Margin of Error rules would remain in place for all numbers not adjusted via postgame processing. PRESENT RULE: Margin of error exists in multiple locations (Kulpa Rule, Miller Rule) to acknowledge various errata that exist with pitch-tracking system, including those errors indicated by the manufacturer and acknowledged by Major League Baseball including but not limited to calibration, vertical zone, 2D vs 3D zone, tracking, modeling, and capture errors. Postgame processing addresses vertical zone error by adjusting sz_bot and sz_top where appropriate. For more information about postgame processing, refer to: Postgame Processing Changes Gibson's Strike EJ QOC (9/21/19).

Prop 6-2-a: Should the proposed qualified elimination of Margin of Error be adopted?

Yes, eliminate post-game processing MOE
No, maintain present rule (MOE used to create borderline ranges)

Items that passed and Appeals Board retentions are indicated in green highlight below while items that did not pass are indicated in red highlight. Proposals that gained a majority of votes will become rules for the 2020 Umpire Ejection Fantasy League Season.

Rule 1 - Selection of Umpires
Prop 1-4: Live Secondary Draft - 83.6% YES.
> Eliminates obsolete language from UEFL Rules.

Rule 3 - Crew Division
Prop 3-6: Bonus Points for Postseason Chiefs - 58.6% YES.
> Incorporates postseason crew chief bonus points for Crew Division (+1/2/3/4).

Rule 4 - League Scoring
Prop 4-2 A: Ejection by Non-Calling Umpire - 49.3% YES.
> Would have eliminated QOC for all ejections on behalf of a crew-mate.

Prop 4-2 B: Replay-Oriented Ejection QOC Points - 42.9% YES.
> Would have applied ejection points based on Replay's Confirmed/Stands as opposed to QOC Y/N.

Prop 4-7: Replay-Oriented Replay QOC Points - 39.1% YES.
> Would have established a +2 (Confirmed) and +1 (Stands) system for Replay Review points.

Prop 4-3: Postseason Incorrect Crewmate Ejections - 47.7% YES.
> Would have changed postseason QOCN/crewmate ejection points to -3 instead of -2.

Prop 4-4: Defining Start and End of Season - 22.7% YES.
> Would have added a rule declaring when an individual umpire's season begins and ends.

Prop 4-4 AR: Fill-Ins Eligibility for Ejection of Year Award - 82.6% YES.
> Adds language to rule allowing any umpire with an ejection to receive this award.

Rule 6 - Challenges and Appeals

Prop 6-2-a: Elimination of Margin of Error - 21.4% YES.
> Would have eliminated all references to MOE. See Run-Off, Above.

Prop 6-2-b: Ball/Strike QOC Delay - 41.8% YES.
> Would have delayed ball/strike QOC until adjustment or 24 hours after game.

Appeals Board Retention
Arik G - 64.5% YES (Retained)
cyclone14 - 59.7% YES (Retained)
jvick2017 - 54.8% YES (Retained)
MarkCanada - 71.4% YES (Retained)
MLBUmpireObserver - 79.7% YES (Retained)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Call for Questions - Mike Reilly Podcast

Close Call Sports is pleased to announce Mike Reilly as our next guest on The Plate Meeting podcast. An umpire in the AL and MLB for 34 years (1977-2010), Reilly officiated 4,491 regular season games, six DivisionSeries, nine League Championship Series, and four World Series.

His 64 career ejections span from Earl Weaver and Jack McKeon to Jay Payton and Joe Torre.

The Sioux City, Iowa-born Reilly moved to Battle Creek, Michigan (the cereal capital of the world), which inspired his nickname of "Cornflakes."

In October, Reilly joined CCS to celebrate the life of Eric Cooper and was recently the subject of a game-management oriented Teachable.
Related PostPodcast - Mike Reilly Recalls Crew Mate Eric Cooper (10/24/19).
Related PostTeachable - Reilly Handles a Bean Ball Situation (11/26/19).

Comment with what you'd like to ask Mike during his upcoming Plate Meeting appearance.

The Plate Meeting, a Left Field Umpire Podcast, Close Call Sports/UEFL's official audio show, features interviews and discussions of officiating topics with umpires.

To subscribe to The Plate Meeting, visit the show's Anchor.fm page, or Apple Podcasts page, which offers external links to popular podcast providers, such as iTunes, Spotify, Radio Public, and Google Podcasts.

Follow us on Twitter 🐦 (@UmpireEjections) and like on Facebook 👍 (/UmpireEjections).

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Teachable - Reilly Handles a Bean Ball Situation

A pair of pitchers trading hit-by-pitches is our pre-Thanksgiving Tmac's Teachable Moment as HP Umpire Mike Reilly issues warnings to both teams while Cubs Manager Dusty Baker and Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa yell across the field at each other.

Situation handling sometimes requires a heavy hand while other scenarios call for a light touch and Reilly delves into the toolbox to use distance, guiding Baker back to Chicago's dugout when discussing warnings starts to turn into blanket insults toward the opposing squad.

On September 3, 2003, the 73-67 Cardinals faced the 72-67 Cubs at Wrigley Field with crew chief Reilly behind home plate, 1B Umpire Bill Hohn, 2B Umpire Eric Cooper, and 3B Umpire Tim Timmons.

In the top of the 2nd inning, Cubs pitcher Matt Clement hit Cardinals batter (and St. Louis' starting pitcher) Dan Haren with a pitch. During Clement's very next plate appearance to lead off the bottom of the 3rd, Haren returned the favor and hit Clement with a pitch, resulting in warnings from Reilly.

Reilly warns both teams after the second HBP.
Official Baseball Rule 6.02(c)(9) lists two options for addressing a case of a pitcher intentionally throwing at a batter: "Expel the pitcher, or the manager and the pitcher, from the game, or...warn the pitcher and the manager of both teams that another such pitch will result in the immediate expulsion of that pitcher (or a replacement) and the manager."

Note that ignoring the infraction is not one of those two options. Given the location of the Haren-Clement HBP, Reilly surmised that a warning was more useful to manage the game and handle the situation than an ejection, and thus warned both teams.

Cooper officiates the backend tag play.
Not entirely out of the woods yet, with the hit Clement now on first base, 2B Umpire Cooper knew that Kenny Lofton's subsequent ground ball to first base would set up a potential play at second base, and knew that the offended party (Clement) may try to target St. Louis' middle infielder.

Coop set up for the play at second and although Clement did slide into the shortstop more-so than into the base, Cooper was in the midst of the action and ready to handle any further situation that might have arisen had shortstop Edgar Renteria sought to press the issue (he did not and the game proceeded without incident).

This Tmac's Teachable Moment was sponsored by Umpire Placement Course (UmpCourse.com).

Video as follows:

Sunday, November 24, 2019

2019 UEFL Rules Summit Ballot and Voting

The process of changing rules for the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League continues with the 2019 Rules Summit ballot. UEFL Rule 8-3 describes this voting process.

More detailed descriptions of the propositions on the ballot are available in the UEFL Rules Summit Discussion.

This year's ballot will close Wednesday, November 27, at 11:59 pm Pacific Time.

The 2019 Rules Summit includes 10 rules proposals and five Appeals Board retention polls. The ballot is available as follows:

Friday, November 22, 2019

Podcast - AL Umpire Drew Coble

Longtime American League umpire Drew Coble joins The Plate Meeting Podcast in an interview featuring stories ranging from an organist playing Three Blind Mice, Billy Martin interactions, ejecting Cal Ripken (both Sr and Jr), correcting Lou Piniella on a grammatically incorrect balls/strikes argument (Coble was an English major at Elon College), the famous Kent Hrbek/Ron Gant play during the 1991 World Series, and other notable events from Drew's time in baseball.

Coble's MLB career spanned 18 years, 2303 AL games, two Division Series, 3 ALCS, and the '91 World Series. Coble ejected 71 players, coaches, and managers during his big league career

Click the below play (▶) button to listen to "Episode 22 - AL Umpire Drew Coble" or visit the show online at https://anchor.fm/the-plate-meeting. You can also access The Plate Meeting on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Google, Castbox, Spotify, TuneIn, and other podcast services.

Alternate Link: Episode 22 - AL Umpire Drew Coble

Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:
The Plate Meeting is brought to you by OSIP, where Outstanding Sportsmanship Is Paramount.

And by Umpire Placement Course. Continue your career at UMPCourse.com.

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Related Video #1: Pine Tar Incident with George Brett & Tim McClelland (14:00)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Umpire Walks off Field After Fan Abuse at Youth Game

An umpire officiating a youth baseball game in Newport Beach, California walked off the field following abuse from parents, having warned that he would forfeit the game if the unsportsmanlike conduct continued. It did, and he followed through by leaving the Newport Harbor field.

The 13u or 14u game, reportedly, between the Nomar Garciaparra-infused GPG (Garciaparra Baseball Group) and a team called Riptide, took place on the campus of Newport Harbor High School over the weekend, and is just the latest example of poor sportsmanship at sporting events.

The event captured on video likely had been brewing far ahead of the recording, given that the coaches were on the field when the umpire called the game and the umpire's first comments on the video were an issuance of an ultimatum: "Enough. I'm not hearing another word out of anyone."

The problem started prior to the video.
The parents protested the umpire's warning ("then be fair!"), to which the umpire clarified the solemnity of the situation: "Did you hear me? If you want to have a game here, quiet down."

Though a parent quipped, "stay professional for the kids and do your job, that's it," what caused the umpire to terminate the game was one final taunt: "Are you mad 'cause the kids are taller than you?"

True to his word, the umpire stopped the game and walks off the field.

Gil's Call: At the MLB, NCAA level or equivalent, this probably doesn't turn into a forfeited game simply because the working conditions for umpires are superior to that of youth travel ball.

Here, the two youth teams playing on a Sunday are using a rented-out high school facility with likely little-to-no game management in attendance. Whereas Bob Davidson in 2016 could call for Phillies security to remove an abuse fan in Philadelphia, there is no such recourse here. The youth umpire is in a precarious position in a crew of one, with no administrative support, and little-to-no incentive to continue the game.
Related PostUnofficial Ejection - Bob Davidson Requests Fan Removal (11/21/19).

Codes of Conduct prohibit poor behavior.
Sportsmanship is a problem in modern sports, despite code of conducts imploring parents and others to maintain such decorum. For instance, the Little League Baseball Sport Parent Code of Conduct lists, amongst others, "I (and my guests) will not engage in any kind of unsportsmanlike conduct with any official, coach, player, or parent such as booing and taunting; refusing to shake hands; or using profane language or gestures."

Earlier this year, 13-year-old umpire Josh Cordova game between seven-year-old teams in Lakewood, Colorado ended due to a massive stands-clearing brawl amongst parents, garnering national attention and a big league experience with Chris Guccione's crew during a Rockies game.
Related PostWorkplace Violence - Parents Brawl at Youth Game (6/20/19).
Related PostUmpires Host Cordova in Colorado (7/1/19).

If you have experienced issues of poor sportsmanship, bullying, abuse, anxiety, or depression in connection with officiating, visit our sponsor, The OSIP Foundation, where Outstanding Sportsmanship is Paramount.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Teachable - Preparing for a Potential Plate Play

This Tmac's Teachable Moment highlights HP Umpire Alfonso Marquez officiating a play at the plate during a pickoff sequence with runners at first and third base. Fonzie's movements highlight the importance of preparing for a potential play at the next base, even if the throw starts somewhere else.

During this play from a Cardinals vs Diamondbacks game, runners are at the corners with one out in the top of the 4th inning. A pickoff throw on the runner at first base falls to the ground as the runner from third base breaks for home. D-Backs first baseman Kevin Cron retrieves the ball and throws home, with Cards baserunner R3 Randy Arozarena sliding headfirst as Arizona catcher Caleb Joseph attempts to apply a tag.

While 1B Umpire Dan Bellino prepares to rule on the pickoff play (which never truly materializes as the ball is dropped), HP Umpire Marquez moves into position by scrambling to his right and away from the point-of-plate, attaining a keyhole angle to see the potential tag on the runner.

Every umpire on the field has a potential play.
In this play, there are two runners and accordingly two immediate potential plays based on the pickoff throw to first base, which involve all four umpires. They are:
R1 into first base (1B Umpire).
R1 into second base (2B Umpire).
R1 in rundown (1st & 2nd base umpires).
R3 into third base (3B Umpire).
R3 into home plate (HP Umpire).
R3 in rundown (3rd and home plate umpires).

As Marquez demonstrates here, anytime the ball is in play, any umpire on the field should be prepared to receive some sort of a play. Here, Marquez simply takes R3 into home plate, but even 3B Umpire Larry Vanover or 2B Umpire David Rackley had potential plays at their bases—or in the areas in front of their bases. The lesson is be prepared so that when the time comes, there's no surprise and desperate attempt to get into position.

This Tmac's Teachable Moment was sponsored by Umpire Placement Course (UmpCourse.com).

Video as follows:

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

By Rule - Analysis of Joe West v Paul Lo Duca

With MLB umpire Joe West suing former catcher Paul Lo Duca for defamation following purportedly false comments made during a podcast on The Action Network, we asked sports lawyer and former MiLB ump Brandon Leopoldus for his expert analysis in By Rule, our legal discussion segment.

In October, West filed suit against LoDuca and The Action Network alleging that the defendants defamed West's character through spreading of false allegations after Lo Duca, in May, said on the air that West purportedly gave Mets pitcher Billy Wagner favorable ball/strike calls in exchange for Wagner giving West the use of his classic car.

MLB's stringent rules prohibiting bribery and the umpiring profession's reputation of neutrality and integrity would reasonably suggest that such an imagined quid pro quo bribe runs afoul of baseball's policies, and, according to West's complaint, have caused West to suffer harm, including but not limited to his professional relationships and impugnment of his integrity, honesty, and professional fitness.
Related PostJoe West Sues Paul LoDuca Over Bribery Claim (10/22/19).

In May, we fact checked Lo Duca's podcast claims and found they were largely false; similar fact-checking is included by West's legal team in his complaint filed in New York court.
Related PostPants on Fire - Paul Lo Duca's Joe West Accusation (5/10/19).

West is represented in his lawsuit by Nicholas J. Zaita of Lewis Dibiasi Zaita & Higgens and Kevin L. Murphy of Murphy Landen Jones, PLLC, both of whom are also representing Angel Hernandez in his discrimination suit against Major League Baseball.

Video as follows:

Monday, November 18, 2019

Abuse of Technology - Umpire's Role in Sign Stealing

In the wake of allegations that the Houston Astros used technology to steal signs in 2017, we looked at the umpire's role in enforcing electronic device rules...if such rules exist in the first place.

It turns out that OBR doesn't address the issue, NCAA has an explicit rule prohibiting electronic devices being used in this manner, and the NFHS book's only reference to video states that an umpire cannot use video to review a call.

In short, sign stealing is 100% legal at all levels. Although the rules book does contain various prohibitions on movements or other actions that are not baseball-related (e.g., OBR 6.01(a)(9)'s interference if "with a runner on third base, the base coach leaves his box and acts in any manner to draw a throw by a fielder" or 6.04(b)'s Unsportsmanlike Conduct "Call 'Time' or employ any other word or phrase or commit any act while the ball is alive and in play for the obvious purpose of trying to make the pitcher commit a balk" and 6.04(c)'s "No fielder shall take a position in the batter’s line of vision, and with deliberate unsportsmanlike intent, act in a manner to distract the batter"), these apply to a member of Team A doing something to distract a member of Team B: Teammates can communicate visually or otherwise, as long as they're not using language to refer or reflect upon opposing players.

Banging on a trash can or pointing that a pitch may be a fastball located inside doesn't fit the bill.

College specifically outlines the electric rule.
NCAA is the only level that explicitly prohibits communication between video personnel and the dugout, as in Rule 5-2-f: "Video and communication equipment used to transmit information between coaches, coaches and players, scouts or other team personnel shall not be allowed for intercollegiate competition. Video for scouting, training or teaching purposes may be recorded from any unmanned camera location. No video from manned or unmanned sources may be transmitted for scouting, training or coaching purposes during the contest."

Robot catchers could benefit from encryption.
In college, the penalty is a warning followed by removal and/or post-participation ejection.

Although the Minor League Baseball Umpire Manual states, "The use of electronic equipment during a game is restricted...such equipment may not be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a club an advantage" (the MLBUM has no such text), there are no explicit penalties for violating this policy.

So, what's an umpire to do? Unless that umpire is working under the NCAA code...largely, nothing. As the MiLB/PBUC manual goes on to say regarding video or audio guidelines, "Umpires are to inform the league office of details concerning any violation."

Video as follows:

2019 Rules Summit Discussion

The Umpire Ejection Fantasy League announces its 2019 UEFL Rules Summit, our annual forum for discussion of controversial issues which may have surfaced during the past season, setting forth a framework for rectifying these issues by amending the existing UEFL Rules Book ahead of the 2020 UEFL season.
Related Link: UEFL Rules Book (UEFL Portal).

This discussion thread is an open colloquium for proposal, discussion and debate of potential rules changes. This thread will remain open through Friday, November 22 and voting will begin Saturday, November 23—voting will not occur prior to that date. This will provide ample time for proposal and subsequent discussion of possible rules changes for next year's UEFL. If necessitated by certain below decisions, a Summit runoff ballot may be presented after the initial voting closes.

You may propose a rules change by replying in a comment to this post and the following list, accordingly, will be routinely updated to reflect such proposals. Nonmaterial proposed modifications and cascading editorial changes are underlined, deletions are printed in strikethrough and material additions are bold faced. Comments/rationale not part of the actual book are indicated by italics. Individual propositions are preceded by the ">>" bullet point symbol.

Rule 1 (Selection of Umpires).
>> 1-4-b: Eliminates entire "Live Secondary Draft" rule.
Rationale: The UEFL operates its Draft over an extended time period such that this rule no longer is applicable (Submitted by: UEFL Guest).

Rule 2 (The Season).

