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Triple Take
2003-06-06 14:34
by Mike Carminati

The Blue Jays "lost" a triple play last night when the umpiring crew reversed a call on a shoestring catch by Frank Catalanotto. Here's the AP story:

ST. LOUIS -- The Toronto Blue Jays played Thursday night's game under protest after an umpire's reversal turned a potential triple play into a bases-loaded, none-out situation for St. Louis.

With Eduardo Perez on second and Tino Martinez at first in the second inning, Mike Matheny hit a shallow fly to left fielder Frank Catalanotto. Umpire Kerwin Danley signaled an out after Catalanotto's shoe-top attempt.

Perez, who had run to third, was doubled off second. Martinez was tagged out between first and second by second baseman Orlando Hudson.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa sprinted on the field to protest, and replays showed that Catalanotto trapped the ball. It also appeared that Perez watched and waited until he saw the ball bounce into Catalanotto's glove before running to third.

After several minutes, the umpires ruled it a base hit and the St. Louis baserunners re-emerged from the dugout.

Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca then argued the call for several minutes and was ejected for the first time in his career. Tosca is in his first full season with Toronto after managing 109 games last year.

So is that kosher? Here's the rule on reversals from the umps section of the rulebook:


Do not allow criticism to keep you from studying out bad situations that may lead to protested games. Carry your rule book. It is better to consult the rules and hold up the game ten minutes to decide a knotty problem than to have a game thrown out on protest and replayed. Keep the game moving. A ball game is often helped by energetic and earnest work of the umpires. You are the only official representative of baseball on the ball field. It is often a trying position which requires the exercise of much patience and good judgment, but do not forget that the first essential in working out of a bad situation is to keep your own temper and self control...But remember! The first requisite is to get decisions correctly. If in doubt don't hesitate to consult your associate. Umpire dignity is important but never as important as "being right."

So a reversal makes sense, and everyone agreed that the ball was trapped, so there's no argument there. The man who was doubled off of second cannot therefore be out since there was no first out to allow for someone to be doubled off. That runner could, and evidently did, go to third.

However the runner at first has to be out, doesn't he? Remember that the Toronto fielder touched the bag with the ball in his possession. He thought he was doubling the running off second, but with the catch ruled a trap, didn't he then force the runner from first? If not, they tagged him before he returned to first anyway. He was therefore out twice.

The only way that he can stay in the game is if the umpire calls the play dead after the miscall. But then doesn't that put Toronto at a severe disadvantage? Clearly, the runner was more confused than the ump and he would have been tagged/forced out whatever the call. I see nothing in the rules that says that a miscall causes a dead ball. It's fine that they want to sort out the play, but when a runner is out no matter what the scenario, how is it a) fair and b) within the rules to basically give St. Louis a free pass?

Also, it makes you wonder why such plays to occur more often on shoestring catches. They (bad calls) happen, but usually it's so close that they just let the original call stand--not that the umps confer and decide that the play must stand: it's more that an ump won't admit a bad call, thereby allowing for a conference, unless the call is so awful to be obvious to everyone. Now, that we see the results, perhaps it's best to let the original play stand: there are fewer headaches.

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