Doubled Up, but is the Runner Out of the Base Path?
This double play ended the game between the Reds and the Brewers, August 26, 2021. With one out in the 9th inning, a soft line drive was hit to Reds shortstop, Jose Barrero. Barrero caught the ball and then lunged forward in an attempt to tag Jace Peterson, the runner at 2B who had moved off the base. As Peterson danced back to the base, he was ruled out of the base path by 2B umpire, Chad Fairchild.
Once a fielder moves toward a runner to make a tag attempt, the runner, he has 6ft (3ft on either side of the imaginary straight line from his place to the base) to avoid the tag. This video explains the rule and shows clearly what the umpire looks for when making this call.
The “out of the baseline” call is umpire interpretation and not subject to replay review.
Get a tape measure out.
Here is a situation that illustrates the point:
I was told a story by a friend who had a son playing youth league a number of years ago. R1 correctly ran behind and avoided interferring with F4 who was fielding a ground ball, but was not making a play on R1. The defensive coach yelled “he’s out of the baseline” so the umpire called him out.
I’m sure the umpires for the game were young kids who had no clue about such rules. The dad asked me because he truly didn’t know the rule, so I gave him an explanation of how the baseline was determined.
I would NOT have called him out. He’s a great contortionist.
This can be a tough rule at any level, but especially at the lower levels where coaches and players seem to think the “baseline” is the direct line between two bases, like the foul lines. It is difficult for people to understand the the baseline is not established until the defensive player with possession of the ball makes an attempt at a tag or putout. At that point, the baseline is the direct line from wherever the runner is to the base he is trying to reach. Another interesting aspect of this is that the rule does not state which part of the runner, or if all of the runner must exit the baseline to violate the rule, like when a runner slides into a base to either side but is close enough to reach the base with one hand. On the play above, even if the runner’s feet may have exited the baseline, he was leaning over in such a way that his head and upper body did not. How do you rule on that? How have you, or other umpires ruled on that in the past? I’d like to know.
In the example above, I do not think the runner exited the baseline, but that’s my judgment. If my partner ruled otherwise, I would not dispute him, or his judgment.