Excerpt, More Than 100 Problems
As a baseball rules expert, I have often been asked about the many plays and situations that are not adequately covered by baseball's official rulebook. Thus, I found need to write More Than 100 Problems With the Official Baseball Rules (Copyright © 2002, Richard J. Roder). The book compiles and examines 108 significant problems that hinder the effectiveness of umpires. This writing shows my ability to take complicated subject matter and present it in an understandable format. I have chosen three representative problems from Chapter 1, "Plays Without Rules."
Note: PBUC is the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp, the governing body of minor league umpires. MLB is the Commissioner's Office of Major League Baseball, the governing body of major league umpires.
Question or Problem: A fielder gains possession of a live ball (batted, thrown, or pitched) on LBT and, due to momentum, carries the ball into DBT (stays on his feet, does not drop the ball). Is the ball in play? What if the fielder tries to throw from DBT and the ball strikes something that is DBT?
Relevant/Related Official Rule(s): The Official Baseball Rules do not specifically address the situation of a fielder carrying a live ball onto DBT. However, during a catch the rules seem to allow a fielder to glove a ball on LBT and to enter DBT while completing control of the ball. This is commonly called the "catch and carry," and it comes from a non-specific sentence in Official Rule 5.10f. That sentence reads, "If a fielder after making a catch steps into a bench, but does not fall, the ball is in play and runners may advance at their own peril." The word "bench" has been, in practice, expanded to include all DBT areas, usually marked with chalk lines. This is the only exception provided by the Official Baseball Rules that allows a ball touching a fielder who is on DBT to remain live, other than the catch - when allowed by ground rule - in a dugout (5.10f and 7.04c). The official book does not move beyond these exceptions to treat uncaught batted balls, or thrown or pitched balls.
MLB: A fly ball carried into spectator area is dead, runners are awarded one base [MLB 5.5, example 5]. Uncaught batted balls, thrown balls, and pitched balls are not addressed.
Placement/Treatment in Jaksa/Roder: Chapter 2, "Definitions," page 17;
The "catch and carry" has, in practice, often been extended to include bounding batted balls, thrown balls, and pitched balls that are possessed on LBT and carried into DBT due to the fielder's momentum. If such balls are bobbled as the fielder enters DBT, they are considered as deflected out of play.
Comments/Further Information: Over the years the exception of the "catch and carry" was expanded, and uncaught batted balls (usually fair/foul extra-base hits) possessed on LBT and carried into DBT were kept live. This was sometimes addressed in the ground rules, though thrown and pitched balls usually remained unmentioned. Later, for lack of any other venue, the exceptions grew to include thrown and pitched balls. The logic was that if the exception had been expanded to the uncaught batted ball, it might as well be expanded to thrown and pitched balls, as well. However, this has not been treated in writing (other than in Jaksa/Roder) and is not, by any means, common knowledge.
There is a fine line between an out at first base in the enforcement of Official Rule 6.05j and a batter-runner who has beat the throw to first but is subject to an appeal out for having missed the base.
Relevant/Related Official Rule(s): 6.05j, 7.08k, 7.10d
PBUC and MLB: nothing.
Placement/Treatment in Jaksa/Roder: Jaksa and Roder's definition of the concept called "touch or pass" of a base assists in sorting out this (and several other) base running situations, Chapter 6, "Runner and Batter-Runner Out, Not Out," page 30;
Touch or pass of a base: A runner who, in the course of running the bases, goes by a base (within a body's length) has either touched or passed the base; in either case he has "acquired" the base. If he has touched the base, he is not vulnerable to a subsequent appeal that he has missed that base. If he has "passed" the base, he has failed to touch it, but is considered to have touched it until there is an appeal against his failure to touch. The defense has a responsibility to recognize a failure to touch a base.
In the above play, the batter-runner has "passed" the base before the ball gets there, thus he is safe and the defense is required to recognize the failure to touch first.
Furthermore, first baseman's fielding of the throw cannot be considered an appeal, but simply a try to get the batter-runner out before he touches first, Chapter 9, "Appeals," page 55:
There are no inadvertent appeals. An appeal must be obvious - unmistakably indicated by voice, or manner, or both; so, it cannot be an appeal if a fielder happens to step on a base with no intent or purpose in doing so.
Comments/Further Information: Professional umpires are likely to rule the runner safe and require an appeal; it is written as such in the Jaksa/Roder manual.
Question or Problem: A time play occurs as a runner misses home plate - when is the runner considered to have scored? Consider the following two plays:
An umpire's instinct in Play 1 might be to disallow the run, and in Play 2 to allow the run, even though both plays are effectively the same. The important questions for both plays are also the same: Does the pass of the base, which occurred before the third out, suffice to allow the run to score? Or does the touch of the plate, which occurred after the third out, mean that the run cannot score?
Relevant/Related Official Rule(s): 4.09a
PBUC and MLB: nothing.
Placement/Treatment in Jaksa/Roder: Chapter 10, "Determining a Run," page 61;
If a runner misses home in passing it, and returns to touch it, the time he is considered to have touched the plate is when he actually does touch it. If he only passes the plate (failing to touch it), then the time he "touches or passes" the plate is the time he passes it. EG: R2, two outs. The batter singles to center field. The throw to the plate is relayed to second base and R2 misses home plate just before the batter-runner is tagged out:
Note: the umpire should immediately rule on the time play when the first "touch or pass" occurs, even if the runner misses the plate. The defense is required to recognize that the plate has been missed. If the runner returns to touch the plate, the umpire should then revise his ruling and cancel the run.
Comments/Further Information: Jaksa and Roder stipulate that the "time" of a touch or pass is a) the time the base is passed when there is no touch and b) the time of the touch when there is a touch. Thus, the runs in example plays 1 and 2 above are not allowed. Jaksa and Roder would contend that if a runner misses the plate and returns to touch it, his run does not exist until he touches the plate. If a runner misses the plate and does not return to touch it, his run does not exist until the defense is no longer able to appeal. Since the umpire cannot tell what the runner will do after missing the plate, nor whether the defense will appeal, he must rule on the time play even though the plate is missed.
PBUC is on record (BRD 451) stating that the run in the examples must be allowed.
It is anyone's guess what a professional umpire might rule on these plays.
Copyright © 2002, Richard J. Roder. All rights reserved.
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© 2002 Rick Roder