Saturday, April 3, 2021

MLB Ejection 001 - Jim Reynolds (1; Nick Castellanos)

3B Umpire Jim Reynolds ejected Reds RF Nick Castellanos (Unsportsmanlike-NEC/inciting a brawl) in the bottom of the 4th inning of the #Cardinals-#Reds game. With two out and none on, Castellanos took a first-pitch sinker from Cardinals pitcher Jake Woodford for a hit-by-pitch. Two batters later with Castellanos at third base, Reds batter Mike Moustakas took a first pitch curveball for a wild pitch and baserunner R3 Castellanos attempted to score by sliding headfirst into home plate as Cardinals pitcher Woodford attempted to tag Castellanos. Replays indicate that after Castellanos slid safely into home plate (HP Umpire Tony Randazzo's safe call was confirmed upon Replay Review as the result of a challenge by Cardinals Manager Mike Shildt), Castellanos taunted Woodford, resulting in a benches-clearing incident. At the time of the ejection, the Reds were leading, 7-2. The Reds ultimately won the contest, 9-6.

This is Jim Reynolds (77)'s first ejection of the 2021 MLB regular season.
Jim Reynolds now has 2 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Prev + 2 MLB + 0 Irrecusable Call = 2).
Crew Chief Jim Reynolds now has 1 points in Crew Division (0 Previous + 1 Irrecusable Call = 1).

This is the first ejection report of the 2021 MLB regular season.
This is the first player ejection of 2021. Prior to ejection, Castellanos was 1-2 (HBP) in the contest.
This is Cincinnati's 1st ejection of 2021, 1st in the NL Central (CIN 1; CHC, MIL, PIT, STL 0).
This is Nick Castellanos' first career MLB ejection.
This is Jim Reynolds' 1st ejection since September 25, 2020 (Matt Kemp; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds, 4/3/21 | Video as follows:

Friday, April 2, 2021

Draft Results, Site Updated for 2021, Appeals Board Set

As the 2021 MLB regular season gets underway, the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League roster is now set with the UEFL Appeals Board set to welcome Scott C to the crew. Draft results are as follows.

In sum, league membership for 2021 will be 114, of which 30.1% of drafted crews will feature Ted Barrett, who overtakes Joe West for most popular crew chief in 2021 (West had been the most popular crew chief drafted from 2015-2020).

Additionally, the following webpages have been updated for 2021:

2021 UEFL Draft Results
Membership: 114 (Repeat Participants: 58% / New to UEFL: 42%).
Crew Chiefs: Ted Barrett (30.1%), Joe West (17.9%), Sam Holbrook (8.1%).
Primary Umpires: Vic Carapazza (17.5%), Joe West (14.0%), Marvin Hudson (13.2%).
Secondary Umpires: Will Little (15.8%), John Tumpane (13.2%), Alan Porter (12.3%).
Appeals Board: ScottC (18.1%), TJW/wwjd220 (16.9%), Robin1720 (9.6%).

Important: Visit the 2021 UEFL Standings to confirm your crew is accurately listed. For those who didn't submit full crews, random selections were chosen. Please reply as a comment or e-mail if an adjustment needs to be made.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Runners Passing Costs Dodgers Run on Opening Day

It took less than three innings for a baseball rules question to find its way to the UEFL inbox and umpire decision quandary takes us to Dodgers-Rockies game in Colorado with Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner combining for a runners passing play, depriving Los Angeles of an early run at Coors Field.

With one out and one on (R1) in the top of the 3rd inning, Dodgers batter Bellinger hits a fly ball to deep left field, off Rockies left fielder Raimel Tapia's glove, and over the wall for an apparent home run.

LA baserunner R1 Turner, however, stops watching the ball as Tapia attempts to catch it, and doesn't see the ball fall over the wall, similarly ignoring both the umpires' home run mechanic and Bellinger's own instruction that the ball cleared the outfield fence.

As a result of Turner's This is Not an April Fools' Joke play, the two Dodgers runners end up passing each other on the base path between first and second base, and the umpires invoke Official Baseball Rule 5.09(b)(9) ("Any runner is out when he passes a preceding runner before such runner is out") to declare Bellinger out, while allowing Turner to complete his free passage to home plate.

The official scoring on this play is an RBI single for Bellinger and the loss of a potential run for Los Angeles. The Rockies subsequently took a 2-1 lead shortly thereafter, and ultimately won the game.

For more detailed analysis and discussion on prior runners passing plays (including why the rule states that the trailing runner is responsible for passing, even if the lead runner was physically more "at fault"), see the following related label. Runners passing featured prominently in our 2020-2021 offseason discussion, including during a Boston-Tampa Bay Spring Training game on March 9, TMU college game on February 12 (also during a home run), and travel ball game we discussed on February 5.
Related Label: Passing Runners.

Officiating on the Big Screen - The Naked Gun

In this April 1 edition of Officiating on the Big Screen, we analyze Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen's) officiating performance in The Naked Gun. HP Umpire Drebin/Nielsen/Enrico Pallazzo ejected Joe West and Hank Robinson in this American League game between the Angels and Mariners in Los Angeles, employing several advanced umpiring techniques and mechanics.

We review this historic performance, including a risky game management move that demonstrates the full influence of a baseball umpire-in-chief.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Judge Dismisses Angel Hernandez's Discrimination Case

New York Southern District Court Judge J Paul Oetken dismissed Angel Hernandez's discrimination case against Major League Baseball which alleged MLB unlawfully discriminated against the veteran umpire based on his race, ethnicity, and/or national origin.

In doing so, Judge Oetken agreed that MLB employs a low proportion of umpires who are minorities compared to other leagues, but similarly used those figures to agree with MLB's argument that, thanks to Minor League Baseball's purported failure to supply the major leagues with umpiring diversity, the pool of protected class umpires that make it to the big leagues is simply too small to draw the conclusion that the league systemically discriminates on the basis of race or another protected characteristic.

Wrote Oetken, "the fact that no or very few minorities were promoted [is] 'statistically meaningless,'" thus rejecting Hernandez's inexorable zero argument that courts should look beyond basic statistical analysis when defendants have promoted "zero or near zero minorities or women" (ed note: MLB still has not hired a woman to officiate major league contests, so similar base statistical analysis would likely be meaningless there, as well). Regarding the Crew Chief claim, for instance, the Court cited Richie Garcia, a crew chief who last umpired in 1999, as evidence that MLB has had a minority crew chief in the past and thus, the inexorable zero argument cannot apply.

Now that MLB actually owns the Minor League Baseball pipeline, however, the diversity problem—which MLB previously argued does not exist—would now be fully owned by MLB, if it were to continue.

Judge Oetken also left room for second-guessing his summary judgment decision, writing phrases leaving doubt, such as, "the record is not entirely clear regarding how MLB develops mid- and end-season evaluations" and "the record is not transparent about the weight [former Chief Baseball Officer Joe] Torre affords the criteria he uses in promotion decisions."

Hernandez had argued that his mid- and end-season evaluations and their interaction with how MLB's top brass selected World Series umpires and Crew Chief promotions were improperly handled. By leaving the evaluations question open-ended and "not entirely clear," Oetken may very well have left the door open to appeal from Hernandez's team, if they should choose to do so.

Oetken cited the Collective Bargaining agreement between the MLB Umpires Association (then-World Umpires Association) and MLB, writing that the CBA gives MLB "absolute and exclusive discretion" in umpire hiring/promotion/assignment and, as such, cited MLB's emphasis of "the consistent display of leadership skills" as the "most important" factor in crew chief decisions, pursuant to Torre's testimony.

For example, even with Hernandez producing evidence that multiple supervisors had recommended him for the World Series in 2012 and 2015, the Court found that due to the CBA, MLB could simply say "no" and, unless the League overtly made the decision with a stated racial motivation, without regard to fairness, it was most likely lawful.

The same legally ok and ethically unreviewable argument could very well apply to such behaviors as Fieldin Culbreth's testimony in which he detailed how the league pressured him to apply for an open crew chief position even though he did not want to apply and felt the job should have gone to Wally Bell or to Hernandez.

In other words, the statistics showing Hernandez's above-average plate scores, superior Replay Review record compared to non-protected class umpires who were promoted in his place, supervisor recommendations to work the Fall Classic, and other quantitative records were all largely dismissed by the Court in favor of MLB's subjective criteria for promotion, pursuant to the CBA's "absolute and exclusive discretion" clause.

As such, and without a smoking gun directly leading to a reading of racial bias, as opposed to personal animus Torre might have had with Hernandez, Judge Oetken issued a summary dismissal, noting that while Hernandez may have been treated poorly—and may still continue to be treated unfairly—it does not rise to the level of a prima facie case for racially-motivated discrimination.

To drive his point home, Oetkin wrote that MLB's "subjective and multi-faceted nature" of assignment/promotion decision-making was, itself, legal, even if it might be unfair.

Gil's Call: The bottom line, in my estimation is thus: MLB got lucky through a technicality that it pays its lawyers a lot of money to detect and insert into CBA language. The US District Court for the Southern District of New York all but announced a diversity problem does indeed exist in baseball umpiring, thus rejecting MLB's argument that no such issue infects its league.

Yet, because Hernandez's case required substantial evidence of active intent to racially discriminate, given the CBA's "absolute and exclusive discretion" language, the Court was effectively prohibited from considering objective metrics such as plate score and replay statistics that conclusively did show Hernandez's superiority when compared to white umpires promoted and assigned in his stead. Instead, the Court was obligated to defer to MLB's subjective judgment, which, absent overt evidence of intent to discriminate, must be allowed to prevail.

The bottom line? MLBUA should seen to strike that language—"absolute and exclusive discretion"—but given the outcome of this case, MLB will likely fight tooth and nail to keep it on the books.

Video as follows:

2021 Regular Season MLB Umpire Crews

After a year of COVID modifications, MLB's 2021 regular season umpire crew list features 76 umpires across 19 crews. Chief, MiLB call-up information, and profiles for full-time umpires may also be found via the UEFL Umpire Roster, Profiles & Crews page.

Although Major League Baseball has made no indication of an intent to modify the crews based on region, as the League did during the 2020 regular season, MLB nonetheless reserves the right to shuffle the crews if operationally necessary.

2021 MLB Umpire Crews (by Umpiring Crew Chief Seniority)

Crew #Crew ChiefUmpire 2Umpire 3Umpire 4
Crew 112 Davis, Gerry53 Gibson, Greg30 Drake, Rob93 Little, Will
Crew 222 West, Joe46 Kulpa, Ron1 Dreckman, Bruce59 Lentz, Nic
Crew 324 Layne, Jerry21 Wendelstedt, Hunter73 Gibson, Tripp81 Wolcott, Quinn
Crew 49 Gorman, Brian39 Nauert, Paul80 Johnson, Adrian74 Tumpane, John
Crew 520 Hallion Tom10 Cuzzi, Phil89 Blaser, Cory90 Ripperger, Mark
Crew 625 Culbreth, Fieldin7 O'Nora, Brian17 Reyburn, DJ36 Blakney, Ryan
Crew 765 Barrett, Ted5 Hernandez, Angel23 Barksdale, Lance85 Scheurwater, Stu
Crew 845 Nelson, Jeff63 Diaz, Laz79 Gonzalez, Manny83 Estabrook, Mike
Crew 926 Miller, Bill88 Eddings, Doug91 Knight, Brian47 Morales, Gabe
Crew 1027 Vanover, Larry51 Hudson, Marvin2 Bellino, Dan86 Rackley, David
Crew 1141 Meals, Jerry15 Hickox, Ed19 Carapazza, Vic52 Visconti, Jansen
Crew 1250 Emmel, Paul3 Welke, Bill98 Conroy, Chris31 Hoberg, Pat
Crew 1334 Holbrook, Sam60 Foster, Marty28 Wolf, Jim76 Muchlinski, Mike
Crew 1414 Wegner, Mark68 Guccione, Chris64 Porter, Alan18 De Jesus, Ramon
Crew 1544 Danley, Kerwin54 Bucknor, CB4 Fairchild, Chad78 Hamari, Adam
Crew 16 77 Reynolds, Jim11 Randazzo, Tony13 Tichenor, Todd62 Whitson, Chad
Crew 1772 Marquez, Alfonso95 Timmons, Tim16 Barrett, Lance37 Torres, Carlos
Crew 1858 Iassogna, Dan49 Fletcher, Andy87 Barry, Scott35 Rehak, Jeremie
Crew 196 Carlson, Mark92 Hoye, James71 Baker, Jordan96 Segal, Chris
Newly Hired MLB Umpires to Full-Time Staff 🔼: Jeremie Rehak.
Umpires Promoted to Crew Chief 🔼: Mark Carlson.
Umpires Who Retired During the Off-Season 🔽: Mike Winters.

Notes and Observations:
≫ Only one crew—#17 (Marquez) is unchanged from the original crews for 2020 (pre-COVID).
≫ Layne reunites with longtime crewmate Wendelstedt (2010-16).
T Barrett reunites with number two Hernandez (2015-17).
≫ Nelson keeps longtime number two Diaz (2014-present).
≫ Hallion keeps longtime number two Cuzzi (2016-present).

Monday, March 29, 2021

Australian Foul - Runner's Interference with Catcher

A runner's batted ball interference with a catcher during Game 1 of Baseball South Australia's Grand Final between Goodwood and Sturt prompted our latest Ask the UEFL Rules Review feature, as we consider several possible outcomes for a peculiar play at the plate.

Play: With two out and runners on first and third base, Goodwood's batter-runner hits a fly ball hear home plate. As Sturt's catcher attempts to field the batted ball near home plate, Goodwood baserunner R3 attempts to score and touch home plate, resulting in the catcher dropping the fly ball as the two players interact. After the home plate umpire calls the runner out for interference to end the inning, the umpires meet to discuss the play.

Question: Does it matter whether the ball was fair or foul? And if the ball was indeed foul, which batter will lead off the next inning? The broadcasters asked for help on this play, and we're here with an answer.

Analysis: Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10) states that a runner is out for interference when "he fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball...if the base runner's interference is adjudged not to be intentional, the batter-runner shall be awarded first base."

Thus, in this situation, fair/foul does not matter: the rule specifically makes reference to "batted ball" and not specifically fair or foul ball. Instead, the primary drive of judgment relate to whether the runner's interference was intentional. Here, R3 appears to be primarily concerned with touching home plate: his only offense appears to be failing to avoid F2. Thus, with the interference declared unintentional, R3 is out, BR is awarded first base (albeit, the third out ends the inning), and the following inning will begin with the next batter in the lineup at bat.

Video as follows: