Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Light Failure - An Ump's Play On vs Suspension Call

When lights went out at Busch Stadium during Monday's #Mets-#Cardinals game, HP Umpire Mark Carlson immediately called time before pitcher Alex Reyes' delivery. What is MLB's light failure rule and at what point does a power outage turn into a suspended game? Seeing as a manager filed a protest regarding a light failure situation in the past, it's important to know the rules to determine when to play vs when to call both teams in; even if protests are no longer permitted in MLB, it is important to get the call right the first time.

The protested game occurred on June 22, 2015, when Joe Maddon's Chicago Cubs hosted Don Mattingly's Los Angeles Dodgers. With Clayton Kershaw on the mound in the 6th inning of a one-run game (Cubs leading 2-1), several banks of lights unexpected shut off.

After Maddon left his dugout to question the lighting situation, HP Umpire Jordan Baker met with his Crew Chief Jerry Meals and the umpires ultimately opted to keep playing. Maddon, perhaps in a ploy to ice Kershaw, then argued with Meals before again pleading with Baker to stop playing, even as full power appeared to be restored to Wrigley Field.

Mattingly yelled at Maddon, Maddon yelled at someone on the Dodgers, Kershaw yelled over Andy Fletcher at Maddon, and, ultimately, Maddon filed a protest that the umpires had failed to stop the game due to light failure. Although the Cubs ultimately defeated Los Angeles 4-2 (thus the protest was dropped), we follow the rules to determine that even had LA won the game, the protest would have failed.

Official Baseball Rule 5.12(b)(2) states that "The ball becomes dead when an umpire calls “Time.” The umpire-in-chief shall call “Time"—When light failure makes it difficult or impossible for the umpires to follow the play...Except in the cases stated in paragraphs (2) and (3)(A) of this rule, no umpire shall call “Time” while a play is in progress."

As light failure is 5.12(b)(2), umpires can call "Time" while play is in progress if the light failure criterion applies.

Finally, OBR 7.02(a)(3) states that a game becomes a suspended game (meaning it is preserved at the moment of suspension and must be completed at a future date) if the following occurs: "Light failure, malfunction of, or unintentional operator error in employing, a mechanical or field device or equipment under the control of the home club."

MLB cited this rule 7.02(a)(3) (then known as 4.12(a)) as its basis for upholding a protest for the first time in 28 years when the San Francisco Giants protested in 2014 that the Cubs' ground crew erred in deploying the tarp during a rain delay.

However, for light failure, notice 5.12(b)(2)"s statement, "When light failure makes it difficult or impossible for the umpires to follow the play": not the players, not the managers or coaches, not even the fans...the umpires. Thus, the rule regarding light failure concerns the rare umpire judgment call not based on reading anyone else's mind or intent nor factoring in player safety or anyone else's concerns, but reading one's own ability to see a baseball and follow play; the purest judgment call there is.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Light failure considerations - when to play vs when to pause (CCS)


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