Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Officiating on the Big Screen - Major League

Tmac
 makes his Officiating on the Big Screen debut with an analysis of the umpires that appear in the movie Major League. From uniforms to mechanics, timing, disappearing umps, and more, this film has a little bit of everything and ultimately culminates in what could possibly be the oddest home plate umpiring performance in big league history, complete with sleight of hand and a bevy of oversold safe calls.

Officiating on the Big Screen is the new-for-2021 series on CloseCallSports.com that features commentary and criticism on depictions of referees and umpires in movies, TV shows, and other cultural media. If you have a suggestion for what we should review next, leave a comment.

Video as follows:

Friday, February 12, 2021

Real World Rules - Teachable Moment Passes to Life

Nary one week after our recent Tmac's Teachable Moment for Passing Runners in Anytown, USA, a similar grand slam caper turned into a real life UEFL Curse as TMU found itself guilty of a base-running infraction against Cumberland in Georgia.

Play: With two outs and the bases loaded (R1 Mikal Mascarello, R2 Andrew Johnston, R3 Josh Johnston), Truett McConnell University batter Ethan Roberts hit what appeared to be a home run. Replays indicate that, similar to our Teachable, one runner stopped short of touching home plate before a following runner continued jogging and did touch home plate. In this case, it was R3 who failed to touch home plate as R2 followed by touching home plate to complete his own baserunning journey.

Analysis: Cumberland University's box score indicates Josh Johnston, TMU's runner on third base, was called out on appeal for failing to touch a base, but this cannot possibly be accurate under the NCAA/college ruleset pursuant to Rule 8-6-b, which, just like professional baseball's OBR, requires the appeal be lodged while the ball is live or (in this case) has been put back into play.

Thus, we know it was not an appeal. Here's what else it could be:

Runners Passing (Teachable)
: Under OBR 5.09(b)(9), a runner is out when—"he passes a preceding runner before such runner is out," so R1 is out for passing R2 even though it appears R2 caused the passing to occur ("A runner may be deemed to have passed a preceding (i.e., lead) runner based on his actions or the actions of a preceding runner"). There is no greater example of a runner passing another runner than when a lead runner fails to reach a base, only for a following runner to then arrive at and touch that same base.

Abandonment: Home plate provides a unique circumstance for abandonment since a runner is not obliged to stay on home plate, as they would at another base such as second or third. In this instance, a runner may be called for abandonment at home plate when the runner clearly starts for the dugout and the catcher would be required to chase the offensive player during a live ball.

Because the Cumberland-TMU play involved a dead ball, this portion of abandonment's interpretation does not apply.

Instead, we consult the MLB Umpire Manual (similar interpretation for NCAA), which states that an infraction has occurred (all else equal [e.g., assuming no runners other than R3 were entitled to home plate, as would be the case on a dead ball, one-base award]) only when R3 enters the dugout without having completed his base-running responsibility.

With no other runners, R3, by rule, still has the opportunity to correct his baserunning error prior to the first of either A) entering the dugout or B) the ball being put back into play, upon which the defense could appeal the missed base.

Naturally, in this situation, we know the circumstance of runners passing has occurred by virtue of R2 clearly touching home plate while R3's attempt to touch home plate, as it were, came up noticeably short. Thus, R3 had not yet abandoned his base-running responsibility at the time of R2 touching home plate, but R2's touch of home plate did constitute tangible confirmation that R2 had passed R3 on the bases; thus, R2 is out for passing and R3's run shall not count because in order for R2 to have passed R3, we must presume that R3 had not yet scored (e.g., R3 never made it to home plate). Thus, there is no fourth out appeal situation to be had.

In short, R3 is not out for abandonment solely because R2 passed him first, and R2's out was the final out of the inning. Because R2 passed R3 prior to R3 either entering the dugout or returning to complete the final (short) leg of his running of the bases, the third out of the inning caused by the runner passing precedes any potential abandonment or missed base touch situation.

Video as follows:

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Podcast - Tending the Taps with Tim Tschida

Retired MLB crew chief Tim Tschida joins The Plate Meeting podcast to talk about his time as a Major League umpire, his journey to the show, memorable games and ejections, and development of his distinctive strike call. Tschida also answers your questions in this in-depth interview and conversation.

The Plate Meeting Podcast is now in its third season and we hope the 2021 baseball year will prove more optimistic and healthy for all umpires, and feature more opportunities for traveling umpires to make use of our episodes while on the road.

