Andrew McCutchen Called Out of the Baseline…What?
Did Andrew McCutchen go beyond the legal three feet base path to avoid this tag?
You make the call. Then, read the expert analysis by Rich Marazzi on what is legal on the base paths.
Expert Analysis by Rich Marazzi
In the bottom of the seventh with the score tied, 4-4, the Phils had Andrew McCutchen on first and one out when Matt Joyce hit a ground ball to Mets’ shortstop Francisco Lindor who was shifted to the first base side of second base. Lindor attempted to tag McCutchen but failed. He then threw to first base where Joyce was called safe by umpire Andy Fletcher. It appeared the Phils were in business, but second base ump Jose Navas ruled that McCutchen ran out of the baseline and called him out. The Mets then challenged the call at first base which was reversed. The Mets had completed a unique double play and won the game, 5-4.
- Based on the interpretation of the baseline rule, I would question the call at second base although I am aware it’s a judgment call.
- It’s a myth that the runner creates his own baseline; it’s the fielder who creates the runner’s baseline.
- The only time a runner has a restricted baseline is when he is avoiding a tag attempt which begins the moment the fielder in possession of the ball in his glove or hand, shows interest and makes a motion toward the runner with intent to tag. At that point, the runner has a restricted baseline. The rule book says it’s a straight line to the base he is attempting to reach safely, and the runner cannot exceed 3-feet in either direction of the line. At times it can be a straight line, but in most situations the line is slightly angled.
- In the above play, replays indicated that McCutchen did not exceed his 6-foot limitation (3-feet to both sides of the line) to avoid the tag in contravention of rule 5.09 (b) (1).
- I commend the video production crew for creating a line on the video between first and second base that shows up at the 1:37 mark. The viewer is allowed to follow the path of McCutchen in relation to the imposed baseline. This was great work and I have been trying to encourage production crews throughout baseball to insert this type of graphic in the interest of rules education. If the technology is available, it should be done. Coaches would be wise to show this to their players on all levels.
- Unfortunately, the broadcasters had a great graphic to work with but fumbled the opportunity by failing to fully explain the baseline rule which does not take much rhetoric. All that needs to be said in referring to the line is, “The runner has a restricted baseline the moment the fielder makes a motion toward the runner. The line is angled to the base he is going to and the runner cannot exceed 3-feet in either direction of the line when avoiding a tag.”
- I would suggest that the TV production teams, if possible, work on temporarily freezing the action the moment the defensive player makes a move toward the runner. Then at that point, they can insert the line in the direction of the base the runner is attempting to reach.
- Video can distort distance but based on the line that was provided for the viewer, it was apparent that McCutchen did not exceed the three-foot limitation to either side of the line.
- Giradi believes this type of play should be reviewable. I think if the TV production people can develop a reliable graphic that the umpires can agree to, then it would be possible. Until then it will always be a judgment call.
Let’s Play Ruleball
- It’s wise for the defensive player to make a motion toward the runner ASAP. This will place the runner in a restricted baseline as long as the defensive player is in a position to be able to make a legitimate play on the runner when he makes his initial move toward the runner.
- Offensively, if a runner anticipates a tag attempt, he can widen or stretch his “unrestricted” basepath before the tag attempt. This would give the runner more space to maneuver and perhaps discourage the tag attempt. It also allows the runner to stay in a direct path to the base he is going to which will avoid the running out of the baseline violation.
If you want to have some fun, ask someone the following question. How is a runner’s baseline defined? You will be amazed at the answers you get.
Rules consultant: Cardinals, D’backs, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.