Friday, September 20, 2019

Perils of Unreviewable - Foul Ball Triple Play Ends Game

In 2017, Tmac wrote that more plays should be reviewable. This is a devastating example of why as Friday's WBSC Italy-South Africa game ended on a triple play following what should have been a foul ball call, instead ruled fair by a HP Umpire who didn't see that a batted ball hit the batter in the batter's box.

With none out and two on (R1, R2) in the bottom of the 10th inning of the WBSC Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier game between Italy and South Africa at Parma's Nino Cavalli Stadium, RSA batter Rowan Ebersohn hit a pitch into the dirt around home plate. Although the ball bounced off the ground and subsequently struck Ebersohn's left hip before settling on fair territory in front of home plate, HP Umpire Serge Makouchetchev ruled the ball fair, setting into motion the game-ending triple play, propelling Italy into a first-place tie with Israel for first place and plunging South Africa into sole possession of last place in the standings.

For those wondering, WBSC uses the Official Baseball Rules—same as Major League Baseball—and the rule making this a foul ball is 5.09(a)(7) regarding a batted ball touching the batter in the box: "a batted ball that strikes the batter or his bat [a second time] shall be ruled a foul ball."

Rule 5.09(a)(7) cases*
1. Batted ball touches batter (or bat a second time) while batter is in box = foul ball.
2. Batted ball touches batter/bat while batter is out of box, ball is over foul territory = foul ball.
3. Batted ball touches batter/bat while batter is out of box, ball over fair territory = out.
*Interference (incl potential multiple outs if runner(s)) can be called if intentional to deprive.

We're back in Parma, Italy.
Tmac Said So: In January 2017, Tmac proposed five items MLB and baseball as a whole could incorporate to fix replay. We most recently discussed #1, Give the Crew Chief a microphone, following a confusing double-challenge in St. Louis, and MLB has taken some steps to address points #2 (two challenges, must be immediate [MLB added a second challenge to postseason games & instituted a 30-second time limit to challenge]), #3 (give the manager a beanbag [MLB ordered managers to remain in the dugout and simply signal the umpire]), and #5 (90-second limit once headsets are put on [MLB instituted a two-minute 'guideline']), but MLB has largely ignored Tmac's fourth suggestion.
Related PostTmac's Teachable Moments - Let's Fix Replay (1/19/17).
Related PostChallenge of Overturned Call Voids 30-Second Limit (9/18/19).

Umpires are told the bad news: Unreviewable.
Idea #4 is Let's replay more things, which very prominently states as its second item, "batted balls off batters," which Tmac called "some of the disasters that are not reviewable."

Well, you probably can't get more disastrous than a game-ending triple play on a clearly incorrect call and because WBSC uses instant replay rules similar to MLB's Replay Review regulations, this play is not currently reviewable.

Because of this fact, and despite the umpires' having consulted the Replay Official, the call unfortunately could not be changed because this obvious incorrect call is not subject to correction via replay review.

Gil's Call: MLB & WBSC—the World Baseball and Softball Confederation decides which teams go to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan through its "Road to Tokyo" qualifier tournament—please listen to Tmac and make this (and other) play reviewable.

Jeff Kellogg explains why umpires confer.
Precedent / Tangent Teachable: Also, Gil's Tangent Teachable here harkens back to an Ask the UEFL feature article from 2017 about umpires getting together for a crew conference before going to the replay headsets to review a play. Joe Maddon, for instance, criticized Jeff Kellogg when his crew had a get-together before going to replay on a fair/foul decision, saying the umpires "neutered instant replay by the way it was handled tonight."

Unfortunately for Maddon, not only does umpire manual documentation state the importance of Crew Consultation and Getting the Call Right, it spells out why the ump-chat is so vital, with or without replay: "An umpire is urged to seek help when that umpire's view is blocked or positioning prevents such umpire from seeing crucial elements of a play. An umpire is also encouraged to seek help in instances when that umpire has doubt and a partner has additional information that could lead to a proper ruling."
Related PostCrew Consultation - Importance of the Call on the Field (6/22/17).

Back to Parma, the Italy-South Africa play sure could have benefited had an umpire seen the foul ball and been able to relay it to the rest of the crew—because MLB/WBSC still disallows the ball-hitting-batter play from being reviewed. As for MiLB/NCAA/NFHS/Little League or any game without Replay Review, post-play crew consultation here is all but required.

This Quasi-Teachable Nanosecond is brought to you by our sponsor, Umpire Placement Course.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Italian Job's replay limitation dings South African club (CCS)


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