Listen to this show by clicking the play button on the following player or by visiting the link, below. You can also download The Plate Meeting podcast through providers such as Apple Podcasts, Google, Spotify, and more.

Alternate Link: Episode 27 - Tending the Taps with Tim Tschida (CCS on Anchor).

Videos
MIN@CAL - Twins pitcher Joe Niekro is ejected by Tschida's crew for doctoring the baseball.
Frank Robinson takes on Mike Scioscia over illegal substance, Tschida as home plate umpire.


The Plate Meeting, a Left Field Umpire Podcast
is the official audio program of Close Call Sports, where we talk umpiring with umpires, including analysis or other conversation pertaining to plays, ejections, rules, and more.

It is brought to you by Out West Officials, get your gear at https://www.outwestofficials.com/.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Teachable - Passing Runners in Anytown, USA

In this Teachable Moment, tmac reviews a travel baseball play that can happen anywhere. Passing Runners in Anytown, USA features a grand slam wherein the excited baserunners start celebrating and swarm their batter-runner before three of the four runners touches home plate. What's an umpire to do: is there an appeal to be made or are all outs automatic in this situation?

First and foremost, we note that the rules are substantially similar across all levels of baseball: the largest difference is that, in the case of an appeal, NFHS (high school) allows for dead ball appeals whereas at the upper levels NCAA/OBR, the ball must be live during an appeal.

That said, we see that during this home run, preceding/lead runner R3 runs to and touches home plate: his run will count regardless of this play's outcome, as the batter-runner will run to and touch first base.

R2, however, stops short of home plate and waits to celebrate with his teammates, inadvertently causing R1 to pass him. Under OBR 5.09(b)(9), a runner is out when—"he passes a preceding runner before such runner is out," so R1 is out for passing R2 even though it appears R2 caused the passing to occur ("A runner may be deemed to have passed a preceding (i.e., lead) runner based on his actions or the actions of a preceding runner").

Next, the batter-runner passes R1 in a similar fashion, so BR is also out for passing a preceding runner. If there was one out to begin play (or two outs), the inning would already be over at this point: R3's run counts and BR is credited with a one-RBI hit.

If there were zero outs to begin play, however, that leaves R2 as the only baserunner on the field who hasn't yet scored and who hasn't yet been declared out. If R2 continues to the dugout without touching home plate (as is the case here), his run shall count and play continues with two outs. The defense, naturally, can then exercise Official Baseball Rule 5.09(c)(2) [or lower level equivalent] and appeal R2's failure to touch home plate to both nullify the run and pick up an inning-ending third out ("he fails to touch each base in order before he, or a missed base, is tagged"). Note that once R2 returns to the dugout, it is too late for him to return to correct his triple play-inducing error.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Mike Winters Retires Following 2020 Opt-Out

Veteran Major League umpire and Crew Chief Mike Winters officially retired following a 32-career in the NL and MLB. Having begun his professional baseball journey in 1982's Northwest League, Winters worked his first National League game as a call-up from the Pacific Coast League in 1988, joining the NL two years thereafter.

Winters officiated three Wild Card Games, 11 Division Series, six League Championship Series, and four World Series, ejecting 108 players, coaches, and mangers from his first ejection of the late Tommy Lasorda in 1989 to his final ejection of Mickey Callaway in 2019.

When Major League Baseball considered its options for its COVID-modified 2020 season, it offered options to some senior umpires on the staff to sit out the year with pay. The Southern California-based Winters, aged 61 at the time, took the opt-out, making his final career game August 4, 2019. News of Winters' retirement was first announced by MLBUA.

MLB filled the staff vacancy caused by Winters' retirement by hiring Jeremie Rehak, first announced in December 2020. As we wrote at the time, "Not many winters go by with excess staff on payroll."

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Gil's Call - Callaway's Conduct Symptom of Larger Problem

When recent allegations surfaced alleging inappropriate behavior by former Mets Manager and Angels Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway, some of the remarks from alleged victims resembled comments made by umpire recipients of on-field abuse.

In this Gil's Call, we explore the relationship between abuse of officials by certain coaches, managers, or players that occurs on the field and allegations of misconduct that surfaces off the field.

The large difference, naturally, is that, by and large, an abusive person's misconduct during a game occurs on the field, directed at people who wear a certain uniform, while the abuse off the field is largely directed at people who share a certain personal characteristic.

In order to weed out the latter—which society at large seems to have formed a consensus as a largely unacceptable act—could, perchance, addressing the former—which society at large seems to somehow be okay with—prove an effective countermeasure?

When stories like Callaway break, many in the media or fandom decry how this could have happened, said coach is one bad apple, etc...yet those same newsmakers readily rack b-roll footage of said manager having an explosive temper tantrum directed at an umpire during a previous year's ejection to accompany the "shocking" story, as if the two aren't even remotely related.

Similar misconduct, even if different in form, is still abuse, whether it occurs on or off the field. Society seems to think the fence line separating the playing surface from the spectator area—or even the stadium gates—somehow holds a magical property that keeps things "between the lines" and suspends the principles of transitivity.

Here at CloseCallSports, we have long chronicled the perils of umpire/referee abuse and its detrimental effect on the sports officiating community.
Related Label: Umpire Abuse.

Yet for some reason, leagues have remained reluctant to substantially address bad behavior, which in 2017 led to a World Umpires Association-wide white wristband protest, followed not even one year later by the rebranded union, MLBUA, publicly calling for MLB to take action after yet another instance of umpire abuse from ejected personnel: whatever the league negotiated in the wristband protest finale clearly wasn't strong enough to hold for more than one season.

The on-field abuse issue remains so pervasive that our mental health sponsor, Outstanding Sportsmanship is Paramount (OSIP Foundation), runs a hotline called Officials Anonymous for officials experiencing issues related to abuse. After all, the same b-roll footage used to support a potentially abusive manager's indictment could very well be used to supplement a sport's officials disclosure of trauma.

When we are inconsistent in enforcing boundaries—by permitting abuse to continue on the field while decrying it off the field—the end result is covert abuse and gaslighting behavior off the field an a pervasive sense of entitlement. Callaway's alleged misconduct is, extremely likely, just the tip of the iceberg: not for Callaway personally, but in terms of abusive conduct by others which to this point remains unpublicized.

Disagreements are okay, arguments are okay, even yelling may be acceptable under certain circumstances. But abuse—whether through manipulative gaslighting, bullying, or overt illicit activity—is never okay and when it's time for the dispute to conclude, the afflicted teammate must be able to acknowledge and accept the umpire's stern edict of "no": the umpire must be shown that respect for autonomy.

And, thus, in order for "no means no" to work off the field, it must also work on the field and be backed up by those in charge. If the powers-that-be continue to be unable to do so, this systemic abuse—in whatever form it might take—will undoubtedly continue.

It shouldn't have to take covert abuse transmogrifying into a PR nightmare for a suspension to occur, at least not with all this prior evidence, and b-roll footage, sitting plainly in the public eye.

Video as follows:

Friday, January 29, 2021

Teachable - Working the Play at 2B With Jeff Nelson

Our Tmac's Teachable Moments series continues with a look at how to stay with and adjust to work a thorny play at second base with 2020 ALCS 2B Umpire and Crew Chief Jeff Nelson.

With one out and a runner on first, a ground ball to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve turns into an improvisation exercise as Altuve initially misplays the batted ball, but quickly recovers to attempt to force out Rays baserunner Randy Arozarena at second base under the watchful eye of 2B Umpire Nelson.

The clue for an umpire in this situation—and mainly for smaller crews in which an umpire may initially consider splitting potential responsibilities between possible plays at either first or second base—is Altuve's direction after booting the baseball. 

Once the field umpire observes Altuve chase the ball toward the middle of the infield, one may surmise that the imminent play will most likely occur at second base, rather than first base and the idea of hedging one's bet by staying in the middle ground between first and second base should vanish: much like GameStop stock, it's all in toward second base.

Umpire Nelson adjusts his positioning accordingly and enters the keyhole angle to take this play at second base and keep an eye on the runner's legs while observing (in this case, visually due to the soft toss) the fielder's receipt of the throw. Ordinarily we may listen for the sound of the glove, but the closer the throwing fielder to the base, the less likely it is that the sound will be detectable, which means umpires must line themselves up to see both the foot on the base and ball in the glove, preferably along the same visual path to avoid having to dart eyes back and forth.

Video as follows:

Monday, January 25, 2021

Call for Questions - Podcast with Umpire Tim Tschida

As we prepare for a return to normalcy, CloseCallSports.com announces Tim Tschida as our next guest on The Plate Meeting podcast. After his American League debut in 1985, the Minnesota-born umpire officiated AL and MLB games through his 2012 retirement, cataloging 3,358 regular season games and 86 ejections, with nine Division Series, three League Championship Series, and three World Series thrown in between.

Tschida, who ejected Lou Piniella and Cal Ripken early in his career before transforming into the most popular umpire-ejects-manager GIF on the internet with his 2012 ejection of Don Mattingly, retired to bartending in St. Paul, as chronicled in a local 2018 interview.

Tschida ejects Donnie Baseball.
Comment with your questions for Tschida, from baseball to bartending and beyond.

The Plate Meeting, a Left Field Umpire Podcast, Close Call Sports/UEFL's official audio show, features interviews and discussions of officiating topics with umpires.

To subscribe to The Plate Meeting, visit the show's Anchor.fm page, or Apple Podcasts page, which offers external links to popular podcast providers, such as iTunes, Spotify, Radio Public, and Google Podcasts. We will also strive to add any video-enabled show to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/CloseCallSports.

Follow us on Twitter 🐦 (@CloseCallSports) and like on Facebook 👍 (/CloseCallSports).

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Teachable - Cueto's Interference is Not a Tangle

Every so often, a Tmac's Teachable Moment crosses path with an Ask the UEFL Rules Review and such is the case of HP Umpire Quinn Wolcott's call of interference on Johnny Cueto's bunt attempt, compared to Ed Armbrister's classic tangle-untangle from Game 3 of the 1975 World Series.

In this analysis of Cueto's actions following his bunt in Cincinnati, we compare and contrast with Armbrister's play, noting that both batters, having bunted the ball in front of home plate, became entangled with their respective catchers, only that Cueto was ruled out for interference while Armbrister earned himself a "that's nothing" call from HP Umpire Larry Barnett, much to the chagrin of catcher Carlton Fisk.

The primary difference, we find with an assist from the 2020 ALCS where history repeated itself and Rays batter-runner Manuel Margot legally tangled with Astros catcher Martin Maldonado, is embedded within Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10) Comment itself.

According to OBR 6.01(a)(10) Comment, "When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called."

And therein lies the key distinction: While Armbrister and Margot clearly became entangled with their catchers while running to first base, Cueto did no such thing: he remained stationary in the batter's box and, by virtue of his immediate inaction, did not satisfy the criterion of 6.01(a)(10) in that he was not "going to first base" at the time of the contact. For this reason, the rule's quasi-exception does not apply and Cueto thus was guilty of interference whereas the other players who were going to first base enjoyed the protection of the rule.

This is an example of how knowing the game, knowing players' responsibilities, and anticipating plays as an umpire will help in officiating tricky situations, such as a potential tangle/untangle.

Video as follows:

Monday, January 18, 2021

Officiating on the Big Screen - Star Trek Umpire Analysis

CloseCallSports.com introduces our newest series for 2021, Officiating on the Big Screen, where we analyze portrayals of referees and umpires in movies, TV shows, and other pop culture. In this debut episode, we travel to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Take Me Out to the Holosuite, where Odo serves as umpire for a baseball game between the USS T'Kumbra Logicians and Deep Space Niners.

After DS9 Captain Benjamin Sisko accepts visiting Vulcan Solok's challenge to a ballgame, the teams place their faith in Chief of Security Odo, the only person Sisko trusts to be an impartial umpire.

The character Odo, played by Rene Auberjonois, is a Changeling whose reputation is as a constable with great respect for and fair enforcement of the rule of law. Odo and Sisko's relationship evolved throughout the series from a contentious one to a close association; Take Me Out to the Holosuite thus serves to further cement Sisko's trust in Odo.

The following video analysis of Odo's performance as home plate umpire delves into Odo's mannerisms, mechanics, and technique, from plate brush to positioning to situation handling and beyond, including Odo's ejection of Sisko.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Teachable Tumpane's Toework During Pulled Foot Play

Tmac's
 first Teachable Moment of 2021 visits 1B Umpire John Tumpane's pulled foot vs out call in Game 7 of the 2020 American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays. With Alex Bregman at the plate, Rays first baseman Ji-man Choi reached to field a throw from third baseman Joey Wendle, and in doing so stretched to try and keep his right foot in contact with first base as Bregman ran by.

For 1B Umpire John Tumpane, working his first career ALCS, this meant a quick adjustment from an expected out/safe timing call to a potential pulled foot situation, and the umpire dutifully shifted his focus to Choi's footwork to determine whether or not the fielder maintained contact with the bag.

In order to do this, Tumpane adjusted his position to form the keyhole angle (or wedge or view) required to best officiate this play and see potential separation (or daylight) between foot and base.

In this case, Tumpane confirmed that Choi had successfully keep his cleat in contact with the base and therefore ruled Bregman out, a called confirmed following Replay Review initiated by a Manager's Challenge.

Video as follows: