Monday, April 29, 2024

Jen Pawol Ejects Confused Coach After Conflicting Calls

Triple-A umpire Jen Pawol ejected Norfolk's manager and right fielder after she and 1B Umpire Kelvis Velez made conflicting calls on the same check swing play—Pawol as the home plate umpire ruling "swing" and Velez, mistaking her point at the batter as a point to him for an appeal, signaling the batter did not swing at the pitch.

With one out and a runner on second base, Norfolk Tides batter Peyton Burdick attempted to check his swing on a 2-2 fastball from Jacksonville pitcher Eli Villalobos. 

The circumstance of R2 and less than two out is important to note for this Triple-A game operating with a three-person umpire crew. In this situation, the 1B Umpire shall position themself within the infield, in front of second base (well, not directly in front of 2B, but still in the vicinity of Deep B/C), meaning there is no field umpire down the right field line anymore.

While the plate umpire assigning fair/foul responsibilities to right field in this crew configuation, the 1B Umpire retains check swing appeal responsibility for right-handed batters.

Accordingly, when Burdick tried checking his swing, HP Umpire Pawol pointed to the batter as part of a two-part "yes he did" mechanic to call the batter for a swinging strike.

1B Umpire Velez, however, saw Pawol pointing beyond the batter and near second base, where he was standing, and assumed Pawol had appealed the matter of Burdick's check swing to him (after all, the catcher requested an appeal by gesturing toward U1).

Thus, as Pawol completed her two-part mechanic ending with a fist, Velez signaled safe with outstretched arms, leading to confusion as two umpires had different calls for the same play.

Although the Official Baseball Rules do clearly state that the plate umpire has primary responsibility for all decisions on the batter—including half swings—which makes this Pawol's primary call, a more apropos response is found in OBR 8.03(c) pertaining to conflicting calls by multiple umpires: "If different decisions should be made on one play by different umpires, the umpire-in-chief shall call all the umpires into consultation, with no manager or player present. After consultation, the umpire-in-chief (unless another umpire may have been designated by the Office of the Commissioner) shall determine which decision shall prevail, based on which umpire was in best position and which decision was most likely correct. Play shall proceed as if only the final decision had been made."

With little doubt that the plate umpire's call of swinging strikeout would prevail (it was Pawol's call to begin with), that left one confused coach arguing to the point of ejection.

How to Avoid This Situation: The best way for a base umpire to avoid a situation where they might signal "safe" on a check swing where the plate umpire signals "out" is for the base umpire to pause momentarily. By waiting a beat, U1 would have been able to see the totality of UIC's swinging strike mechanic, and avoided ruling on a check swing appeal that was never indicated.

Exception: The one exception to this is an MLBUM interpretation known as "Voluntary Strike" in which the base umpire does signal on their own, with or without appeal, on an uncaught third strike, and only if they are going to rule the play a swinging strike.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Plate & field umpires make opposite calls on same play; manager & batter ejected


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