Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Case Play 2019-6 - Selling a Fake Tag [Solved]

When Cubs SS Javy Baez saw a baseball sail into center field during Brewers baserunner R1 Ben Gamel's steal of second base in Milwaukee, Baez dissuaded Gamel from taking off for third by applying a phantom tag. Obstruction or legal fake is the question in Case Play 2019-6, "Selling a Fake Tag."

The Play: With two out and one on (R1), Brewers baserunner R1 Gamel attempted to steal second base. The throw to second base, on a bounce, hopped over infielder Baez's glove and into center field as Gamel overslid second base. As Gamel stood to correct his overslide, Baez faked as though he had the ball in his glove, causing Gamel to juke and dive around Baez, who in turn pulled away from Gamel so as not to physically tag him (while still pretending as though he were trying to do so). The play concluded with Gamel safely at second base.

Case Play Question: As 2B Umpire Ryan Additon no-called the sequence, Brewers Manager Craig Counsell exited the dugout to inquire as to Baez's actions. Place yourself in ump Additon's shoes and answer Counsell's questions: Was this obstruction? Why or why not? If this was obstruction, is it Type 1 or 2 (A or B) and what is the penalty? For extra credit, figure out this call for all rulesets: OBR, NCAA, and NFHS.

Hint: In 2017, we wrote an article concerning phantom tags in Major League Baseball. This Case Play's question investigates the gray line between a simple fake tag (legal in OBR/illegal in NFHS) and an action that blocks the runner's view. That's the key.
Related PostPhantom Tags - Not Obstruction in Pro Ball, OBS in HS (4/16/17).

Case Play Answer: Fake tags are legal in OBR and NCAA, and illegal under the NFHS code. But let's assume that Baez's fake tag was said to have impeded Gamel from attempting to progress around the bases; let's assume obstruction has taken place. Because baserunner Gamel makes no attempt to advance to third base, pursuant to Obstruction Type 2 (Type B, because no play is being made on the runner at the time of obstruction....the ball is loose in center field, by rule, no play is made on the runner stealing a base while the overthrown ball is loose in the outfield), it would most likely be improper to award him third base to "nullify the act" of obstruction as the Type 2 penalty specifies.

As we wrote in 2017, baseball's Obstruction 2 does not guarantee a free base. The remedy for Type 2 is "impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction" under OBR 6.01(h)(2). In this case, there are no penalties the umpire needs to impose to nullify the act. The runner was safe at second whether or not obstruction took place so even if we assume there was obstruction, the proper call is nothing at all. See the following video for an explanation.
Related PostObstruction Type 2 Does Not Guarantee Free Base (4/29/17).

Official Baseball Rules Library
Definition of Terms: "OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner."
MLB Umpire Manual: Obstruction occurs when: "The fielder's actions are a deliberate effort to block the runner's view."

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Gamel steals second base as Baez shows an invisible tag (CCS)


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