Saturday, July 25, 2020

Near-Ejection - Wegner Warns Verdugo in Boston

As if MLB's COVID season couldn't get wackier, 3B Umpire Mark Wegner nearly ejected Red Sox player Alex Verdugo during an argument potentially running afoul of MLB's social distancing rules after Verdugo took issue with Wegner's tone during a prior play.

The sequence began when baserunner R1 Verdugo took second base on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 8th inning of Saturday's Orioles-Red Sox game. After batter Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out swinging for the second out of the inning, Baltimore skipper Brandon Hyde opted to substitute pitchers.

During the pitching change, Verdugo walked to third base to visit with base coach Carlos Febles, and in Wegner's judgment, lingered around Febles too long, upon which Wegner had to remind Verdugo to return to his position at second base before play resumed. Ensuing batter Kevin Plawecki flew out to end the inning.

After Verdugo subsequently took the field in the 9th, he again became involved in an argument with Wegner and 1B Umpire Alan Porter, ultimately resulting in Wegner motioning to the Boston dugout in warning. According to Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke, Verdugo took issue with the way the umpire spoke to him.

Verdugo said in a postgame press conference he "forgot" his position was on second base.

Official Baseball Rule 8.01(b) states, in part, "Each umpire has authority to order a player, coach, manager or Club officer or employee to do or refrain from doing anything which affects the administering of these rules, and to enforce the prescribed penalties."

Wrap: Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Six, 7/25/20 | Video as follows:

Expedition Ejection - A Summer Ball Call

As MLB's season begins with COVID precautions and safety protocols, such as a 2020 rule prescribing ejection for leaving one's position to come within six feet of an umpire to argue a call, we visit the collegiate Expedition League, where a head coach was ejected during a socially un-distant argument in a league left splintered by the virus.

Safe or Out: What's your call?
In the bottom of the 6th inning of Friday's game between the Pierre Trappers and Badlands Big Sticks, Big Sticks batter Nathan Sanders hit a ground ball to Trappers pitcher Hayden Robbins, who threw to first base as Sanders arrived, ruled safe by the field umpire, resulting in argument from and ejection of Trappers Head Coach Tanner Neale (college: head coach, pro: manager). At the time of the ejection, the Trappers were leading, 4-1. The Trappers ultimately won the contest, 9-6.

The Expedition League is a collegiate summer baseball league covering the Great Plans and headquartered in Rapid City, South Dakota; the reigning champion Big Sticks play in Dickinson, North Dakota.

Coronavirus cases are increasing in North Dakota, including microsite Dickinson of Stark County, home of Friday's game, but remain steady in South Dakota, according to CDC statistics. Dickinson, however, began the month with lower-than-average cases per capita.

Larry Vanover's crew wearing masks in DC.
Like Major League Baseball, the Expedition League postponed the start of its season due to COVID-19, but unlike MLB, is not subject to coronavirus restrictions found in larger cities nor has the league disclosed its testing protocols, or lack thereof.

None of the Expedition League participants appeared to be wearing face masks, or, in lieu of such coverings, practicing physical distancing.

By contrast and in addition to its league-wide six-foot ejection rule, MLB purportedly and recently removed an umpire from the field of play due to potential contact with a COVID-positive player.

Six of the Expedition League's regular teams opted out of the 2020 season due to the virus, including the Casper Horseheads (Wyoming), Sioux Falls Sunfish (SD), Spearfish Sasquatch (SD), and Wheat City Whiskey Jacks (Brandon, Manitoba, Canada).

H/T to @KarterKudrana33 on Twitter for forwarding the video, which is as follows:

Angels-A's Make History with Extra Inning Tiebreaker

Opening Day invoked the first instance of baseball's extra inning tiebreaker rule in major league history, thanks to an Angels-Athletics game that took 10 innings to play, ending when Oakland's baserunner placed at second base to begin the inning, Marcus Semien, scored the winning run on a walk-off grand slam.

How about that for a first game as acting crew chief for Brian Knight, an umpire normally the number 3 on a crew, given the gig after interim chief Marvin Hudson was held out of the game prior to first pitch? Mike Muchlinski, Tom Woodring, and Adam Hamari rounded out the shorthanded crew.

Oakland had a chance to close out the game in regulation, taking a 3-2 lead into the top of the 9th inning, when Angels batter Jason Castro homered to tie the score.

Angels ran into a pickle during their 10th.
Los Angeles (Anaheim)'s Shohei Ohtani later struck out to end the frame. In the bottom of the 9th, the A's couldn't score, with Marcus Semien flying out to Angels catcher Jason Castro to send the game into extras.

The top of the 10th inning began with Ohtani—LAA's final out in the 9th—placed on second base. The A's eventually retired Ohtani and the Angels, sending the tied ballgame into the bottom of the 10th.

Oakland hit a grand slam in the bottom half.
Pursuant to MLB's new tiebreaker rule, the 9th inning's final A's batter, Semien, started the 10th on second base, eventually scoring the winning run when Oakland's Matt Olson hit a grand slam.

MLB instituted the rule after a two-year minor league trial run. According to MiLB statistics, 73% of games ended in the 10th inning with the runner-on-second tiebreaker procedure in effect, compared to 45% of games ending in the 10th under normal bases-empty rules.

It was MLB's first-ever regular season invocation of the extra inning tiebreaker | Video as follows:

Friday, July 24, 2020

MLB Debut of Umpire Jose Navas

Jose Navas made his MLB debut Friday with Jeff Nelson's crew in Chicago. Navas becomes the fourth Venezuelan to reach MLB as an umpire, following Manny Gonzalez, Carlos Torres, and Edwin Moscoso, who debuted on Opening Day.

Like Moscoso, Navas formerly officiated in Venezuela's professional winter league.

His Minor League journey began in 2015's Gulf Coast rookie league, after which Navas traveled through the Florida State and Southern Leagues before his 2019 midseason promotion to the Triple-A International League and Arizona Fall League assignment.

Navas was the crew chief for the 2019 MiLB All-Star Futures Game in Cleveland and is a past recipient of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League's 2017 Gualberto Acosta Award for Umpire of the Year, and the Appalachian League's inaugural Dale Ford Award for top umpire in 2015.

Navas served as HP Umpire during that 2019 Arizona Fall League when Major League Baseball tested its Automated Ball/Strike System during live game play. After the computer called Giants prospect Jacob Heyward out on strikes, Navas warned and ejected Heyward for arguing the call—arguing with a robot umpire's call.
Related PostComputer Strike Call Prompts Navas' AFL Ejection (10/16/19).

Navas is one of 10 rookie umpires to make his MLB debut during the 2020 regular season.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

MLB Debut of Umpire Edwin Moscoso

Opening Day 2020 marked the debut of umpire Edwin Moscoso as part of Bill Miller's crew officiating July 23's Giants-Dodgers game in Los Angeles. The third Venezuelan to reach MLB as an umpire, Moscoso follows Manny Gonzalez and Carlos Torres to the big leagues.

27-year-old Moscoso will serve as a minor league call-up umpire during the 2020 season, authorized to fill in for vacationing or otherwise absent major league umpires. With 13 umpires opting out of the COVID-shortened 2020 season, big league's umpiring door swung wide open for Moscoso and other minor leaguers seeking advancement to the majors, at least for one summer.

The Venezuelan Umpire Camp announced Moscoso's imminent debut via the banner image displayed above, noting he will soon be joined by fellow Venezuelan Jose Navas, who debuts Friday in Chicago. Once he passes his physical, David Arrieta may become the third umpire from Venezuela to debut during the 2020 regular season.

Moscoso's experience following graduation from the MiLB Umpire Academy includes the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, Gulf Coast, New York-Penn, Florida State, Southern, and Pacific Coast Leagues. He officiated the 2018 XM All-Star Futures Game in Washington DC.

Moscoso is the first rookie umpire to make his MLB debut during the 2020 regular season.

MLB to Debut Record 10 Rookie Umpires in 2020

To cope with the unprecedented number of senior umpires opting out of the 2020 MLB season, Major League Baseball will call upon the services of a record-high 10 rookie minor league umps to fill in the gaps throughout the summer.

MiLB's Triple A International and Pacific Coast Leagues supplied MLB with a corral of call-up candidates, and the following umpires were invited to work MLB Spring Training and the resumption known as Summer Camp. One (Jose Navas) began the 2019 season in Double-A's Southern League, but was since promoted to Triple-A.

With 61 full-time staff umpires (13 opt-out + 2 injured) calling games and 23 call-ups available, MLB will experience the highest percentage of call-ups on the field than at any time in the MLB Umpire era.

2020 Rookie Umpire Call Up List (2019 League in Parentheses) as reported by Ump-Attire. com
> Erich Bacchus (International League);
> Adam Beck (International League);
> Nestor Ceja (Pacific Coast League);
> Paul Clemons (Pacific Coast League);
> Dan Merzel (International League);
> Malachi Moore (Pacific Coast League);
> Edwin Moscoso (Pacific Coast League);
> Jose Navas (Southern League [Double-A, since promoted]);
> Junior Valentine (Pacific Coast League);
> Ryan Wills (International League).

According to local Venezuelan media, David Arrieta (Pacific Coast League) may also join the rookie class, pending physical. These are the most rookie debuts since the American and National League staffs merged in 1999.

The 12 call-up umpires remaining from 2019 will all remain on the call-up list for 2020. In order of major league experience, they are (MLB games officiated in parentheses): Sean Barber (513), Ben May (483), Tom Woodring (450), Roberto Ortiz (247), Jeremie Rehak (231), Ryan Additon (200), John Libka (183), Nick Mahrley (164), Shane Livensparger (108), Brennan Miller (38), Alex Tosi (33), John Bacon (28).

MLB Names 7 Interim Crew Chiefs for 2020

Major League Baseball named seven interim crew chiefs for the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Angel Hernandez, suing MLB under charges of race discrimination, is one of them.

Earlier this summer, umpires deemed "high-risk" of complication related to contracting coronavirus were offered the opportunity to opt-out of the 2020 season, at full pay. Umpires not designated as high-risk were still offered the ability to sit out, but as an unpaid option.

Though high-risk crew chief Joe West outspokenly decided to work the 2020 season, nine other umpires who ordinarily serve in full time crew chief roles took MLB's opt-out option, including Gerry Davis, Fieldin Culbreth, Kerwin Danley, Brian Gorman, Tom Hallion, Sam Holbrook, Jerry Layne, and Mike Winters.

Chiefs West, Ted Barrett, Jeff Nelson, Bill Miller, Larry Vanover, Jerry Meals, Mark Wegner, Alfonso Marquez, Jim Reynolds, and Dan Iassogna reportedly did not opt out, all in all leaving open a handful of crew chief vacancies for appointment.
Related PostJoe West Opts In, Several Crew Chiefs Out for 2020 (7/7/20).

Non-crew chiefs electing to sit out 2020 include Scott Barry, Phil Cuzzi, Bruce Dreckman, and Brian O'Nora, bringing the total number of opt-outs to 13. We first started tracking umpires reporting to summer camp (as well as those opting out) on July 15. The 2020 staff is similarly expected to be regionally based.
Related Post2020 MLB Summer Camp (Spring) Roster (7/15/20).

With Greg Gibson and Paul Emmel beginning the season on the Injured List, MLB has had to make some cuts. Amongst those are a reduction in crews from 19 to 17—you'll recall that in 2014, MLB expanded the crews to account for expanded instant replay. Even though Replay Review is expected to operate in 2020, the two extra crews were contracted for the COVID season.
RelatedConfirmed: MLB Hires 7 New Umpires to Full-Time Staff (1/14/14).

With eight crew chiefs out, MLB designated the following longtime umpires interim crew chiefs for the 2020 season:
> Mark Carlson
> Laz Diaz (delayed)
> Angel Hernandez
> Marvin Hudson
> Ron Kulpa
> Paul Nauert
> Bill Welke

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Joe West Testifies for Angel in Hernandez's MLB Suit

Angel Hernandez picked up a few key umpire witnesses in support of his discrimination lawsuit against Major League Baseball, presenting declarations from Joe West and Richie Garcia in the latest filing of Hernandez v MLB. Fieldin Culbreth's deposition from 2019 also made an appearance.

Fieldin Culbreth spoke about pressure from the league to apply for an open crew chief position in 2013 even though Culbreth did not initially want to apply and felt the job should have gone to Wally Bell or Angel Hernandez.

In May 2020, Rich Garcia told the AP he was "sick of it," in reference to Randy Marsh's claim that Garcia was fired in 2010 for watching son-in-law Vic Carapazza work a minor league game. Garcia, who has consistently stated he had zero involvement in Carapazza's hiring, went so far as to speak with then-World Umpires Association President Joe West, who backed Garcia's version of events, recalling that Garcia said, "'I don't want to be in a situation where I have a conflict of interest because he's my son-in-law.'"
Related PostRich Garcia 'Fed Up' Following Marsh Testimony (5/19/20).

Now, in July 2020, Garcia has turned that fed-up attitude into tangible testimony, submitting a written declaration in the Angel Hernandez lawsuit, writing, "Quite simply, Angel Hernandez should have been promoted to crew chief a long time ago. He is an outstanding umpire. I recommended him for the World Series several times."

Joe West also submitted a written declaration in July 2020, slamming MLB for deficient video replay technology in 2013 (Hernandez's "Cleveland Game") and for seemingly punishing Hernandez both for whistleblowing the video problem and for a July 2019 game in which Hernandez presided over a designated hitter/pitcher substitution situation in Tampa Bay: Despite the league telling Hernandez he got the call right and that he acted appropriately, West said that MLB, after a most unusual and unprecedented investigation, inexplicably removed Hernandez from his interim crew chief role.

Monday, July 20, 2020

MLB Announces Replay Improvements, Hawk-Eye

MLB announced several improvements to Replay Review technology for the COVID-shortened 2020 season, including a relocation of MLBAM video headquarters to Manhattan, as well as formal introduction of Hawk-Eye to replace electronic ball/strikes vendor TrackMan.

Baseball's 4K camera networks will double from 12 to 24 isolated angles for the 2020 season, with a new replay operations center in Manhattan, across the street from Radio City Music Hall. From 2014-2019, MLB's replay HQ had been located at Chelsea Market at the old MLBAM offices.

MLB also announced as part of its second-generation Statcast system, that Hawk-Eye would replace TrackMan's Doppler radar system, with five cameras targeted for pitch tracking: four behind home plate and one in center field. Advertised frame rates will vary from 100 to 500 frames per second, at 4K resolution.

MLB claimed Hawk-Eye's error margin going forward is expected to approach 0.1 inches, down from anywhere from 1 to 2 inches in prior years, which recalls our observed silver lining of the weekend's protection/face covering discussion: with all the cards lined up to adopt some element of an automated balls/strikes system in 2020, baseball has been awfully quiet about the previously hyped robo-umpire concept.
Related PostMLB Protective Gear, Masks for Umpires Stirs Debate (7/18/20).

Video as follows:

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Injury Scout - Tony Randazzo Exits Early After Foul Ball

HP Umpire Tony Randazzo left Sunday's all-Chicago exhibition game after an early foul ball to the mask at Wrigley Field.

In the bottom of the 1st inning of the White Sox-Cubs pre-season contest, Cubs batter Javier Baez fouled a first-pitch 91.5-mph cutter from White Sox pitcher Drew Anderson into Randazzo's traditional-style facemask atop Randazzo's COVID surgical-style mask. Randazzo remained in the game through the first two innings of play and left the field thereafter; he had originally been scheduled to officiate between four and five innings.

The crew's 5th umpire, Ben May, entered the ballgame as a substitute home plate umpire to begin the 3rd inning, with Mark Carlson, Alex Tosi, and John Tumpane remaining on the bases.

Relevant Injury History: Randazzo was hit directly by a pitch in May 2017.
Related PostInjury Scout - Hit in 5th & 8th, Randazzo Leaves in 14th (5/13/17).

Last Game: July 19 | Return to Play: TBD | Time Absent: TBD | Video as follows: