Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Bright Lights of KC Cause Catch/Drop Confusion

Kansas City batter Salvador Perez earned an unusual RBI single Tuesday during the #Indians-#Royals game when Crew Chief Angel Hernandez's umpire crew awarded runners bases on a batted ball that bounced at the wall. Was this the proper decision and what does the rulebook say?

With one out and two on (R2, R3), Royals batter Perez hit a fly ball to deep right field, where it fell between Indians right fielder Josh Naylor and center fielder Harold Ramirez. While baserunner R3 Whit Merrifield scored (tagging up just in case the fly ball was caught), trailing baserunner Andrew Benintendi was caught up and ultimately tagged between second and third base.

Upon crew consultation between 1B Umpire and Acting Crew Chief Angel Hernandez, 2B Umpire David Rackley, 3B Umpire Dan Bellino, and HP Umpire Edwin Moscoso, Benintendi was placed at third base, with Perez remaining at first base with a single and Merrifield scoring.

The relevant Official Baseball Rule is 8.02(c), which states, in part, "If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing runners where they think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call, disregarding interference or obstruction that may have occurred on the play; failures of runners to tag up based upon the initial call on the field; runners passing other runners or missing bases; etc., all in the discretion of the umpires."

Accordingly, the result of the play in awarding Benintendi—who appeared to have been tagged out—third base suggests via context clues that an initial call was changed. The MLB Umpire Manual's Style and Form of Calls section states, "Major League umpires shall make a signal on all calls with the exception of 'ball.' Signals are to be visible, crisp, and clear. Voice calls should be clearly audible."

More obvious cases of uncaught balls rarely result in visual "safe" mechanics, but out calls ordinarily are accompanied by a fist mechanic. Did 1B Umpire Hernandez signal an out during the play and, upon consultation, invoke OBR 8.02(c) to place the runners where they would have been had no such call been made? Given the aftermath of the play, it seems plausible. Nonetheless, a chain of critical events contributed to a bizarre sequence at Kauffman Stadium.

As Indians Manager Terry Francona stated after the game regarding his conversation with Hernandez, "I just kind of told Angel, 'Why's it always happening when you're here?'"

Noteworthy is MLB's stadium operations guide that is meant to limit the amount of white ink/text/graphics that may be placed on the outfield wall; standards for video graphic/LED displays on the walls exist as well, yet here's an example where a ball dropping in front of the lighted board may have contributed to a consequential call.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Context clues suggest umpires changed an initial call per OBR 8.02(c) (CCS)


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