Sunday, July 7, 2019

Context is Key - Intent Matters in HBP Ejections

When Tripp Gibson warned the Phillies and Mets after Philadelphia pitcher Jake Arrieta hit Todd Frazier with a changeup, the umpires issued warnings to prevent an intentional bean-ball war. When should an umpire warn vs eject and what does following through with a warning look like? This UEFL University lesson busts the prevalent rules myth that warnings may only be issued after a pitch intentionally thrown at the batter.

The Play: With one out and none on in the 5th inning of a 4-3 Phillies-Mets game, Phillies pitcher Arrieta hit Frazier with a 0-1 changeup, resulting in an unsportsmanlike incident between the teams that culminated with warnings and Frazier's ejection for violation of Official Baseball Rule 8.01(d), which pertains to unsportsmanlike conduct. Two batters later, Arrieta hit Amed Rosario with a 1-2 changeup to load the bases. Again, the Phillies were leading by one run at the time and subsequent Mets hitting cost the Phillies the lead.
Related PostMLB Ejections 113-114 - Tripp Gibson (3-4; NYM) (7/6/19).

The Call: Arietta was not ejected for hitting Rosario, but Mets Manager Mickey Callaway was tossed for disputing Gibson's decision not to eject the pitcher (arguing warnings or a non-ejection will generally result in an ejection).

Checklist: Was Arrieta's HBP on purpose?
Rules & Analysis: The first and foremost rule that applies to any situation regarding animosity between teams that could spill over into the territory of unsportsmanlike conduct is Rule 8.01(a), which states, "The umpires shall be responsible for the conduct of the game in accordance with these official rules and for maintaining discipline and order on the playing field during the game."

To assist umpires with this mission, Rule 8.01(d) authorizes ejection for "objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language," while OBR 6.02(c)(9), entitled Intentionally Pitch at the Batter, specifies that a pitcher or the pitcher along with his manager may be ejected for the infraction, and/or both teams may be warned that "another such pitch will result in the immediate expulsion of that pitcher (or a replacement) and the manager."

To further keep the peace, Rule 6.02(c)(9) Comment prohibits anyone from arguing a warning ("If a manager, coach or player leaves the dugout or his position to dispute a warning, he should be warned to stop. If he continues, he is subject to ejection").

Was it Intentional? The key in deciding what course of action to take is lathered in context. If a pitcher throws a fastball on a 0-0 count at a batter's head with whom the pitcher has had a prior disagreement, context clues might incline the umpire to eject the pitcher for this "unsportsmanlike and highly dangerous" misconduct.

Actions after Frazier's HBP caused warnings.
On the other hand, a 1-2 changeup that hits a batter's leg to load the bases in a one-run ballgame probably does not indicate intent and warnings/ejection probably would not be appropriate in response to the pitch (you'll notice the aforementioned describes the Rosario HBP), despite the potentially aggravating circumstance of "bad blood" between the teams.

So why, then, did HP Umpire Gibson warn both teams after the Arrieta-Frazier pitch, if that HBP wasn't an intentional act?

After the game, Frazier criticized Gibson for failing to eject Arrieta and complained that his warnings were effectively useless because no ejection occurred following the Rosario hit-by-pitch. The next section should answer that question and confirm that Todd Frazier appears to lack a fundamental understanding of the Official Baseball Rules.

Todd Frazier points and shouts after ejection.
Warnings Don't Have to Follow Intentional HBPs: The answer is that Chief Brian Gorman's crew did not warn both teams in response to Jake Arrieta hitting Todd Frazier with a changeup. Instead, the warnings were issued in response to the subsequent chirping between the teams. That is, the crew didn't deem the HBP an intentional act, but did want to address the ensuing trash talk pursuant to their OBR 8.01(a) objective by putting warnings out to both sides.

What's the Rule? Rule 6.02(c)(9) also allows umpires to warn both sides at any time if the umpires, in their sole judgment, deem it necessary to do so. It could follow a hit-by-pitch, a bench-clearing brawl, a Manny Machado-stepping-on-a-first-baseman's-foot, or even prior to the game based solely on the history between the clubs. Either way, this warning makes it clear that the next intentional pitch at a batter shall result in the immediate ejection of both pitcher and manager.

The reason people sometimes get upset about this—especially in situations such as Arrieta-Frazier-Rosario—is that in most cases, a Rule 6.02(c)(9) warning does immediately follow an intentional hit-by-pitch. Here, however, the 6.02(c)(9) warning followed something that was not an intentional hit-by-pitch (the trash talk between the teams), which could give the casual observer (and the Mets, apparently) the mistaken impression that the umpires had deemed Arrieta's HBP intentional when, in fact, no such determination occurred.

OBR 6.02(c)(9) states: "If, in the umpire’s judgment, circumstances warrant, both teams may be officially 'warned' prior to the game or at any time during the game."

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: UEFL analysis of the Jake Arrieta-Todd Frazier Phils-Mets situation (CCS)


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