Monday, August 31, 2020

Case 20-3 - Twin Out, Triple Play, Or Intentional Drop

"Triple play!" squealed the Minnesota Twins broadcast as a bases-loaded dropped line drive dissipated into a one out sequence as called by 2B Umpire Umpire Ryan Blakney, upheld after crew consultation with Chief Laz Diaz, and confirmed after Replay Review challenge by Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli. What magic trick turned three outs into one?

The Play: With none out and the bases loaded, White Sox batter Danny Mendick hit a 1-2 curveball from Twins pitcher Rich Hill on a line drive to second baseman Luis Arraez, who dropped the batted ball before fielding and flipping to shortstop Jorge Polanco, who stepped on second base and threw onward to first baseman Miguel Sano, who tagged White Sox baserunner R1 Luis Robert, before throwing back to Twins shortstop Polanco, who tagged White Sox baserunner R2 James McCann, who was standing on second base at the time of the tag. R3 Edwin Encarnacion remained on third base and batter-runner Mendick stood at first base.

UIC DJ Reyburn and CC Laz Diaz explain.
The Call: In the middle of the action, 2B Umpire Ryan Blakney ruled F4 Arraez failed to catch the batted ball ("safe" call) before ruling baserunner R1 Robert out at second base on the force out by F6 Polanco. 1B Umpire and Crew Chief Laz Diaz made no call on F3 Sano's tag of R1 Robert (no need for a call, as Blakney had already called Robert out on the force play), before 2B Umpire Blakney ruled R2 McCann safe at second base for McCann was standing on the base at the time he was tagged.

F4 doesn't tag R2, meaning R2 is safe.
Analysis: This play was officiated correctly—as long as Arraez's drop of the batted ball is deemed unintentional. Chicago's R1 Robert was forced out at second base, making the subsequent tag of Robert at first redundant, while the defense failed to make a play on R2 McCann until the force was removed and he was allowed to return safely to second base without being forced to advance. No play was ever made on R3 nor the batter-runner; thus, only one out was recorded on this play (BR = Safe, R1 = Out, R2 = Safe, R3 = Safe).

Only one Q: Is this an intentional drop?
Case Play Question: As stated, the only way this play could have turned out differently is if the umpires deemed that F4 Arraez's drop of the baseball was intentional. The relevant rule is 5.09(a)(12), which puts a batter out when—"An infielder intentionally drops a fair fly ball or line drive, with first, first and second, first and third, or first, second and third base occupied before two are out. The ball is dead and runner or runners shall return to their original base or bases."

Had the umpires deemed the dropped ball an intentional act, all else equal (the same sequence having occurred, tags and all), what would the proper call have been?
Hint: It's in the rule itself, which makes this exercise rather rhetorical, perhaps.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Analyzing a complicated one-out play at Target Field (CCS)


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