Rule 3 (Crew Division).
>> 3-6: An umpire shall receive the following bonus points applicable to Crew Division for postseason assignments, in addition to any other points applications in this code: +1 for Wild Card Game Crew Chief, +2 for Division Series Crew Chief, +3 for League Championship Series Crew Chief, +4 for World Series Crew Chief.
Rationale: they are being chosen to be a crew chief so it makes sense that the receive points in the crew chief division (Znyhusmoen).

Rule 4 (League Scoring).
>> 4-2-b: +1 points for an ejection occurring as a result of a player/coach arguing a correctly ruled call by a crewmate / -2 points for an ejection occuring as a result of a player/coach arguing an incorrect ruled call by a crewmate.
Rationale: I believe that an ejection by a non-calling umpire should not be assigned a point value in the standings. The reason for this is that in the vast majority of cases, the ejecting umpire is not responsible in any way for either a correct/incorrect call by another umpire, and for them to be penalized (or rewarded) for an incorrect call someone else made is unfair, in my opinion (JakeUmp).

>> 4-2-b-1: 2 points for an ejection occurring as a result of a player/coach arguing a correctly ruled call by the ejector correct call that would be confirmed by replay.
4-2-b-2: 1 point for an ejection occurring as a result of a player/coach arguing a call that would stand or is inconclusive by the ejecting umpire or for a correct call by a crewmate.
4-2-b-5: 0 points for an ejection occurring as a result of a player/coach arguing a crewmate's call that is inconclusive or would stand after replay.
Rationale: An Ejection call that is 100% correct should be rewarded with a higher point reward than a call that some may logically view as incorrect (Lstaben).
>> 4-7-a-1: A call confirmed will result in the addition of two (2) points.
4-7-a: A call that stands will result in the addition of one (1) point.
Rationale: A Replay Review call that is 100% correct should be rewarded with a higher point reward than a call that some may logically view as incorrect (Lstaben).

>> 4-3-b-4: During the Post-season, ejections as a result of an incorrect call by a crewmate will result in the application of minus two (-2) minus three (-3) points.
Rationale: During the regular season, QOCN by another ump reduces the points from that ejection down to zero for a primary ump. This is just making it the same in the postseason [since postseason base points are +3 instead of +2]. It's a minor change, but I feel like it would be more symmetric, especially because [calling] QOCN drops to -6 for the postseason (Kieros).

>> 4-4: any of several characteristics throughout the season. An individual umpire's season begins with that umpire's first on-field appearance during the preseason and concludes with that individual umpire's final on-field appearance during the regular or postseason. 
Rationale: This makes it clear when off field actions may be used as a basis for awards for a specific season. These awards should be judge based solely on an umpire's performance and actions during their season, not the MLB season (Garrett Webster).

>> 4-4-AR: Fill-In umpires that work a minimum of 115 games over the course of the season shall be eligible to receive awards a-e, and h. All umpires with an ejection shall be eligible to receive the Best Ejection of the Year award.
Rationale: Formally establishes that all umpires, including call-ups, are eligible for Ejection of the Year (Michael).

Rule 5 (Statistics).

Rule 6 (Challenges and Appeals).
>> 6-2-a and -b: Eliminates all references to Margin of Error.
Rationale: By using a MOE, you're unfairly giving more credit to the calling umpire, leading to a larger percentage of "correct" calls as it relates to ball/strike ejections. If MLB is using a system that allows the adjustment of pitch locations after the game is complete, then no MOE should be used to determine the accuracy of the pitch location - the "adjusted" location (probably better defined as "final location" or "reviewed location", as there's a chance it's not moved after review) should be considered the most-accurate rendering of a pitch's location (yawetag).

>> 6-2-b: QOC for Ball/Strikes shall be determined at the earlier of the following:
1) Adjusted numbers are released, or;
2) 24 hours after the end of the game.
Rationale: The delay allows time for more-accurate numbers to be posted. This delay will prevent adjustment of points earned and less confusion to members who may not see updates to the original posts (yawetag).

Rule 7 (Unresolved Classifications and References).

Rule 8 (Umpire Odds & Ends and Community Issues).

Rule 9 (Unaddressed and Authorized Provisions).

The final portion of the Rules Summit ballot will feature 2019 UEFL Appeals Board members seeking re-election for 2020, as afforded by the process delineated by UEFL Rule 6-4-a-4. Click here to view the Board's 28 decisions in 2019.

Following the 2019 Rules Summit's discussion phase, voting will occur. No voting shall take place prior to 11/23, until the discussion phase has ended and all proposals become part of the finalized ballot.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Teachable - Triple Touch & Tag Tasks

Tmac takes us to Baltimore in this Teachable Moment as Orioles batter Rio Ruiz's triple down the right field line led to touch & tag responsibilities for 1B Umpire Jeremie Rehak, U2 Alfonso Marquez, and U3 Dan Bellino, whose safe call was challenged and upheld via Replay Review.

On Ruiz's line drive down the line, 1B Umpire Rehak signaled the ball fair and, while maintaining awareness of the bounding ball's location, pivoted back toward the infield to observe batter-runner Ruiz's base touch at first base.

Meanwhile, 2B Umpire Marquez prepared to take Ruiz through second base, setting up on the outside of the base to observe the base touch and stay out of the runner's way. Because runners generally cut the inside corner while rounding the bases, Rehak and Marquez knew that the most likely part of the base to observe would be that closest to the pitcher's mound.

Runners don't always touch their bases.
Standing on the outside of the base is a great place from which to observe this specific touch while staying out of the players' (runner/fielder) way. Yet unless the defense appeals the base touch, an umpire's work in observing the runner's legality will largely go unnoticed.

3B Umpire Bellino takes the sliding play at third base by setting up in a keyhole angle in line with the runner's path toward the base. By positioning himself in this manner, Bellino spots the daylight (or, nightlight) between the runner's body and fielder's glove, thus enabling him to spy a potential swipe tag or miss.

In this case, the swipe tag is missed, Bellino's safe call is upheld as communicated by Crew Chief Larry Vanover, and all four umpires on the field complete their responsibilities without fanfare: Rehak's fair/foul and base touch, Marquez's base touch, Bellino's tag play, and Vanover's ability to don and remove a Replay Review headset.

This Tmac's Teachable Moment was sponsored by Umpire Placement Course (UmpCourse.com).

Video as follows:

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Podcast - Little League World Series with RichMSN

In 2019, Alan Porter became the second MLB umpire to officiate both the Little League and Major League World Series in a two-month span. We've heard from past guests about the big league fall classic, but now we hear from a bona fide LLWS umpire. Rich Fronheiser (RichMSN) joins the show to discuss the Little League umpiring experience.

Rich walks us through the process for applying for the Little League World Series, beginning with local tournaments and a favorable performance at the regional in years preceding the LLWS, and takes us onto the fields at Williamsport—Volunteer and Lamade Stadiums.

We go through the Williamsport experience, beginning well before the World Series itself and including some training with Gerry Davis (the first MLB umpire to work both the Little League and MLB World Series in the same season), and a minor difference between the Little League and Major League Baseball Replay Review processes.

Click the below play (▶) button to listen to "Episode 21 - Little League World Series with Rich Fronheiser" or visit the show online at https://anchor.fm/the-plate-meeting. You can also access The Plate Meeting on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Google, Castbox, Spotify, TuneIn, and other podcast services.

Alternate Link: Episode 21 - Little League World Series with Rich Fronheiser

Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:
The Plate Meeting is brought to you by OSIP, where Outstanding Sportsmanship Is Paramount.

And by Umpire Placement Course. Continue your career at UMPCourse.com.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

2019 UEFL Final Standings and the Perfect Crew

Awards Season concludes with the 2019 Umpire Ejection Fantasy League's final standings and perfect crew. This year's perfect score was 136 and the lowest score possible was -23, a points spread of 159 (compare to 2018's Perfect Score of 117 and lowest score of -39).
Related Post2018 UEFL Final Standings and the Perfect Crew (11/12/18).

2019 UEFL Perfect Crew (Highest Score): 136 points.
Crew Chief: Sam Holbrook (26 pts).
Primary Umpires: Mike Estabrook (41 pts) & Jeff Nelson (24 pts).
Secondary Umpires: Alan Porter (24 pts) & Bill Miller (21 pts).

PRM Points Leaders:
1) Mike Estabrook (41).
2) Alan Porter (28).
3) Bill Miller, Jeff Nelson, Larry Vanover (24).
6) Carlos Torres (22).
7) Kerwin Danley, Sam Holbrook, Mike Muchlinski (20).
10) Gary Cederstrom, Doug Eddings (19).

2019 UEFL Imperfect Crew (Lowest Score): -23 points.
Crew Chief: Joe West (-5 pts).
Primary Umpires: Ryan Additon (-8 pts) & Gerry Davis (-2 pts).
Secondary Umpires: Gabe Morales (-4 pts) & Dan Iassogna (-4 pts).

