Saturday, May 15, 2021

No, Giants, A Retired Batter Can't Also Pass A Runner

The Pittsburgh Pirates had to wait a few extra minutes to fully enjoy a walk-off win against San Francisco Friday night after Giants manager Gabe Kapler questioned HP Umpire Tom Hallion about Pittsburgh's baserunning during batter Gregory Polanco's game-ending sacrifice fly that scored Adam Frazier from third base.

Play: With one out and the bases loaded of a tied game in the bottom of the 11th inning, Pirates batter Polanco hit a fly ball to center fielder Austin Slater, scoring baserunner R3 Frazier to break the tie and award Pittsburgh a 3-2 victory.

Kapler Doth Protest: Although at first glance, Kapler's complaint might appear to have been a question of a runner leaving a base too early, this question is discarded for San Francisco never appealed on any of Pittsburgh's runners.

The second possibility, according to at least one of the broadcast crews, was that no runner other than Frazier advanced to and touched their next base...but with a sacrifice fly, no runner was forced to advance.

This leaves us with what Kapler actually argued: that batter-runner Polanco passed teammate and baserunner R1 Caleb Baragar at first base and, thus, the inning should have ended on a double play with no run scoring.

: Official Baseball Rule 5.09(b)(9) states that a runner is out when they pass a "preceding runner before such runner is out." Kapler's argument was that because Polanco passed Baragar before Baragar was out, this is an out and, combined with the caught fly ball, should have been an inning-ending double play.

Double Jeopardy: Not so fast, Giants. Recall that batter-runner Polanco hit a sacrifice fly and was put out by outfielder Slater's catch. Accordingly, Polanco cannot be out for more than one reason: he might be out on the fly ball to the outfield or on the runners passing situation, but not both. Once Polanco is declared out for one of those reasons, he cannot be declared out for the other.

Although situations do exist where a retired runner's actions may cause the runner's teammate to be declared out for the retired runner's actions (e.g., interference), no individual player may be declared out more than once during any individual play.

The Other Runners: Assume that trailing batter-runner Polanco was declared out for passing lead runner Baragar prior to Slater catching the fly ball. Does this absolve all other runners of their tag-up (retouch) responsibilities on the eventually-caught fly ball (since the batter who hit it was already declared out for another reason)? Answer: No. OBR 5.09(c)(1) states that a runner is out on appeal when "After a fly ball is caught, they fail to retouch their original base before they or their original base is tagged."

In sum, batter-runner Polanco is out on the caught fly ball (or [but not and] for passing preceding runner Baragar) for the second out of the inning; Polanco cannot be declared out a second time. All runners appeared to properly tag up on the caught fly ball with Frazier scoring the Pirates' winning run. Game over, score the run.

A retired player cannot be declared out a second time. | Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Kapler, Evan Longoria campaign for runners passing call on retired BR (SF/CCS)


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