Saturday, March 13, 2021

Teachable - Touched Starved at TMU Appeal Play

For the second time this college season, TMU Baseball fell victim to their own baserunning folly as a player failed to touch home plate during a home run trot leading to a defensive appeal and out call. In this Teachable, tmac looks at umpire responsibility during a home run in which the home plate umpire rotates up to third base.

From audio of the Truett McConnell University broadcaster in the press box to the umpire reminding the catcher they must first put the ball back into play before executing the appeal, pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 5.09(c)'s requirement regarding appeal timing, this video is yet another example—deja vu, even—of a missed base appeal play.

The primary difference between this play and the runners passing teachable come to life play in February is that the offending runner in this play actually arrived at (and stepped over) home plate, whereas the February runner failed to even approach home plate. Thus, an appeal is the proper course of action here whereas the February play was subject to a consideration of passing (which occurred prior to abandonment).
Related PostReal World Rules - Teachable Moment Passes to Life (2/12/21).

Video as follows:

Thursday, March 11, 2021

MLB Announces Experimental MiLB Rules for 2021 Season

MLB issued a press release formally announcing several experimental rules for Minor League Baseball's 2021 season, splitting up the tests by level of play such that Low-A through Triple-A will each try out different changes this summer.

Citing fan preferences—"We are listening to our fans" according to MLB Senior VP of On-Field Operations Michael Hill—MLB announced the following changes for MiLB in 2021, a new-look minor league system after MLB restructured its entire operation during last year's extended offseason and the end of its last agreement with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, as elucidated in the BallPark Digest article "RIP Minor League Baseball: 1901-2020" in which MLB's plan to eliminate up to 42 teams is revealed.

And when teams go away, so too do the umpires who would have been assigned to those games.

As for the 2021 MiLB experiments, by level, they are as follows:

> Triple-A: Larger Bases, from 15 to 18 square inches, which corresponds to a 44% in base size. MLB cites a desire to reduce player injuries and collisions; this is not the first time MLB discussed increasing base size for that purpose and tested this in the Atlantic League in 2019.
Related PostAtlantic League Debuts New Rules, E-Zone (7/10/19).

> Double-A: Defensive Position restrictions, e.g., elimination of the shift, also from the 2019 Atlantic Lg.
> High-A: Step Off Rule requires pitchers disengage rubber prior to throwing to a base or face the penalty of a balk. This is another Atlantic League innovation from 2019.
> Low-A: Limit pitcher step/pick offs to two per plate appearance. After that, a third pickoff attempt during the same plate appearance that does not retire a runner will result in a balk call.
> Low-A Southeast: Implementation of Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS), the robot/electronic strike zone technology previously seen in the Atlantic League.
> Low-A West: Various pace of play initiatives, such as pitch clock time limit enforcement/new rules.

MLB announced it implemented the new rules "consistent with the preferences of our fans," who took to twitter shortly thereafter to express their dissatisfaction with the news by writing things such as "Fire Manfred into the sun" and "The only thing MLB hates more than baseball is baseball fans."

Video as follows:

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Runners Passing Nearly Turns to Lead Abandonment

A runners passing situation during Tuesday's Spring Training game between the Red Sox and Rays in Florida led umpires to declare Tampa Bay baserunner Nathan Lukes out for passing Vidal Brujan, who nearly abandoned his running of the bases and could have been called for a second out on the play. What happened?

Play: With one out and two on (R2 Lukes, R3 Brujan), Rays batter Brett Sullivan took a called fourth ball, drawing a walk. R3 Brujan, who apparently thought the bases were loaded, started jogging toward home plate as Boston alertly trapped Brujan in a rundown, with R2 Lukes hustling to third base. As Red Sox pitcher John Schreiber ran R3 Brujan back to third base, a runners passing situation occurred, identified by 3B Umpire and Crew Chief Sam Holbrook, who declared R2 Lukes out. After confusion, during which Brujan ran back to and entered the Tampa Bay dugout, Brujan was returned to third base, Lukes declared out, and batter-runner Sullivan placed at second base.

: Runners passing occurs when a trailing runner fully passes a preceding runner. According to Official Baseball Rule 5.09(b)(9), which states that a runner is out when "he passes a preceding runner before such runner is out," it doesn't exactly matter who physically passed whom; in all cases, it is the trail who is out: "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."

As far as abandonment is concerned—seeing as Brujan clearly ran to and entered the Rays dugout—OBR 5.09(b)(2) states that a runner is out when the runner leaves the base path, "obviously abandoning his effort to touch the next base." The example play is as follows: "PLAY—Runner believing he is called out on a tag at first or third base starts for the dugout and progresses a reasonable distance still indicating by his actions that he is out, shall be declared out for abandoning the bases."

Analysis: So why wasn't this a double play? In the end, Brujan may have been saved by a combination of two factors: First, it's Spring Training and a certainly leniency exists in March that would not in, say, July. Second, 3B Umpire Holbrook appeared to call "Time" before declaring Lukes out for passing.

That "Time" call makes abandonment a little trickier, as during a dead ball situation, runners similarly have a bit more lenience before abandonment sets in. That said....Brujan did enter the dugout, and unless it was for the purposes of uniform repair, it would be reasonable to believe he did so because he had abandoned his base-running role, or, as OBR 5.09(b)(2) PLAY states, because Brujan believed he had been "called out."

Lessons Learned: First, even when players don't know the rules, umpires must maintain both knowledge and awareness. In this situation, R3 Brujan did not know his entitlement to third base, but U3 Holbrook did.

However, the second part of our lesson is patience. Keep the ball alive and in play unless all action has ceased or as otherwise prescribed by rule. For the purposes of this play, runners passing is a simple out declaration: it is not a reason to call "Time" while the ball is loose and other action is taking place. But if "Time" is going to be called, erroneously or otherwise, that moves the goalpost for other calls, such as abandonment: "Time" kills the play and certain events—such as runners advancing—simply cannot occur during a dead ball (unless part of a base award).

That said, an umpire is empowered by Rule 8.02(c) to place runners as if the reversed call had never been made, disregarding events that may have occurred after the call-to-be-reversed: "If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing." In this case, abandonment occurred after the "Time" call and may have been reversed pursuant to OBR 8.02(c).

Monday, March 8, 2021

2021 UEFL Call for Appeals Board Nominations

Hello, and welcome back to the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League for 2021. We begin preparations for the 2021 season by soliciting nominations for the UEFL Appeals Board vacancy that was created by the resignation of MLB Umpire Observer.

UEFL Rule 6-4-a prescribes the creation of an Appeals Board to rule on contested issues that may arise throughout the season, and delineates the process through which this Board's membership is selected. As of March 2021, this nine-person Board has one vacancy, which shall be filled via pre-season nomination and election.

Any visitor, guest, or user is eligible to serve on the Appeals Board; league participation is not required. Membership on the Appeals Board is a voluntary position and subject to a one-year term with no term limits. If you are interested in nominating yourself for this at-large Appeals Board vacancy, please consider the following requirements:
➤ Ability to separate subjectivity from objective analysis;
➤ Extensive rules knowledge or ability to attain exceptional proficiency;
➤ Acceptance of prior and willingness to form UEFL precedent and rule interpretations;
➤ Ability to objectively and thoroughly analyze plays to determine, among others, Quality of Correctness;
➤ Availability to respond to the "Office of the UEFL Commissioner" in a timely fashion;
➤ Board members must abstain from ruling on plays involving drafted umpires (if applicable).

Example of Appeals Board work: 2020 Appeals Board page on the UEFL Portal.
Permanent Appeals Board members: Gil Imber (Commissioner, Chair), Tim McCaffrey/tmac (Ast), Jeremy Dircks (Deputy), RichMSN (Charter Member).  
Appeals Board re-elected via 2020 Rules Summit: Arik G, cyclone14, jvick2017, MarkCanada.
Vacancy: Seat 9 [1 vacancy].

Appeals Board Nomination, Election, and UEFL 2021 Season Registration Timeline:
March 8, 2021 (Monday): Appeals Board nominations opened.
March 18, 2021 (Thursday): Appeals Board nominations closed.
March 19, 2021 (Friday): Appeals Board voting begins, UEFL Registration & Draft begins.
March 31, 2021 (Wednesday): Voting ends, UEFL registration/draft ends. Board, rosters are set.

To submit your candidacy for the UEFL Appeals Board vacancy, [nominations closed]. Be sure to include the following information:
> Username (what you'd like to be called in Appeals Board decisions);
> Real name (username may or may not be your real name, privacy is a reasonable request);
> Preferred e-mail address (presumably the address you are using to send your e-mail);
> Have you participated in the UEFL before?
> Qualifications and/or candidate statement (500 characters maximum).