Thursday, May 16, 2019

Crew Chief - Twice Changed Bunt HBP & Rule 8.03(c)

Umpires twice changed a call on a bunt attempt during a Padres-Rockies game as HP Umpire Brian O'Nora's original dead ball strike ruling that Rockies batter Garrett Hampson offered at a pitch that hit him was affirmed by Crew Chief Jeff Kellogg after an initial reversal to a HBP award in a rare application of Rule 8.03(c) and powers granted to the Crew Chief.

Kellogg and O'Nora explain the call to Black.
The Play: With none out and two on (R1, R3), Rockies batter Garrett Hampson squared to bunt a first-pitch fastball from Padres pitcher Eric Lauer. As the pitch rode in on Hampson, the batter made a late decision to move the bat back toward his body as the ball struck his right hand, ruled a dead ball strike by HP Umpire O'Nora.

The First Reversal: After objection from Rockies Manager Bud Black that Hampson had pulled the bat back, O'Nora consulted with 1B Umpire James Hoye, and changed his call, awarding Hampson first base as a result of the ruling that Hampson did not attempt to strike the pitch that hit him.

The Double Negative: This brought Padres Manager Andy Green out of his dugout, this time bringing all four umpires together, upon which Crew Chief Kellogg signaled that O'Nora's initial call of "dead ball strike" shall prevail.

Did Hampson offer at a pitch that hit him?
Analysis, Reversing a Call: In general, no one umpire shall unilaterally overrule another. In practice, this means that if umpires confer about a call made by one particular umpire, then, upon leaving that conference, the calling umpire will generally be the one to signal the reversed call (if indeed the call is reversed).

The relevant rule is 8.02(c): "If a decision is appealed, the umpire making the decision may ask another umpire for information before making a final decision. No umpire shall criticize, seek to reverse or interfere with another umpire’s decision unless asked to do so by the umpire making it." There are limited exceptions to the initiation of a conference, but at the end of it all, the procedure is such that the calling umpire will affirm or reverse his/her own call.

O'Nora speaks with Green after change #1.
Check swings are similar in the sense that a plate umpire who initially calls "ball" can ask the 1B/3B Umpire for assistance. If the corner umpire changes the call to "strike," notice that the plate umpire then will signal "strike."

Analysis, Half Swing Bunt Appeal: We've discussed the unique circumstance of a batter who is struck by a pitch or who fouls a ball off during a bunt attempt. In April 2019, Don Mattingly complained about a crew's HBP decision on such a play, Jim Joyce discussed such an event from his Plate Meeting Podcast, and in August 2018, we wrote an article entirely dedicated to adjudicating whether a batter has attempted to bunt the ball. So that rule is well covered.
Related PostMattingly Rips Umpires After Loss in Miami (4/2/19).
Related PostPodcast - Episode 12 - The Jim Joyce Jubilee (4/2/19).
Related PostAsk UEFL - Foul Bunt or Ball Fouled Away? (8/29/18).

What is absolutely key here is O'Nora's initial ruling that Hampson struck at the ball. Pursuant to OBR 8.02(c) Comment, "The manager or the catcher may request the plate umpire to ask his partner for help on a half swing when the plate umpire calls the pitch a ball, but not when the pitch is called a strike."

Kellogg made sure to apply proper procedure.
As such, O'Nora consulting Hoye for assistance on the matter of whether the batter struck at the ball may be deemed procedurally improper. Cue Green's protest (and failure to follow procedure could be a valid basis for protest) and Kellogg's intervention.

The difference between the Joyce/Hoye play and the Kellogg/O'Nora play is twofold: First, Hoye in Pittsburgh did not definitively signal that the batter struck at the pitch. He called "Time" but made no further signal (O'Nora did definitively signal that the batter struck at the pitch). Second, Joyce/Hoye concerned a foul ball while Kellogg/O'Nora concerned a hit-by-pitch.

Black pointed to U1's strike/attempt call.
Analysis, Reversing a Reversal: The Hampson bunt play is an example of a Crew Chief taking control of an unusual situation. In this case, we have a plate umpire who has called a dead ball strike, ruling that the batter struck at a pitch that touched his hand. Yet we also have a first base umpire who ruled that the batter did not strike at the pitch, thus changing the situation to a hit-by-pitch entitling the batter to first base.

These are conflicting calls by different umpires on a situation not subject to a check swing appeal.

After consultation amongst the entire four-umpire crew, Chief Kellogg thus exited the huddle with a final proclamation, invoking the proper procedure for deciding what to do when two umpires make two different calls on the same play, which is not subject to the allowed half swing appeal exemption, and which is delineated by Rule 8.03(c):
If different decisions should be made on one play by different umpires, the umpire-in-chief shall call all the umpires into consultation, with no manager or player present. After consultation, the umpire-in-chief (unless another umpire may have been designated by the League President) shall determine which decision shall prevail, based on which umpire was in best position and which decision was most likely correct. Play shall proceed as if only the final decision had been made.
Per 8.03(c), CC makes the final call.
SIDEBAR: 8.03(c) is also where the mechanic of having the Crew Chief communicate the Replay Review decision comes into play. In essence, the Crew Chief "determines" that the Replay Official's decision "shall prevail."

The effective difference, again, is that Hoye in Pittsburgh simply signaled the ball becoming dead without a determination as to whether the batter struck at the pitch, before consulting the entire crew to finalize the ruling, while O'Nora in Colorado signaled a strike and spoke with the one member of the crew specifically about whether the batter had struck at the pitch before changing his call from "swinging dead ball strike [missed bunt]" to "HBP [no swing]," upon which the entire crew convened, again, to finalize the ruling.

The other difference, naturally, is that Hoye in Pittsburgh met with his entire four-umpire crew once, whereas O'Nora had two meetings—once with only U1 and a second with the entire crew.

At this time, it was apparent that the two umpires had made conflicting rulings on a play not eligible for a half-swing appeal, necessitating a Crew Chief's prevailing judgment pursuant to 8.03(c), with regard for the half-swing appeal procedure delineated by Rule 8.02(c) Comment.

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Hampson is hit by a pitch during bunt attempt on a twice-changed call (COL)


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