April 25, 2022

Failing to Return to First Base

The difficult judgement of determining if a runner intended to advance to attempt to advance to second base

Failing to Return to First Base

The Orioles and A’s played in Oakland on April 21. In the top of the fourth inning Trey Mancini reached first base on an error. Once he got beyond first base, he collected himself, and turning his body toward second base he made a hop step. Walking back to the bag along the first-base line, Mancini was called out after A’s catcher Sean Murphy tagged him before he stepped on the base, and to Mancini’s surprise umpire Rob Drake called him out. Both Mancini and manager Brandon Hyde argued the call and were subsequently ejected.

“Never for one second did I think about going to second base,” Mancini said after his first career ejection. “I just turned around to my left and walked back to the bag. If it had even crossed my mind to go to second base, I would have made sure that I got back to the bag quickly. I was very surprised and couldn’t believe it. And I want to apologize for the language I used and the way that I conveyed my message to Rob, but I still don’t agree with the call.”

Ruleball Comments

  1. By rule, Drake can be supported. According to Rule 5.09(b)(11), a runner is called out if  “he fails to return at once to first base after overrunning or oversliding that base. If he attempts to run to second, he is out when tagged.”
  2. When a batter-runner is aware that the throw to first base is an errant throw, he instinctively will make a move toward second base before realizing he has no chance of making it there safely.
  3. When a runner returns to first base, he can come back in either direction. But if the runner makes the slightest move toward second via a jab step, hop step etc., that could be interpreted as an intent to advance, the batter- runner is no longer protected from being tagged. Broadcasters and coaches need to deliver the message in those terms.
  4. It’s possible that in Mancini’s mind, for a brief moment his plan was to advance to second base, but did not go when he realized he could not arrive safely.
  5. The hop step toward second is not an ordinary move by a batter-runner when returning to first base and in the judgment of Drake, this was an attempt to run to second before Mancini changed his mind.
  6. My recommendation is the first base coach must be proactive and strongly communicate to the batter-runner that he must stay. He might yell “Stay, Stay,  Stay,” to alert the batter-runner that he has no chance of getting to second base.
  7. The call proved costly as the A’s won the game, 6-4.
  8. In the July 10, 2021, game between the Brewers and the Reds, Christian Yelich was called out by umpire John Libka for violating the rule. See below:


Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  D’backs, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports RSNs, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago. 

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