Final Standings for the 2019 UEFL Season.
Replay Review Ranking by Umpire (RAP)
T-1) Laz Diaz (.800, 12-for-15).
T-1) Mike Muchlinski (.800, 12-for-15).
3) Bill Miller (.800, 8-for-10).
4) Kerwin Danley (.786, 11-for-14).
5) Greg Gibson (.769, 10-for-13).
6) Manny Gonzalez (.750, 6-for-8).
T-7) Gary Cederstrom (.714, 10-for-14).
T-7) Quinn Wolcott (.714, 10-for-14).
9) Roberto Ortiz (.706, 12-for-17).
T-10) Jeff Nelson (.700, 7-for-10).
T-10) DJ Reyburn (.700, 7-for-10).
12) Marvin Hudson (.692, 9-for-13).
13) Sam Holbrook (.688, 11-for-16).
14) Adam Hamari (.682, 15-for-22).
15) Chad Fairchild (.643, 9-for-14).
T-16) Chris Segal (.636, 14-for-22).
T-16) Hunter Wendelstedt (.636, 14-for-22).
T-18) Lance Barksdale (.636, 7-for-11).
T-18) Alan Porter (.636, 7-for-11).
T-18) John Tumpane (.636, 7-for-11).
T-18) Chad Whitson (.636, 7-for-11).
22) David Rackley (.632, 12-for-19).
T-23) Ted Barrett (.625, 10-for-16).
T-23) Tom Hallion (.625, 10-for-16).
T-25) Ben May (.625, 5-for-8).
T-25) Brennan Miller (.625, 5-for-8).
Full Results: UEFL's MLB Umpire Replay Review Statistics & Sabermetrics

Most Raw Overturns (Greatest # of Overturned Calls)
1) 14: Dan Iassogna.
2) 13: Ron Kulpa.
3) 12: Bill Welke.
4) 11: Dan Bellino, Vic Carapazza, Rob Drake, Alfonso Marquez.
8) 10: Ryan Blakney, Chris Conroy, Mike Everitt, Andy Fletcher, Ed Hickox, Stu Scheurwater, Jansen Visconti, Mark Wegner.

2019 Ejection Leaders
1) Mike Estabrook (13).
2) Larry Vanover (9).
3) Jeremie Rehak, Joe West (7).
5) Alfonso Marquez (6).

2019 UEFL Final Standings (Ties resolved per Rule 5-3)
1) RC2004 (87 pts).
2) trevortinyrichards (78 pts).
3) ralphus95 (68 pts).
4) Umppat (66 pts, 18 PRM-A [Gonzalez]).
5) JROD (66 pts, 14 PRM-A [West]).
6) Twnorton93 (66 pts, 11 PRM-A [Hamari]).
7) UmpBarrett (60 pts).
8) ADUB (59 pts).
9) Bob Abouy (58 pts).
10) ohmlb (57 pts).
11) Chewy6294 (56 pts, 13 PRM-A [Bellino], 41 PRM-B [Estabrook]).
12) BradleyEjAgain (56 pts, 13 PRM-A [Bellino], 14 PRM-B [West]).
13) ref44 (55 pts, 14 PRM-A [West], 24 PRM-B [Nelson]).
14) cyclone14 (55 pts, 14 PRM-A [West], 3 PRM-B [Tumpane]).
15) Fearsome Four (54 pts, 24 PRM-A [Bi Miller]).

Complete Final Standings, points, and results available via the UEFL Portal's 2019 Standings page.
Umpire Leaders available at UEFL's MLB Umpire Replay Review Statistics and Sabermetrics page.

The Rules Summit will begin tomorrow.

Monday, November 11, 2019

2019 UEFL Award for Umpire of the Year - Jim Wolf

Jim Wolf is the UEFL's (Best) Umpire of the Year for 2019 [2018: Ted Barrett].
Voting (Top 5): Wolf (18.3%), Eric Cooper (17.7%), Sam Holbrook (12.8%), Barrett (8.5%), Al Porter (5.5%).

Jim Wolf wins the UEFL Umpire of the Year Award for 2019. Having officiated his first Major League game in 1999, Wolf celebrates two decades in the big leagues, and six consecutive postseasons (2014-19). Wolf's second career World Series in 2019 capped a year that reportedly saw him ranked first amongst all MLB umpires behind home plate.

He finished the season with zero ejections (his second consecutive season with no ejections) and one no-hitter (Houston's combined no-hitter against Seattle on August 6). Wrote Turducken, succinctly, "You get a game 7 WS, you're the best."

UEFL Awards History, Jim Wolf
Noteworthy Umpire of the Year: 2011

Jim Wolf now has 12 points in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (7 Previous + 5 Award = 12).
Final Standings will be released this week.

Friday, November 8, 2019

2019 UEFL Award for Ejections of Year - Cuzzi & Miller

Phil Cuzzi and Brennan Miller had 2019's Best Ejections of the Year [2018: Joe West & Nic Lentz].
The two umpires' ejected a month apart, but as New York Yankees Manager Aaron Boone and OF Brett Gardner appeared to target minor league call-up plate umpires, the two ejections were every bit related.

