Saturday, June 5, 2021

Canada Protests HR vs 2B Runner Placement vs USA After Batted Ball Sticks to Top of Wall

Team Canada filed a protest with WBSC officials after USA batter Triston Casas' fly ball to right field, originally ruled a home run and reversed to a double on replay, resulted in baserunner R1 Logan Forsythe being allowed to score from first base despite Casas' two-base award.

Play: With one out and one on (R1), batter Casas hit a fly ball to deep right center, ruled a home run by 1B Umpire Ramiro Alfaro. Upon Replay Review, the call was overturned to a double, but the Replay Official placed Forsythe at home plate, ruling he would have achieved three bases had the original call been a live ball.

Team Canada protested the game, resulting in a significant delay as WBSC officials and three umpires left the field and returned, denying Canada's protest and ruling that Forsythe would be allowed to score.

: The relevant rule is OBR 5.06(b)(4)(F) which grants runners two bases if a ball "sticks in such fence, scoreboard, shrubbery or vines." The question of what "sticks" means is valid, as is the correct observation that no ball stuck in a fence: it was on top of the wall. For this, we consult the relevant MLB Umpire Manual interpretation, which states, "A fair fly ball striking the top of the outfield wall and remaining on the top of the wall shall be deemed a ground-rule double."

In other words, a ball that comes to rest on top of the wall is deemed a ground-rule double. As long as the ball continues moving, it is live and in play, but when it stops, untouched, it results in two bases.

Analysis: In the 9th inning, the English-language broadcast communicated a statement purportedly offered by the WBSC regarding the play in which officials purportedly claimed that the ball was still alive by virtue of Canada right fielder Jesse Hodges playing it; had Hodges put his hands up or otherwise not retrieved the ball, the argument goes, it would have resulted in a dead ball, two-base award for all runners.

The broadcast continued, reasoning that the Replay Official awarded R1 Forsythe home plate because had the correct call been made and play not declared dead, Forsythe would not have remained at third base, as replays indicate he did.

Gil's Call
: First and foremost, as we'll discuss momentarily in the following section, Replay Review's availability has changed the way stuck/lodged/coming to rest plays are officiated. In Replay games, it does not matter whether the fielder plays the ball or not: the Replay Official can and has determined the ball is dead by virtue of being "stuck" regardless of the fielder's actions after the ball has come to rest.

Second, the logic with USA R1 Forsythe vs Canada F9 Hodges is inconsistent. How come Forsythe gets the benefit of the doubt regarding the dead ball call yet Hodges does not (simply because Hodges' back is turned?)? Forsythe's actions after the umpire declares the ball dead—remaining at third base—are disregarded by the Replay Official, but Hodges' actions in playing the ball (which, again, does not matter in a Replay game when determining whether the ball has come to rest atop the outfield wall) are key to the Replay Official's determination that the ball is live.

Either we disregard everything that happens after the ball became dead—Forsythe's baserunning and Hodges' fielding—or we account for all of it.

Past Practice and Precedent: One additional clue is how MLB began handling the issue of balls sticking in or under outfield fences in the wake of replay's expansion. Umpire Mike DiMuro, in 2016, summed up MLB's historical way of treating potential stuck balls: "Ultimately, the proper ruling must be made by the base umpire who is responsible for the flight of the ball – and it is only possible to do so by running out to the fence to visually discern and confirm that the ball is indeed lodged or stuck. If the fielder dislodges the ball by grabbing it and removing it, then it can no longer be considered lodged or stuck."

In games without replay, this logic still prevails: if an umpire cannot discern whether or not a ball is stuck prior to a fielder playing it, the umpire has little choice but to keep play alive.

However, when MLB adopted expanded replay and made stadium boundary calls reviewable, it changed how this play was officiated via video: the Replay Official was now able to determine that a ball was stuck the moment it came to rest in or under a wall, whether or not the fielder raised their arms or played the ball. For instance, in 2016, we saw a slew of stuck/lodged ball calls via Replay Review, even when the fielder played the ball—or the ball didn't appear "stuck-stuck," but just "at rest" or immobile. Thus, we were treated to MLB's new standard: a ball at the wall that comes to rest in or under (or on top of) said wall is now deemed "stuck."
Related PostCause You're Stuck in the Wall - Batted Ball Out of Play (9/20/16).

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Canada Protests WBSC Replay Call on Reversed HR (WBSC/CCS)


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