Thursday, February 14, 2019

Plate Meeting Podcast - Episode 10 - Rich Garcia

The 10th Plate Meeting podcast episode features 25-year American League veteran umpire Rich Garcia, who joins the show to discuss his officiating career, a major league umpire strike and labor dispute, and his brief foray into the movie business as an umpire in the Kevin Costner-driven film, For Love of the Game.

Rich also had a stint as a broadcast analyst and was on-air for the Kent Hrbek/Ron Gant play in the 1991 World Series. We talk about some ejections—such as Tim Foli over a dispute regarding how the baseballs were rubbed before the game—and also ask Rich if he had any odd plays in right field during his postseason career, and if he ever heard of a guy named Vic Carapazza.

Click the below play (▶) button to listen to "Episode 10 - Rich Garcia Umpired for Love of the Game" or visit the show online at https://anchor.fm/the-plate-meeting. The Plate Meeting is also available on iTunes (Apple Podcasts), Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, and several other podcast apps.

Alternate Link: Episode 10 - Rich Garcia Umpired for Love of the Game.

Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:

The Plate Meeting is brought to you by OSIP, where Outstanding Sportsmanship Is Paramount.

Related Video #1: Hrbek and Gant meet at first base during the 1991 WS (54:00).
Related Video #2: Scene from For the Love of the Game with a cast of MLB umpires (57:00).
Related Video #3: The infamous Jeffrey Maier play and Derek Jeter home run in 1996 (1:11:00).

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tmac's Teachables - Snap Pickoff at First Base

It's time for another Tmac Teachable brought to you by the good folks at ProUmpireCamp.com! Today's retro moment features 1B Umpire Bill Kunkel's ejection of Twins runner Mike Cubbage and Manager Gene Mauch over a back-pickoff play that retired Cubbage at first base. What angle should umpires take to receive such a play and how should officials respond to a runner who acts as Cubbage did?

Before we dig in, Pro Umpire Camp is the only three-person camp that will have college assignors and supervisors from the Atlantic League, Can-Am League, and the American Association. Whether you're just trying to learn three-man or looking to be seen this camp is a great place to start!
This offseason's Tmac's Teachable Moments are brought to you by Pro Umpire Camp.
It's important to remember a couple items as we dig into this edition, and this ejection. First, we are looking at this play from a 2019 prism. We're not focused on the judgement of the call, but rather how in today's world we can get this play right. Today's officials are: HP Umpire Al Clark; 1B Umpire Bill Kunkel; 2B Umpire Bill Deegen; and 3B Umpire Terry Cooney. This is the second game of a doubleheader.

1B Umpire Kunkel officiates the pickoff play.
On our upcoming podcast with American League veteran Rich Garcia, we talk about Kunkel and Cooney. In our situation today, we have runners on first and second and one out. The pitch is a swing and a miss and there is a back pick to first base. Our goal is to have the glove coming at us so we're going to want to be to the side Kunkel is on, but from an angle standpoint we want to be able to see the tag and the front of the bag that the runner is sliding into, so our best spot is probably a couple steps into foul territory toward the back edge of the bag.  If we are engaged with the moves of our first baseman this will be easy.

As fans of the Teachables know, I'm a proponent for getting your nose into a play like this, but we always suggest doing what makes your assignor happy. Most good assignors are happy when we get this play right in the three- and four-umpire system.

Cubbage and Mauch outnumber the umpire.
So now that we know where we should be (foul ground, not moving if possible), reading the first baseman's movement, what about the aftermath? Well, once Mike Cubbage, the player who was called out, is ejected for launching his helmet, the crew chief needs to get him out of there. It's a near certainty that the Manager (or head coach as the case may be) will be visiting shortly.  If the crew chief is involved in the call the "two" on the crew (aka backup crew chief) needs to get into the action and help lead Cubbage to the dugout. This is especially the case if no other coaches or players are helping.

Now it gets tricky. The manager of the Twins, Gene Mauch, immediately makes contact with Kunkel and is summarily ejected.

The tantrum continued in the Twins dugout.
Now, all umpires need to be engaged with the situation.  Once contact is made it's all hands on deck. Kunkel, a former MLB pitcher, whose son also played in MLB, handles himself well here. I could do without the wave off, but under the circumstances I understand. Also, while the announcers were mostly fair, did you head one of them say it was a delayed call? Didn't look delayed to me! At least not nearly as delayed as the time we had to wait to resume play after Minnesota littered the field with bats.

As we get ready to either watch baseball (if you're stuck in the cold), or head on the field, a few simple reminders: Read the rulebook—don't be the guy who doesn't know the rules! Second, be engaged! It's really hard, especially in rough weather to stay focused. Third, always think about the next possible play and be sure to be ready! Finally, have fun—you're umpiring a baseball game!  What's better than that?! Until next time, Happy Umpiring Everyone!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Pitcher Spins Away from Batter - Legal Delivery?

