Saturday, August 24, 2019

Morales' Mercy - Dodgers' Key Time Call Against NY

As New York's Gleyber Torres arrived at home plate with the tying run after Yankees runner Brett Gardner slid into Dodgers infielder Max Muncy, HP Umpire Gabe Morales called "Time" and waved off the score, having declared the play dead at Los Angeles pitcher Kenley Jansen's request prior to Torres' feverish sprint home.

With Muncy rolling on the ground in an apparent injury after Gardner's slide—a legal slide confirmed as bona fide following Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts' unsuccesful challenge for slide rule interference—Morales granted Jansen's timeout request to load the bases for New York (after Replay Review determined that Gardner was safe at second, that is).

But with baserunner Torres careening toward home plate prior to Morales raising his arms to announce "Time," why did the plate umpire (referred to by rule as the umpire-in-chief) kill a play that appeared to be alive, and what do the rules say about calling "Time"?

Morales explains his call to Aaron Boone.
The Rule: Official Baseball Rule 5.12(b) governs this scenario, states, "The ball becomes dead when an umpire calls 'Time.' The umpire-in-chief shall call 'Time':", and is followed by a list of possible reasons for timeouts.

Relevant to this play is OBR 5.12(b)(3)—"When an accident incapacitates a player or umpire." For the purpose of this analysis, we interpret what happened to Muncy (getting hurt as a result of the video-affirmed legal collision with Gardner) as an accident that incapacitated a player.

OK, fine, but how about timing: WHEN is an umpire allowed to call "Time" for this reason?

Morales waits to call "Time" in LA.
The answer is embedded further in the rulebook's 5.12(b)(8): "Except in the cases stated in paragraph (2) and (3)(A) of this rule, no umpire shall call 'Time' while a play is in progress."

Paragraph two pertains to light failure that makes it difficult or impossible for an umpire to see the ball (that provision doesn't apply here), while (3)(A) as a subsection of the accident/incapacitation rule specifies precisely who is entitled to an immediate "Time" call under the rule: "If an accident to a runner is such as to prevent him from proceeding to a base to which he is entitled, as on a home run hit out of the playing field, or an award of one or more bases, a substitute runner shall be permitted to complete the play."

In other words, calling "Time" during play in the event of a severe injury is reserved for a hurt runner—not a fielder.

Time can be called during a runner's HR trot.
Equally important is to understand that live ball/dead ball is a separate concept from what constitutes a "play." We can have a "play" during a live ball or during a dead ball, and when the ball is live there may or may not be a play in progress (also true for dead balls...recall that the bases are usually run during live balls, but under certain circumstances [HR, dead ball base awards], can also be run when time is out, as in the OBR 5.12(b)(3)(A) exception).

In this situation, what most likely occurred is that HP Umpire Morales saw Jansen requesting "Time." At this point, he noticed that all Yankees baserunners—Torres at third, Gardner at second, and batter-runner Gio Urshela at first—appeared to be at or near their bases, with no physical indication of any intent to advance. Torres, specifically, had his back to home plate and was walking back toward third base.

This, for Morales, signaled that the play was over: everyone was where they wanted to be. With the play naturally concluded, in his estimation, Morales granted Jansen's request for "Time" which allowed Los Angeles to attend to the injured Muncy.

Like a hockey ref, Morales had prior intent.
What Morales did not count on was that Torres started breaking for home plate just as he made his decision to declare the ball dead. By the time Morales raised his arms to signal his call, Torres was already well down the third base line, such that—much like a hockey referee who intends to blow the whistle to signify a frozen puck, but hasn't yet put the whistle to his lips as the puck is jarred loose and poked into the net (the officials' intent to blow rule)—it appeared Morales was calling "Time" while a play was in progress when, in fact, Morales had already determined that the play was over before he had the opportunity to raise his arms and communicate as much.

Unfortunately for New York, LA won the game by one run, making Morales' call a significant sequence as Jansen worked out of the ninth-inning, bases-loaded jam. | Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Umpire calls "Time" as runner sprints home in intent-to-call illusion (CCS)


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