Saturday, September 4, 2021

Ask UEFL - Batter-Runner Fights Fielder During HR Trot

When Reno Aces batter Henry Ramos fought Tacoma Rainiers shortstop Donovan Walton during his home run trot, inciting a benches-clearing brawl, it also meant that Ramos did not complete his base touches at third or home plate. With punches thrown and players ejected, what is an umpire's official call to be in such a situation when a runner fails to touch a base to which said runner is entitled to advance?

A similar play occurred at the Major League level in 2013 after Brewers batter Carlos Gomez hit an out-of-the-park home run in Atlanta. With the HR entitling Gomez to advance to home plate, scoring a run, while similarly causing the ball to become dead, Gomez and several members of the Braves became engaged in unsporting behavior, culminating with Braves catcher Brian McCann physically confronting Gomez as the Brewers batter-runner ran toward home plate.

Due to the ensuing fight, during which Braves players Gerald Laird and Freddie Freeman, alongside Milwaukee's Gomez, were ejected, Gomez never did physically touch home plate.

After the play, HP Umpire Paul Nauert and crew awarded Gomez with a touch of home plate and the game continued with the home run credited to the now-ejected Gomez.

When we put together a Case Play in the incident's aftermath, the conclusion held that the umpires ruled obstruction on McCann, the penalty of which was to award Gomez a touch of home plate. Pursuant to both the Official Baseball Rules and various interpretation manuals including the MLBUM and Wendelstedt's book, the principle is to penalize the first team to offend while also failing to execute their expected responsibility during a play and/or prevent an opponent from completing a base award.

In this situation—a dead ball home run—the only responsibility belonged to Ramos, as it did to Gomez in 2013: the responsibility to round the bases and touch home plate. Video confirms that both Ramos and Gomez, although engaged in taunting or other verbal unpleasantness, were in the act of running the bases when someone on the defense—Walton for Ramos and McCann for Gomez—left their position to confront the offensive player, inciting a melee.

Even if we assume the batter-runner and the fielder are equally at fault for the unsporting incident, that's what ejections are for. Insofar as the actual base touches are concerned, the runner is entitled to advance without liability to be put out and in both cases, the defense's illegal actions during a dead ball contributed to the prevention of their batter-runner opponents from completing a base award. As Wendelstedt states, when such obstruction occurs, "the umpire may consider the base as touched or reached if he believes it would have taken place had the obstruction not occurred."

Finally, even with the offensive player ejected for fighting, "disqualification shall not take effect until no further action is possible in that play." Because, in both events, obstruction occurred prior to the disqualification, the award holds and the umpires may credit the player with their awarded base touch(es).

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Review of when a batter-runner is entitled to an awarded base touch (CCS)


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