Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Angel's Batter Interference Out & AJ Explanation

HP Umpire Angel Hernandez called Astros batter Carlos Correa out for interference with Twins catcher Mitch Garver, drawing Houston Manager AJ Hinch out of the dugout to seek an explanation from Crew Chief Dana DeMuth, who explained why an illegal act at home plate had terminated Houston's two-out rally while stranding two baserunners in the 7th inning of Tuesday's game.

Tmac's Teachable Moment: As most of you know, I love great umpiring, but sometimes there's a play we might not see and a manager or in most cases a head coach comes out reasonably and asks us to get help. Today's Teachable has Angel, AJ, and a batter swatting a ball out of midair. 

Angel, Ed, Carlos & Dana rehash the play.
I love how this is handled by all accounts. When we're not sure on a rule or what we saw/didn't see, it's imperative that ego doesn't get in the way and that we get the RULE right. This is where, no matter what level of baseball you are doing, it's imperative to know the rules. Get into the book. Not knowing the rules is like doing 75 in a 50... sooner or later you're going to get caught and you'll have nobody to blame but yourself. The crew consultation for Angel Hernandez, Ed Hickox, Carlos Torres, and Chief Dana DeMuth lasts a minute or so and they ultimately get the rule right that the ball was intentionally touched by the batter, which is interference that puts the batter out.

Once you break from a huddle it's important to know who has what responsibility.  How are you going to handle it? Will you just signal, which I think is the right call here, or will you call out the aggrieved manager. Surely you'll be having a discussion with him in a moment considering in this case you're flipping the call. I like how college does it—NCAA gets the manager who requested help back to the dugout. There will be no second discussion if the ruling isn't changed, but we can't do this at all levels.

Gil's Sidebar: In hockey, we have a referee's crease—a ten-foot radius semicircle painted red and positioned below the ice adjacent to the scorer's bench where the crew can go to discuss plays while players must remain outside the crease. If a player encroaches upon the crease during a stoppage of play uninvited, it's a misconduct penalty. We can translate that concept to all sports—in baseball, form your own crease in the middle-infield, in basketball, use the center jump circle, etc.

Correa intentionally acts to interfere with play.
Knowing who has what after the huddle can be as important as flipping the call.  This is a textbook situation on how to handle a play like this.  Would we have liked to get the call right initially? Sure, but crazy and unexpected stuff does happen that can catch us off guard.

In summary, know the rules, expect the unexpected and have fun! Happy Umpiring!!

The Rule: Correa was ruled out pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 6.03(a)(3), which states, "A batter is out for illegal action when—He interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base."

For good measure, 6.03(a)(3) Comment states, "If the batter interferes with the catcher, the plate umpire shall call 'interference.' The batter is out and the ball dead. No player may advance on such interference (offensive interference) and all runners must return to the last base that was, in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference."

If the catcher makes a play on the runner despite the interference and successfully retires said runner, the interference is nullified and the runner is declared out. Because two runners were on base (R1, R2), if the catcher were to have thrown out R2, R1's advancement to second base would stand because the official ruling would be that no interference took place.

Dale Scott had a similar play in 2015.
Similar Yet Different: It's important to point out that a batter ordinarily is legal and not liable for being hit with a catcher's throw, or a wild pitch, if he stays within the box and makes no attempt to interfere. The relevant play to compare this to is HP Umpire Dale Scott's interference no-call on Rangers batter Shin-Soo Choo during Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS against Toronto when Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin, after receiving a pitch, threw the ball off Choo's bat while Choo was in the batter's box, allowing baserunner R3 Rougned Odor to score.

The play was legal because Choo did not intend to interfere and was in the batter's box when his bat was struck, accidentally, with the throw. By contrast, Tuesday's Twins-Astros play was illegal because Houston batter Correa intentionally interfered by virtue of reaching out to touch a live baseball, thus hindering the catcher's play.
Related PostCarefree Throw, Extended Bat, and Blue Jays Protest (10/14/15).

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Correa reaches out to try and grab a live ball, thus interfering with Minnesota (MIN)


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