Each of New York's seven post-All Star Break ejections in 2019 occurred with a Triple-A call-up behind the dish, pertained to ball/strike calls, and Brett Gardner's three most recent ejections were courtesy of Triple-A call-up umpire Jeremie Rehak (9/9/18), Triple-A call-up umpire Chris Segal (8/9/19), and full-timer Cuzzi (8/17/19).

Voting Results (Top 3): 162 Cuzzi (28.8%), 123 Miller (22.7%), P1 Sam Holbrook (21.2%).

Because MLB Ejections 162 Cuzzi (Brett Gardner) and 123 Miller (Aaron Boone) go rather hand-in-hand, perhaps it is best to discuss them chronologically, even though Cuzzi's ejection garnered more votes.

Call-up umpire Brennan Miller ejects Boone.
On July 18, 2019, Brennan Miller ejected Yankees Manager Aaron Boone following a balls/strikes disagreement that extended through multiple batters.

It all started with a strike three call to batter Brett Gardner, who returned to the dugout and indicated his disproval by yelling and slamming the dugout's bat rack and ceiling with his bat. While Gardner was busy studying the finer points of carpentry, Boone chirped umpire Miller, which continued through a strike one call to subsequent batter DJ LeMahieu.
Related PostMLB Ejection 123 - Brennan Miller (1; Aaron Boone) (7/18/19).

Call-up umpire Chris Segal ejects Gardner.
After an ensuing foul ball, Miller ejected Boone for his continued complaining, resulting in the infamous "savages" in the batter's box meltdown. Miller weathered the storm without crew chief Gerry Davis' assistance until Boone had walked away.

The Gardner-Boone sideshow became a story in 2019, and even necessitated a visit from MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre, who publicly backed a different Triple-A call-up umpire's ejection of Gardner after he again banged his bat on the dugout ceiling (Ejection 157 - Chris Segal).

It soon became quite apparent that Boone and Gardner were specifically effecting their respective unsportsmanlike behaviors when a minor league umpire was officiating behind home plate, and the New York tandem's act was making its rounds throughout baseball with a quick pitstop in Toronto.
Related PostJoe Torre Backs Ump Segal in Gardner Ejection (8/13/19).
Related PostWhat We Learned from Segal, Gardner, and Torre (8/14/19).

Triple-A Call-Up Umpires Have No Rights: The MiLB fill-in umpires knew that at the call-up stage of their career, they could ill afford the spectacle of simply standing up for themselves and would need help from an umpire with more clout in order to go beyond a 'standard' ejection.

Full-timer Cuzzi ejects Gardner & Sabathia.
Enter 1B Umpire Phil Cuzzi, who on August 17, witnessed HP Umpire Ben May's ejection of Boone after a strike call to Cameron Maybin. When Gardner started up his bat-banging routine again—again, with a minor leaguer calling balls and strikes—Cuzzi shut it down immediately by ejecting Gardner.

When CC Sabathia—a player on the injured list—argued, Cuzzi tossed him out, too. Leaving zero room for misunderstanding, Cuzzi gestured very clearly that Gardner had been ejected for taking his bat to the dugout canopy, and in doing so, thus protected his crew mate and call-up umpire May.
Related PostMLB Ejections 161-163 - May, Cuzzi (NYY) (8/17/19).

Perhaps an honorable mention in this year's ejection award, given the Yankees' multi-month tantrum, goes to Joe West, who on September 21, ejected Aaron Boone in the very first inning in the Bronx after strike calls and an ejection from HP Umpire Jeremie Rehak—another call-up—who had ejected Hitting Coach Marcus Thames.
Related PostMLB Ejections 213-14 - Jeremie Rehak, Joe West (NYY) (9/21/19).

Angel Campos never did make the MLB staff.
In conclusion, this is the rare Ejections of the Year Award that, although awarded to separate umpires in separate games, very much relates to the same storyline.

Miller wins it for taking care of business and taking the heat while only pausing to inform Boone that his bill had made contact with Miller's cap, and Cuzzi wins it for standing up for a youngster who was somewhat handcuffed in his ability to situation-handle by ejecting more than one person, lest the League mark him down on the situation handling category and sour on him a la Angel Campos.

Phil Cuzzi now has 18 points in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (17 Previous + 1 Award = 18).
Brennan Miller now has 1 point in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (0 Previous + 1 Award = 1).
The final postseason award, (Best) Umpire of the Year, will be released Monday.

Video as follows: