Rick Roder
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Sample Questions and Answers



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    Responding to questions about baseball's rules is one of the more challenging things that I do. The challenge is not in knowing the rules - I am very well versed in that - but in giving carefully worded, non-ambiguous answers that anyone with a basic knowledge of baseball can understand. Here is a sampling of rules questions that I helped craft for questions e-mailed to the World Umpires Association (Major League Baseball umpires' union) website. As of this writing the sampling was posted at: www.worldumpires.com/qa.html.

    Question 1: "A team is using the DH. In fifth inning the second baseman for team A gets ejected while his team is at bat. When the ejected player's spot comes up to bat that inning, the manager asks the umpire if the DH can go play second base, with the pitcher batting for the ejected player. Are these moves allowed?"

    Answer: The DH can be sent to a defensive position only when the DH's team is on defense (results in termination of the DH for that team; pitcher enters the spot of the replaced defensive player). When the change is attempted while the team is on offense, the coach has run into a restriction: the game pitcher can pinch hit only for the DH. So, his requested substitution above would not be allowed.

    Additionally, the second baseman's replacement should have been named after the ejection; the DH is the only position that, when ejected, the replacement need not be named until the slot comes to bat.

    Question 2: "A batted line drive goes by a diving first baseman, touches an umpire in-flight, and is caught by the second baseman before the ball touches the ground. Is this a catch?"

    Answer: A fly ball that touches an umpire or any other person other than a fielder can no longer be caught, either before or after a deflection by a fielder. This is a logical extension of the information found in the definition of a "catch" in the rulebook. A fly ball remains a fly ball only as long as it is touches a succession of fielders and not any object or non-fielder.

    Question 3: "Runners on second and third, the pitch is in the dirt. The ball hits the edge of the plate and deflects up into the hitter's face. Is the ball live? Or is it dead on a hit-by-pitch? If it is dead, where are the runners placed?"

    Answer: The batter is HBP; the ball is immediately dead. Batter-runner awarded first base, R2 and R3 go back to their time-of-pitch bases.

    Question 4: "There is a runner on first with no outs. Batter squares off and lays down a hard bunt that follows the first base line. About twenty-five feet down the line, the batter kicks the ball just as it crosses the line into foul territory. Foul ball or out?"

    Answer: If the batter-runner unintentionally touches the ball while ball is over foul territory: foul. If the batter-runner intentionally contacts the ball while ball is over foul territory, and the ball (untouched) would have had no chance of becoming fair: foul. If the batter-runner intentionally contacts the ball while ball is over foul territory and ball still had a chance to become fair: interference. The batter-runner is out, R1 back to first.

    Question 5: "A pitcher stands on the pitcher's rubber facing the batter (windup) with no runners on base. He starts his natural pitching motion, but elects not to throw the ball as he steps towards home. The baseball never leaves the pitchers hand so it did not cross the foul line. Should the umpire call a ball for an illegal pitch by the pitcher since the ball was not actually pitched? Rule 8.01 (a) States From this position any natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter commits him to pitch without interruption or alteration. Rule 8.01 (d) states: If the pitcher makes an illegal pitch with the bases unoccupied, it shall be called a ball. Since no pitch was made is this still classified as an illegal pitch?"

    Answer: In order for an illegal pitch to occur, the ball must actually be pitched. An illegal pitch involves the pitcher not being in contact with the rubber during the pitch, or the pitcher failing to take signs and delivering a "quick pitch."

    Failure to deliver the ball after being committed to pitch is only penalized when runners are on base-rule 8.05a-and it is a balk. So, with no runners, if the pitcher fails to deliver the ball there would be no penalty.

    Question 6: "Runner at second. The batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop, who looks the runner back to second and then throws to first to retire the batter runner. The runner at second meanwhile tries for third and the first baseman starts to throw from fair territory. The batter-runner veers in and runs into the throwing first baseman. Is the runner from second out, too?"

    Answer: The runner from second would be out for the interference of his teammate if the batter-runner intentionally ran into the first baseman. Such would probably have been the case in your play, since the batter-runner would normally have just run through first base. However, you must be sure it was intentional before it is interference.

    Question 7: "The pitcher is worn out. The defense manager takes time out. On the way to the mound he tosses a ball to the first baseman. The first baseman begins warming-up by throwing with second baseman during meeting at the mound. The meeting finishes and the manager decides to leave his pitcher in the game. Does the fact that the first baseman was warming up mean that he must pitch?"

    Answer: The pitcher is legally in the game when the manager specifically tells the plate umpire that he is in the game. If this does not happen, the new pitcher is legally in the game when he steps on the rubber and throws warm-up pitches to the catcher. So, in your situation, the old pitcher may remain in the game. Other players are allowed to throw during the meeting at the mound, as long as it does not delay the game.

    Question 8: "Barry Bonds wears protection on his right arm every at bat. Are there any rules about batters wearing protection? I thought you could only wear arm protection if you had an injury. Is this an advantage for Barry? If I think so am I wrong?"

    Answer: The MLB Umpire Manual contains the restrictions for elbow pads. The pad cannot exceed 10 inches when laying flat and must contain a nylon shell to cover the shell of the equipment. Players can request permission from the Commissioner's Office to use non-standard elbow or arm pads, and a list of players with permission for such use is provided to the umpires. And yes, the player must have had an injury in order to obtain the permission to where the protective arm guard.

    Question 9: "If a ball is lined at the pitching rubber and ricochets into the dugout between first and home or third and home is it a fair ball? Is the pitching rubber considered a base?"

    Answer: Foul ball. The answer to your question can be found in the rulebook under "foul ball" in rule 2.00.

    Question 10: "The batter gets a base hit. After rounding first base he is obstructed by the first baseman. The batter continues to second base where he is easily thrown out. According to Major League Rules, should I award him second base, even though in my judgment he couldn't have made it, send him back to first base where he probably should have stayed had there been no obstruction, or call him out because he went past his award?"

    Answer: As soon as the obstruction occurs, you must decide what would have happened without the obstruction. You then protect the runner to (or back into) that base. If a runner tries on his own initiative to go beyond what you would have given him, he can be thrown out. On the play above, if you had determined that there was no way the batter- runner was going to get second, even without the obstruction, then the out stands.

    Copyright © 2002, Richard J. Roder. All rights reserved.


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© 2002 Rick Roder