Thursday, September 5, 2019

Atlantic League's Bench-Clearing Balk Ejections & Protest

The Atlantic League-MLB experimental balk rule requiring pitchers to step off the rubber during pickoffs produced a handful of ejections and protested game after a quasi-bench clearing argument in High Point led to all umpires entertaining multiple complaints from a Rockers team upset about a pickoff play to end the bottom of the 3rd inning of Wednesday night's 5-1 loss to Southern Maryland.

The Play: With two out and one on (R1), Blue Crabs pitcher Daryl Thompson picked off Rockers baserunner Stephen Cardullo at first base to end the inning, ruled out by 1B Umpire Thomas Newsom.

The ALPB Balk Rule: Under the indy league's MLB partnership, baseball's balk rule was modified to require that pitchers disengage the pitcher's plate in order to attempt a pickoff.
Related PostAtlantic League Debuts New Rules, E-Zone (7/10/19).

Is this is a legal disengagement maneuver?
SIDEBAR: If this league's test rule requires pitchers disengage, and pitcher Thompson has disengaged, the question of whether this is a no-step balk is irrelevant, since Rule 6.02(a)(3) states "it is a balk when—The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base" (bold added for emphasis). The only question is whether Thompson's toe tap with his back/pivot foot while turning his body toward first base constitutes a legal disengagement. I'd surmise that under the "old" rule, this is legal...but what about under the experimental balk rule in the Atlantic League? And is this a judgment call or rules interpretation?

After all, MLB recently deemed that a "toe tap" during delivery is not to be construed as a second how about a "toe tap"-style disengagement of the rubber. Is that to be considered legal pursuant to the ALPB-MLB balk rule experiment as it would under the "old" rule?
Related PostMLB Rules Gearrin's Toe Tap Legal - Analysis (8/29/19).

Argument, Ejections, and Protest: What followed at BB&T Point Stadium in High Point, North Carolina during the post-inning changeover was what may be the slowest single-squad bench-clearing incident of the season, largely because the team on offense now transitioned to becoming the team on defense, with a detour to argue with the umpiring crew.

Multiple argument and ejections ensue.
High Point's prolonged argument resulted in a nearly-10-minute delay, featured multiple ejections (the box score indicated RF Stephen Cardullo [the picked off runner], CF Jared Mitchell, and P Michael Bowden, but did not list Manager Jamie Keefe, who threw his hat, etc.), and concluded with a protested game.

Cardullo's ejection, specifically, was of the "parting shot" variety, which occurs when a player/coach/manager says one final phrase to the umpire and immediately turns his back to walk away. In general, this phrase is personal, profane, or otherwise excessively unsporting, unacceptable, and ejectable.

The parting shot ejection is an optical illusion.
The optics of the "parting shot" ejection relies on normal human reaction time so that by the time the umpire ejects the offender, it appears the umpire has become the aggressor, or in the High Point broadcaster's words, "He did it with the guy's back turned." It is meant to make the violating party look innocent to the umpire's "overreaction" in ejecting someone who is walking way, never mind what that person said or did just moments earlier.

Later on in the festivities, many of High Point's uniformed personnel converged around the three umpires to argue, resulting in at least three separate and simultaneous discussions that included HP Umpire Larry Rosenberg, 1B Umpire Newsom, and 3B Umpire Lindy Hall.

Although Official Baseball Rule 7.04 explicitly states, "no protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire," whether or not High Point's protest is of the umpires' judgment that pitcher Thompson legally disengaged the rubber in throwing to first base or of the umpires' interpretation of the modified balk rule might be a futile splitting of hairs, at least in this particular organization. After all, the Atlantic League office overturned an umpire's on-field judgment call earlier this season.
Related PostAtlantic League Overturns Umpire's Judgment Call (7/14/19).

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: ALPB Balk No-Call Leads to Multiple Arguments, Ejections, Protest (HPR)
Raw Video: Archived High Point Rockers Live Stream (High Point)


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