Friday, February 5, 2021

Teachable - Passing Runners in Anytown, USA

In this Teachable Moment, tmac reviews a travel baseball play that can happen anywhere. Passing Runners in Anytown, USA features a grand slam wherein the excited baserunners start celebrating and swarm their batter-runner before three of the four runners touches home plate. What's an umpire to do: is there an appeal to be made or are all outs automatic in this situation?

First and foremost, we note that the rules are substantially similar across all levels of baseball: the largest difference is that, in the case of an appeal, NFHS (high school) allows for dead ball appeals whereas at the upper levels NCAA/OBR, the ball must be live during an appeal.

That said, we see that during this home run, preceding/lead runner R3 runs to and touches home plate: his run will count regardless of this play's outcome, as the batter-runner will run to and touch first base.

R2, however, stops short of home plate and waits to celebrate with his teammates, inadvertently causing R1 to pass him. Under OBR 5.09(b)(9), a runner is out when—"he passes a preceding runner before such runner is out," so R1 is out for passing R2 even though it appears R2 caused the passing to occur ("A runner may be deemed to have passed a preceding (i.e., lead) runner based on his actions or the actions of a preceding runner").

Next, the batter-runner passes R1 in a similar fashion, so BR is also out for passing a preceding runner. If there was one out to begin play (or two outs), the inning would already be over at this point: R3's run counts and BR is credited with a one-RBI hit.

If there were zero outs to begin play, however, that leaves R2 as the only baserunner on the field who hasn't yet scored and who hasn't yet been declared out. If R2 continues to the dugout without touching home plate (as is the case here), his run shall count and play continues with two outs. The defense, naturally, can then exercise Official Baseball Rule 5.09(c)(2) [or lower level equivalent] and appeal R2's failure to touch home plate to both nullify the run and pick up an inning-ending third out ("he fails to touch each base in order before he, or a missed base, is tagged"). Note that once R2 returns to the dugout, it is too late for him to return to correct his triple play-inducing error.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Mike Winters Retires Following 2020 Opt-Out

Veteran Major League umpire and Crew Chief Mike Winters officially retired following a 32-career in the NL and MLB. Having begun his professional baseball journey in 1982's Northwest League, Winters worked his first National League game as a call-up from the Pacific Coast League in 1988, joining the NL two years thereafter.

Winters officiated three Wild Card Games, 11 Division Series, six League Championship Series, and four World Series, ejecting 108 players, coaches, and mangers from his first ejection of the late Tommy Lasorda in 1989 to his final ejection of Mickey Callaway in 2019.

When Major League Baseball considered its options for its COVID-modified 2020 season, it offered options to some senior umpires on the staff to sit out the year with pay. The Southern California-based Winters, aged 61 at the time, took the opt-out, making his final career game August 4, 2019. News of Winters' retirement was first announced by MLBUA.

MLB filled the staff vacancy caused by Winters' retirement by hiring Jeremie Rehak, first announced in December 2020. As we wrote at the time, "Not many winters go by with excess staff on payroll."

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Gil's Call - Callaway's Conduct Symptom of Larger Problem

When recent allegations surfaced alleging inappropriate behavior by former Mets Manager and Angels Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway, some of the remarks from alleged victims resembled comments made by umpire recipients of on-field abuse.

In this Gil's Call, we explore the relationship between abuse of officials by certain coaches, managers, or players that occurs on the field and allegations of misconduct that surfaces off the field.

The large difference, naturally, is that, by and large, an abusive person's misconduct during a game occurs on the field, directed at people who wear a certain uniform, while the abuse off the field is largely directed at people who share a certain personal characteristic.

In order to weed out the latter—which society at large seems to have formed a consensus as a largely unacceptable act—could, perchance, addressing the former—which society at large seems to somehow be okay with—prove an effective countermeasure?

When stories like Callaway break, many in the media or fandom decry how this could have happened, said coach is one bad apple, etc...yet those same newsmakers readily rack b-roll footage of said manager having an explosive temper tantrum directed at an umpire during a previous year's ejection to accompany the "shocking" story, as if the two aren't even remotely related.

Similar misconduct, even if different in form, is still abuse, whether it occurs on or off the field. Society seems to think the fence line separating the playing surface from the spectator area—or even the stadium gates—somehow holds a magical property that keeps things "between the lines" and suspends the principles of transitivity.

Here at CloseCallSports, we have long chronicled the perils of umpire/referee abuse and its detrimental effect on the sports officiating community.
Related Label: Umpire Abuse.

Yet for some reason, leagues have remained reluctant to substantially address bad behavior, which in 2017 led to a World Umpires Association-wide white wristband protest, followed not even one year later by the rebranded union, MLBUA, publicly calling for MLB to take action after yet another instance of umpire abuse from ejected personnel: whatever the league negotiated in the wristband protest finale clearly wasn't strong enough to hold for more than one season.

The on-field abuse issue remains so pervasive that our mental health sponsor, Outstanding Sportsmanship is Paramount (OSIP Foundation), runs a hotline called Officials Anonymous for officials experiencing issues related to abuse. After all, the same b-roll footage used to support a potentially abusive manager's indictment could very well be used to supplement a sport's officials disclosure of trauma.

When we are inconsistent in enforcing boundaries—by permitting abuse to continue on the field while decrying it off the field—the end result is covert abuse and gaslighting behavior off the field an a pervasive sense of entitlement. Callaway's alleged misconduct is, extremely likely, just the tip of the iceberg: not for Callaway personally, but in terms of abusive conduct by others which to this point remains unpublicized.

Disagreements are okay, arguments are okay, even yelling may be acceptable under certain circumstances. But abuse—whether through manipulative gaslighting, bullying, or overt illicit activity—is never okay and when it's time for the dispute to conclude, the afflicted teammate must be able to acknowledge and accept the umpire's stern edict of "no": the umpire must be shown that respect for autonomy.

And, thus, in order for "no means no" to work off the field, it must also work on the field and be backed up by those in charge. If the powers-that-be continue to be unable to do so, this systemic abuse—in whatever form it might take—will undoubtedly continue.

It shouldn't have to take covert abuse transmogrifying into a PR nightmare for a suspension to occur, at least not with all this prior evidence, and b-roll footage, sitting plainly in the public eye.

Video as follows: