Saturday, May 18, 2024

Pirates & Cubs Ends on Confirmed Safe Call at Plate When Runner Knocks Ball Out of Catcher's Hand

Saturday's Pirates-Cubs game ended on a walk-off slide by Cody Bellinger into home plate despite Pittsburgh catcher Joey Bart appearing to tag the runner...only to drop the ball when Bellinger knocked the ball out of Bart's hand. Replay Review confirmed HP Umpire Chris Conroy's safe call, leaving some Yinzers to wonder how replay could confirm a safe call only made because of a dropped ball...which only was dropped because the runner knocked it out of the catcher's hand.

With one out and one on (R2), Cubs batter Christopher Morel hit a 3-2 splitter from Pirates pitcher David Bednar on a line drive to center fielder Michael A Taylor, who threw home to catcher Joey Bart as Cubs baserunner R2 Bellinger slid into home plate. HP Umpire Conroy called Bellinger safe, a call challenged by Pirates manager Derek Shelton and ultimately affirmed via Replay Review.

Replay Review relied on the definition of tag, which includes this passage: "It is not a tag, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his touching a base or touching a runner, the fielder drops the ball. In establishing the validity of the tag, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that they have complete control of the ball." The phrase "holding the ball securely and firmly in their hand or glove" is also used. With the ball on the ground, Replay would determine the full process of "tag" was not completed and, thus, the tag was not valid.

The Official Baseball Rules, regarding offensive interference, specify in OBR 5.09(b)(3) that a runner is out when "they intentionally interfere with a thrown ball; or hinder a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball." OBR 6.01(a)(10) agrees ("fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball"), and this establishes a right-of-way hierarchy we've been over several times before.

During a batted ball, a fielder has the right to field it; however, the runner has the right to run the bases at any other time.

The standard for a non-batted ball situation is intentional interference, or, the runner must commit an intentional act to be called for an interference violation. Unintentional interference only applies to batted balls (and potentially bona fide slides on force plays, collisions at home plate, runner's lane, and batter's interference), but your garden variety tag play on the bases falls under the so-called intentional or "willful and deliberate" standard.

HP Umpire Conroy did not rule interference initially, just that the runner was safe because the catcher dropped the ball.

Because non-slide rule or HP collision interference is not reviewable, the Replay Official was unable to consider the element of Bellinger's swipe knocking the ball out of Bart's hand. Even so, it would have to be an intentional act to be interference.

Accordingly, Replay Review ruled that because Bart failed to complete the process of the tag with full control and possession of the ball, the runner was safe: call confirmed.

Did Replay get this questionable Cubs catcher caper (confirmed) right? | Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Replay confirms safe call, even though runner hit ball out of catcher's hand

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