Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Red Sox Protest Rays' Pitcher Substitution, DH Termination

Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora protested Rays skipper Kevin Cash's pitcher substitution and designated hitter termination in Tampa Bay, bringing Chief Angel Hernandez and his umpire crew together for a lengthy delay upon which the umpires ultimately ruled the DH transaction legal.

For reasons we will discuss below, the umpires did get this play right: we will read Cora's assertion that two pitchers may not be on the field while a DH is in the dugout, but we will also explain that no such rule exists as that alluded to by Cora, and that Tampa did not illegally keep a DH if for no other reason than Tampa was the defensive team and did not have a chance to bat prior to Cora's protest.

We will discuss what rules are involved and what moves were made. Turn your Official Baseball Rules books to Rules 5.10 (Substitution), 5.11 (The Designated Hitter), and 6.03 (Batting Out of Turn).

The Play: Rays batter and left fielder Tommy Pham, second in the batting order, grounded out to conclude Tampa's bottom of the 7th inning, with TB Designated Hitter Austin Meadows remaining on-deck during Wednesday afternoon's Red Sox-Rays game. To begin the top of the 8th, Tampa inserted into the game substitute pitcher Adam Kolarek, with Ji-Man Choi at first base. After Kolarek retired Red Sox batter Sam Travis for the first out of the inning, Rays Manager Cash brought substitute relief pitcher Chaz Roe into the game, taking the spot of Kolarek, as Kolarek moved to first base to replace Choi (Choi left the game). Roe then retired batter Mookie Betts, at which time Cash moved first baseman Kolarek back to the mound, removed Roe from the game, and brought in bench player Nate Lowe to take over at first base for pitcher Kolarek.

Cora protested the umpires' ruling.
* The Protest: Cora protested that Cash's move was illegal because during the Betts at-bat, the Rays had a pitcher on the field who was playing a position other than pitcher (Kolarek as the first baseman). Cora's specific protest holds that the Rays violated the rule by keeping the Designated Hitter (Meadows) in the game while the person he was hitting for (Kolarek) had moved to a position. By rule, the Designated Hitter terminates when the player he is hitting in place of moves from the mound to a position (e.g., P => 1B), and this is the rule Cora alleges that Hernandez's crew failed to enforce - by allowing the Rays to retain the DH.

Play After Protest: Following Cora's protest, Kolarek retired Rafael Devers to end the half-inning. Cash then called upon Willy Adames to pinch-hit for Kolarek, and the game resumed with Adames' strikeout.

The Rule: Cora protested the game based on the grounds of Official Baseball Rule 5.11, The Designated Hitter Rule, which provides that a hitter may be designated to bat in place of the pitcher. Provision 14 of this rule (OBR 5.11(a)(14)) states, "If a player on defense goes to the mound (i.e., replaces the pitcher), this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter’s role for that Club for the remainder of the game."

Rule 5.10 is entitled Substitutions and Pitching Changes, and states, "A substitute player shall bat in the replaced player’s position in the team’s batting order."

Cora's Quote: After the game, Cora summarized his protest thusly: "They had a pitcher at first base. They had a pitcher on the mound. And they still had the DH."

Cora's Protest Will Fail: Cora's mistake was that he jumped the gun. Because the Designated Hitter does not have any involvement in the game when his team is on defense, Rule 5.11(a)(13) states, "A substitute for the designated hitter need not be announced until it is the designated hitter's turn to bat." It is difficult to claim an adverse affect from an allegedly illegally maintained DH when such player never had a chance to bat before the protest was filed.

Although the DH terminated at Kolarek's move from pitcher to first base, in order for a protest to be affirmed, it has to have a realistic affect on the outcome of the game. In this situation, whether or not the DH was "kept" by the defensive team is immaterial because the team was on defense.

Red Herring - Kolarek's Spot in the Lineup: Angel Hernandez stated after the game that Cash did not inform him where Kolarek would bat in the order after he moved from the pitcher's mound to first base (e.g., after the termination of the DH), and that "the umpire is authorized to decide the necessary batting order" in such a circumstance.

Hernandez is correct ("[the plate umpire] shall have the authority to designate the substitutes' places in the batting order"): a manager's failure to inform the umpire of a multiple substitution's batting order configuration (double switch or not) simply means the umpire decides. As the book states, "the umpire's decision is final."

Resumption of Play: When Tampa Bay came to bat in the bottom of the inning, the old DH spot in the lineup (3rd) led off the inning, but the batsman was not DH Meadows. Instead, it was pinch hitter Willy Adames, who officially replaced Kolarek. Because Kolarek was the person being substituted for by Adames, it follows that Kolarek assumed Meadow's #3 role in the batting order, which means that when Kolarek walked off the mound to assume his role as first baseman, it was a straightforward termination of the DH and not a double-switch (illegal, legal, or otherwise).

To reiterate, DH Austin Meadows' role was terminated when pitcher Kolarek moved from the mound to first base, as in OBR 5.10(a)(8) ("Once the game pitcher is switched from the mound to a position on defense, such move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for that Club for the remainder of the game"), and Kolarek took over Meadow's #3 spot in the batting order, in accordance with the rule.

Yet because Meadows was a DH and not a defensive player, his presence in the dugout while his team was on defense had no bearing on the game. Furthermore, Meadows did not act as an active player at any point during the 8th inning or beyond: he never came to bat again and never appeared in the game in any capacity following the termination of his role.

There is no rule that addresses a DH concurrent with "two pitchers" in the field. In order for the rule to come into play, we would have had to wait until the bottom half of the inning to see whether or not prior-DH Meadows attempted to bat again. Again, because the rule affords the umpire ultimate authority to place substitutes in the batting order ("the umpire's decision is final"), the sole evaluation is whether Hernandez's decision to place Kolarek in Meadows' #3 spot was proper. It appears to be.

NOTE: Unless a manager specifically states otherwise, an umpire generally will employ judgment that preferences a "straight switch" over a multiple- or double switch that has additional procedures as outlined by rule (e.g., manager goes to umpire first as opposed to the mound). In this case, the logic of such a straight switch would hold that Kolarek would replace Meadows, though this determination would be made at the moment the designated hitter is terminated.

Because Meadows did not come to bat (whether intentionally benched by Cash or tipped off by Cora - the reason isn't relevant), the Rays are not guilty of illegal activity as relates to the Designated Hitter Rule because the Rays did not attempt to use the DH on offense after it had been terminated.

As for Rule 5.10(a)(7) ("A Designated Hitter is “locked” into the batting order. No multiple substitutions may be made that will alter the batting rotation of the Designated Hitter"), you'll notice that the DH-P-PH spot remained third in the batting order the entire time. Even so, do note that the interpretation for this rule states that if a game pitcher moves from the mound to a position on defense (e.g., P => 1B), and if this move is concurrent with any other defensive substitution, and because it terminates the use of the Designated Hitter, the pitcher just removed from the mound may bat in the designated hitter spot OR in place of any of the other substituted-for players, similar to a double-switch (if the manager follows proper double-switch protocol and requests such a transaction, which it appears Cash did not).

Finally, this same interpretation (also in as PBUC/MiLBUD) states that, "It is permissible for both the designated hitter and the game pitcher to go into the field at the same time." This language suggests that despite the DH's termination, its final influence on game-play does not manifest until the defensive team assumes an offensive role during the ensuing half-inning.

Conclusion: Had Cora waited until the bottom of the inning to see whether or not DH Meadows attempted to bat (or whether Cash announced a pinch hitter for DH Meadows [as opposed to pitcher Kolarek]), his protest would have teeth had Hernandez and his crew permitted Meadows or a substitute for Meadows to come to bat (and even so, as we know from Rule 6.03(b) [Batting Out of Turn], if the violation is spotted before the player's at-bat is complete, it can be corrected; Rule 5.11 [DH Rule] references this batting out of order Rule 6.03(b)).
Related PostReds' Batting Out of Order Appeal vs Mets 1st since 2016 (5/9/18).

Other than that, to protest that a team illegally kept a DH after its termination while said team is on defense, and before that team has had a chance to bat after the termination, is a difficult sell simply because the DH (terminated or otherwise) never had involvement with the game after the substitutions mentioned above.


UEFL Analysis and explanation of rules involved (CCS)


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