Test Your Baseball Knowledge: Continuous Action Appeal
The above is a video of a High-A minor league game that was played on August 31, 2022 when the Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees) hosted the Jersey Shore BlueClaws (Phillies). Let’s call the batter Jones, the runner Smith, and the pitcher Johnson.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Hudson Valley’s Jones was batting with Smith on first and two outs. Jones collected a base hit down the right field line sending Smith to third.
There is a lot going on here. I am going to challenge you to analyze this play based on what you can observe, and your knowledge of the rules gained from past reports I have sent.
When analyzing this play, do it under two conditions:
- There is always continuous action and “Time” is never called which is what actually occurred in this play.
- Imagine as if “Time” was called before Johnson (pitcher) threw the ball to second base.
You might want to do this exercise individually or do it in small groups. It’s a great teaching play for umpires, players, coaches, broadcasters, and fans.
Before you look at my Ruleball Comments below, jot down what you can observe from a rules standpoint. Divide your paper into two columns: (1) Continuous action; (2) “Time” is called. You might want to view the video a number of times.
Then scroll down below to see if any of your responses match mine. It’s possible you might notice something that has escaped my eyes. If so, please advise.
Scroll down below after you have analyzed the various possibilities that relate to the Official Rules of Major League Baseball.
- Smith going from first to third originally touched second base. He took a step toward third, then turned back and failed to retouch second base. He then proceeded to go to third base without touching second base. Therefore, he was subject to be called out on appeal.
- This was a continuous action play. The action of the play never stopped, and the umpires properly never called “Time.” The easiest thing for the defensive team to do was to tag Smith who failed to retouch second base and was now standing on third. Just tagging third base would not work because that was not the base Smith failed to touch.
- Johnson (the pitcher) elected to make the appeal to second base which was the next best option because that’s the base where the violation occurred. The base umpire working in a two-man team upheld the appeal and called Smith out for failing to retouch second base.
- If there was a preceding runner who scored on the play, the inning would have ended in a force out because Smith was forced to go to second on the play and the run would have been nullified because no run can score when the inning ends in a force out, or if the batter-runner makes the third out before reaching first base.
- If the batter-runner (Jones) who was on first base broke for second base and the pitcher made a play on the batter-runner, the BlueClaws could still appeal Smith who missed second base because the play on Jones was still part of the continuous action of the original play. “Time” was never called, and the action of the play continued.
- If Jones broke for second, it would have been legal for Smith to break for home because the ball remained alive. And if Smith was safe at home, he could still be appealed for his failure to touch second base because “Time” was never called, and the action remained continuous.
- If Johnson threw errantly into center field when making the appeal, and Smith, the runner on third scored, the defensive team could still make an appeal on Smith for failing to touch second base because of the continuous action of the play.
Pitcher Makes Appeal from the Mound After “Time” is Called
- If “Time” was called or the appeal was made after all action had stopped, that would take this play to a different level.
- Rule 5.09 (c) (4) reads, “Any appeal under this rule must be made before the next pitch, or any attempted play.”
- By rule, the definition of a “Play” as it relates to 5.09 (c) (4) reads, A play or attempted play is interpreted as a legitimate effort by a defensive player who has possession of the ball to actually retire a runner. This may include an actual attempt to: (a) tag a runner, (b) a fielder running toward a base with the ball in an attempt to force or tag a runner, or (c) actually throwing to another defensive player in an attempt to retire a runner. (Pitchers need to be well-schooled as to what constitutes a PLAY during an appeal process. Once a pitcher starts to run toward a base or the runner, this is a PLAY.)
- After the umpire puts the ball in play, if a pitcher fakes or a feints a throw to a base, but is not actually throwing, it is not considered a PLAY and the appeal can still be made. Let’s say “Time” was called in the above play, and the plate umpire put the ball back in the play, by pointing and saying, “Play” when Johnson, in possession of the ball, was on the rubber and about to take the sign from the catcher. Jones, who is on first base, takes off for second. Johnson steps back off the rubber and retires Jones. In that situation, the defensive team could not appeal Smith, the runner who missed touching second base because a PLAY was made on Jones. In the above play that would have been the third out and a moot point because Smith was on third base, but if had scored, he would not be subject to appeal and the run would score. BTW, when a pitcher is making an appeal throw he can make it from the rubber. If he steps off the rubber, he must step back or he is subject to a balk being called.
- When making an appeal, if the throw to the base is a wild throw, the defensive team can still make the appeal as long as the throw does not go into dead ball territory.
- You would not be expected to know this but in the low minors, umpires work on a two-man team. Notice that no umpire covered third on the play. The plate umpire should have read a potential “trouble” call along the right field line and advanced up the first base line communicating to his partner, “I’m on the line!” and take full responsibility for fair/foul, catch/no-catch, and any ground rule. This conveys to his partner that the base umpire is responsible for both runners. Ordinarily, the plate umpire would be responsible for a play at third base. These umpires were lucky that there was no bang- bang play at third base because neither umpire was in position to make a call at third base, though the field umpire was drifting that way.
Typically, the plate umpire rotates toward third base on a batted ball to the outfield. However, in this play, the plate umpire has to take responsibility of the ball, as it is taking the right fielder toward the line. As one umpire said, “It’s a BIG hole in the two-umpire system.”
- Runners must be coached how to retouch a base. When a runner is in proximity to the base, he often loses his concentration and sight line to the base.
- Fielders, and those in the dugout, should be vigilant of a runner who properly fails to touch or retouch a base. The infielders become umpires in such situations.
- When making an appeal, it’s always wise to make a continuous action appeal. This allows the defensive team to make a play on another runner who is not being appealed and still appeal a runner who has committed a running violation.
- By making a continuous action appeal without calling “Time,” it prevents the possibility of a balk, a throw into dead ball territory, or making a play on another runner, all of which will negate the right to appeal a runner violation under rule 5.09 (c).
Rules consultant/analyst: D’backs, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.
Incidentally, from the scorer point of view, the base hit is removed and the batter-runner reaches on a fielder’s choice.
I believe this continuous play appeal was properly conducted by the defense but I would have denied the appeal and allowed the runners to remain on first and third. The runner’s rounding of 2nd base took a goofy, zigzaggy sort of route, I suppose, but I saw nothing that required a second touching of the bag. The fact that he touched 2nd and then stepped over the bag toward 1st did not create an obligation to retouch merely because he was (briefly) back on the base path between 1st and 2nd. The requirement to retouch while retreating is contained in Rules 5.06(b)(1) and 5.06(b)(4)(I) Comment; and both specify that a retouch is required when the runner is “forced to return” and not when merely returning because he’s stupid.