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Non-Continuous Non-Eloquence
2007-04-30 10:56
by Mike Carminati
Continuous eloquence wearies
–Blaise "Minor" Pascal

When I was a kid playing stickball in the suburbs of Philly, kids generally were better at catching a fly ball than hitting a cutoff man, let alone the subtlety of tagging up. So even at a young age, the neighborhood urchins were well aware with the concept of non-continuous double plays.

We all knew that if a player crosses the plate before the final out is made (usually after a half dozen errors, mental or otherwise), the run counts. It's a rare play in the majors. You might see it on a sac fly with one out and a man on first and third when the runner at first forgets the number of outs.

It happened last year in a May Phillies-Braves game. Pat Burrell was out and Bobby Abreu was at third in the bottom of the second with the Phils trailing 2-1. Ryan Howard hit an apparent sac fly to deep center, but Burrell forgot how many outs there were and was doubled off first after Abreu scored. The same play came up later in the game, but Burrell knew enough to return to first that time. The Phils won 6-3.

So yes, it's rare but I wouldn't be surprised if there aren't a few non-continuous double plays called each year. That's why it's so surprising that the umpires were completely nonplussed when a textbook version of the play occurred on Saturday in the O's-Indians game.

With the O's trailing 2-1 in the top of the third, Nick Markakis on third, Miguel Tejada on first, and one out, Ramon Hernandez hit a sinking liner to center and Grady Sizemore made a great diving catch for the second out. Markakis tagged at third and crossed the plate quite obviously before a Sizemore's throw to first doubled up Tejada, who may still be rounding the bases. Tejada admitted that he lost track of the outs.

Home plate umpire Marvin Hudson waved off the run. Inexplicably, no one from the Oriole bench initially protested. Bench coach Tom Trebelhorn was the first to slowly wake from the Baltimore hibernation—must have been all the snow they are getting lately in Cleveland—and his repeated attempts to correct the miscall finally bore fruit in the sixth, turning a 2-2 tie to a 3-2 Baltimore lead.

It was not until crew chief Ed Montague got involved and sent a rep "into the umpire's room to read the rule book, though what he was looking at remained unclear." (Huh?!?) The umpiring crew "had several discussions with the two dugouts in between innings" before getting the call right. The Indians protested—good luck!—and eventually lost 7-4.

What I want to know is how such a simple play got so screwed up. Clearly, Hudson botched the initial call but I am surprised that the Montague, as the crew chief, did not take the time to make sure the call was right before play started in the bottom of the third.

I also want to know how the ruling in the rulebook could be viewed as "unclear"!?! It is explicitly spelled out in three separate places with verbatim examples of exactly this play:

First under the definition of a force play (Rule 2.00):

A FORCE PLAY is a play in which a runner legally loses his right to occupy a base by reason of the batter becoming a runner…
Example: Not a force out. One out. Runner on first and third. Batter flies out. Two out. Runner on third tags up and scores. Runner on first tries to retouch before throw from fielder reaches first baseman, but does not get back in time and is out. Three outs. If, in umpire's judgment, the runner from third touched home before the ball was held at first base, the run counts.

Next in the section on how runs score:

(a) One run shall be scored each time a runner legally advances to and touches first, second, third and home base before three men are put out to end the inning. EXCEPTION: A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made (1) by the batter-runner before he touches first base; (2) by any runner being forced out; or (3) by a preceding runner who is declared out because he failed to touch one of the bases.

Note that from the force play definition the play at first is not a force. Therefore, none of the exceptions apply. Later in 4.09:

Here is a general statement that covers:
When a runner misses a base and a fielder holds the ball on a missed base, or on the base originally occupied by the runner if a fly ball is caught, and appeals for the umpire's decision, the runner is out when the umpire sustains the appeal; all runners may score if possible, except that with two out the runner is out at the moment he misses the bag, if an appeal is sustained as applied to the following runners.
Approved Ruling: One out, Jones on third, Smith on first, and Brown flies out to right field. Two outs. Jones tags up and scores after the catch. Smith attempted to return to first but the right fielder's throw beat him to the base. three outs. But Jones scored before the throw to catch Smith reached first base, hence Jones' run counts. It was not a force play.

Still not clear enough? How about rule 7.08(e):

Any runner is out when…
(e) He fails to reach the next base before a fielder tags him or the base, after he has been forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner. However, if a following runner is put out on a force play, the force is removed and the runner must be tagged to be put out. The force is removed as soon as the runner touches the base to which he is forced to advance, and if he overslides or overruns the base, the runner must be tagged to be put out. However, if the forced runner, after touching the next base, retreats for any reason towards the base he had last occupied, the force play is reinstated, and he can again be put out if the defense tags the base to which he is forced;
Rule 7.08(e) Comment: PLAY. Runner on first and three balls on batter: Runner steals on the next pitch, which is fourth ball, but after having touched second he overslides or overruns that base. Catcher's throw catches him before he can return. Ruling is that runner is out. (Force out is removed.)
Oversliding and overrunning situations arise at bases other than first base. For instance, before two are out, and runners on first and second, or first, second and third, the ball is hit to an infielder who tries for the double play. The runner on first beats the throw to second base but overslides the base. The relay is made to first base and the batter-runner is out. The first baseman, seeing the runner at second base off the bag, makes the return throw to second and the runner is tagged off the base. Meanwhile runners have crossed the plate. The question is: Is this a force play? Was the force removed when the batter-runner was out at first base? Do the runs that crossed the plate during this play and before the third out was made when the runner was tagged at second, count? Answer: The runs score. It is not a force play. It is a tag play.

OK, the last play is not exactly the same, but the concept is similar. The rulebook seems pretty explicit to me. So how did both Hudson and Montague screw the pooch on the play?

Search me. But if I were in charge of the umps, as Mike Post, MLB VP of Umpiring, is alleged to be, I would want a full explanation. Why don't these two umps, or any of the umps in the crew for that matter, know the rule? OK, maybe I am being to rough on Montague since rule 9.02(c) states, "No umpire shall criticize, seek to reverse or interfere with another umpire's decision unless asked to do so by the umpire making it." He didn't know the call either and had to have it looked up but it wasn't his call.

OK, but what's Hudson's excuse? The general instructions to umps in section 9 of the rules puts the onus on him to get the play right: "Each umpire team should work out a simple set of signals, so the proper umpire can always right a manifestly wrong decision when convinced he has made an error. If sure you got the play correctly, do not be stampeded by players' appeals to "ask the other man." If not sure, ask one of your associates. Do not carry this to extremes, be alert and get your own plays. 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.""

I guess he can claim that Baltimore was lukewarm on protesting so why is he to blame. I'm sure nothing will happen but Hudson should at best be sent back to the minors to hone his skills like a faltering reliever and to allow for a worthy minor-leaguer to take his spot.

Farewell to Hancock

Former Phil Josh Hancock died in a car accident Sunday causing the cancellation of the Sunday Night Cardinals game. He last pitched Saturday posthumously becoming just the fifth player ever to die within one day of his final game:

Lyman Bostock197892319789230
Josh Hancock 200742820074291
Thurman Munson19798011979821
Tom Gastall195691919569201
Willard Hershberger19408021940831
Ray Chapman192081619208171
Len Koenecke193591519359172
Al Thake18728281872913
Darryl Kile200261820026224
Hal Carlson193052319305285
Ed Delahanty19036251903727
Hub Collins189251418925217
Joe Leonard19204231920518
Bob Moose1976925197610914
Doc Powers1909412190942614
Walt Lerian192910051929102217
Marv Goodwin192510041925102117
Tiny Bonham1949827194991518
Jake Daubert1924920192410919
Neal Finn193361719337720
Alex McKinnon1887704188772420
Harry Agganis1955602195562725
Tim Donahue1902517190261225
Dick Wantz1965413196551330
2007-04-30 12:32:57
1.   Orly Yarly NoWai
Former Phil Russ Hancock --> Former Phil Josh Hancock. It's right in the table though.

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