NOC Tonkawa junior college pitcher Trevin Michael's unique windup and delivery has spurred discussion as to its legality as, with his right foot in contact with the pitcher's plate, he spins 360° and away from the batter before throwing the pitch. Is this a balk or a legal maneuver?

The following discussion is broken down into three levels of baseball: we'll start with the professional level and OBR, move to NCAA—college, and conclude with NFHS—high school.

Michael's Move: First and foremost, before the rules discussion, let's begin by stipulating what, exactly, our pitcher is physically doing. He begins with his right foot (pivot foot) on the pitcher's plate and his left foot (free foot) in front of and to the left of the plate. He begins the delivery by taking a diagonal step back with his free foot, which lands behind the rubber, then rotates on his pivot foot, which may or may not break contact with the pitcher's plate as he spins on it. As he completes his 360-degree spin, his pivot foot parallels the front edge of the rubber while his left leg kicks out and he throws his pitch. The pitching hand stays in contact with the ball the entire time.

Immediate Disqualifier: If your interpretation is that the pitcher's pivot foot has broken contact with the pitcher's plate by virtue of the pitcher jumping in mid-air so as to assist his spinning action, this move is illegal under all codes. Your work is done. Otherwise, read on...

OBR: The Official Baseball Rules for the pros (and Little League) authorize Windup and Set positions, and we see a pitcher working out of Windup here: "The pitcher shall stand facing the batter, his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate and the other foot free...He shall not raise either foot from the ground, except that in his actual delivery of the ball to the batter, he may take one step backward, and one step forward with his free foot."

OBR 6.02(a)(5) is the "illegal pitch" balk, and Rule 5.07(a) Comment states, "The pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is a runner, or runners, on base it is a balk under Rule 6.02(a); if the bases are unoccupied it is an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b)."
Related PostCarter Capps Throws Illegal Pitch, Ejected After Hitting Ump (6/26/17).

SIDEBAR: As for twirling around, even with his back to the batter, we know from the days of Hideo Nomo that this, on its own, is a legal move. Naturally, Nomo maintained a legal pivot foot during this motion. We also stipulate this is Michael's natural movement, which he is not interrupting nor altering. If this is coming out of the blue on his 50th pitch of the game, we can deem it unnatural, but if this is what we see as the first pitch of the game, it pretty much establishes this as a natural move.

Does F1 "reset" his pivot foot?
Take a look at the accompanying animated GIF: Has Michael "reset" his pivot foot? If all the pitcher has done is rotated his pivot foot, or spun on the foot, then he is legal. If he has actually hopped on his foot or "reset" it, then we have a balk. This is no Carter Capps crow-hop, and it appears our pitcher is doing his best to maintain contact with his plate using the toe of his pivot foot. If he executes it correctly in this manner, his move is legal under OBR.

NCAA: Prepatory to the pitch, the college book wants the free foot "touching or behind (breaking) the plane of the front edge of the pitcher's plate." That suggests Michael's free foot, in front of the front edge, is illegal (penalty: illegal pitch if no runners are on base, or, a balk if runners). But let's assume Michael can easily correct this issue of pre-pitch free foot placement—let's talk about the delivery itself.

NCAA is better than MLB about the "reset" of the pivot foot rule. Unlike OBR, NCAA doesn't actually use "reset" language and instead states in 9-1-a-8, "The pitcher shall not take a forward step with the pivot foot in using the windup delivery. This is commonly known as 'running into the pitch' and is an illegal pitch."

NCAA also makes reference to "habitual" motion (e.g., 9-1-a-2's "the pitcher shall pitch to the batter immediately after making any motion with any part of the body such as the pitcher habitually uses during the delivery," which also appears in balk rule 9-3-g). This means that if he does it every windup, we're good. If he just brings this move out occasionally for shock value, then it's illegal.

NFHS: The National Federation rules committee just elected (for 2018-19) to eliminate the requirement that the pitcher's entire pivot foot be in contact with the pitcher's plate, as in 6-1; otherwise, this move would be highly illegal. THAT SAID, Wind-up Position Rule 6-1-2 requires that before starting delivery, "The pitcher’s non-pivot foot shall be in any position on or behind a line extending through the front edge of the pitcher’s plate" (similar to NCAA). The reason for this is that 6-1-3, pertaining to Set Position, requires that the non-pivot foot be placed in front of the front edge of the pitcher's plate (NFHS wants a clear difference between the two). These rules make Michael's move illegal at the high school level (penalty: ball is dead & a ball is added to the count if no runners are on base, or, a balk if runners).

Video as follows: