May 23, 2023

Five Rule Questions from the 2023 MLB Season

Rules consultant/analyst Rich Marazzi answers some of the most challenging rules questions in baseball in 2023 so far

Five Rule Questions from the 2023 MLB Season

Schowalter Ejected on No Interference

QUESTION: In a recent Mets-Reds game, Mets manager Buck Showalter, who seldom gets ejected, was banished for arguing a play at second base. Can you explain what happened?

ANSWER: The Reds hosted the Mets on May 9, 2023. In the bottom of the fifth inning the Mets had Wil Myers on first and one out when Kevin Newman hit a soft one-hopper up the middle. Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor attempted to field the ball but was impeded when Myers’ arm swiped the ball away preventing Lindor from even touching the ball. Second base umpire Malachi Moore made no call.

Showalter argued that Myers had interfered with Lindor but got no satisfaction. He was eventually ejected by third base ump Mark Wegner. It was Showalter’s first ejection in two seasons with the Mets. In his 22-season managerial career, he has been tossed only 34 times. 

The “no call” was damaging to the Mets who subsequently gave up three runs in a game they would lose, 7-6.

Showalter had a good argument. It is the responsibility of the runner to avoid a fielder who is in the act of fielding a batted ball. Therefore, in my opinion, interference should have been called on the runner. Intent is not a factor when ruling interference. Because interference and obstruction calls are not reviewable, Showalter had no recourse. 

If the umpire judged that Myer intended to break up a double play, the batter-runner (Newman) can also be called out. Rule 6.01(a)(6) states: If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of their teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.

I do not believe Myer’s actions were to break-up a double play. But my take is he should have been called out on the play for interfering with Lindor.

Passing the Lead Runner on a Home Run

QUESTION: There are runners on first and third and less than two outs. The batter hits a home run. The runner on first thinks the ball is caught and retreats to first base. The batter-runner keeps running and passes the retreating runner. Does the runner who was on third score?

ANSWER: The runner on third would score as well as the runner on first base. The batter-runner would be credited with a single because he made first base before the violation. If the passing occurred with two outs, then it would become a “Time Play.” If the runner on third crossed the plate before the passing, the runner would score. If the passing occurred before the runner crossed the plate, the run would not score.

BTW-it should be understood that active runners can physically assist each other. In the above play, if the batter-runner or the retreating runner was aware of the imminent violation, one could push or hold off the other runner to prevent the passing. The base coaches are unable to assist runners, but active runners can assist each other. An active runner is one that has not been retired or crossed the plate.  

MiLB Rules Question #1

QUESTION: Can you please analyze the following situation. I want to educate my pitcher on how to handle a comebacker to the mound with a runner on second base?

ANSWER: I think the pitcher did a good job of running the runner back to his original base but he probably should have made the tag himself. Once he tossed the ball to the infielder, he was now in the restricted runner’s lane without possession of the ball and not in the act of receiving a throw. Therefore, he was in jeopardy of being called for a Type 1 obstruction which he was called for. I could not determine from the video if he impeded the progress of the runner in any way but that was the umpire’s call which is a judgment call. A defensive player involved in a rundown must immediately vacate when he is not in possession of the ball or not in the act of fielding a throw. He must be sure to give the runner his legal baseline which is a straight line to the base he is going to, and he cannot exceed 3-feet to either side of the line.

MiLB Rules Question #2

QUESTION: There’s a runner on third and one out when the batter hits a ground ball to the first baseman who steps on first to retire the batter-runner and fires home in an attempt to get the runner from third. What restrictions does the batter-runner have in this play?

ANSWER: The batter-runner is not restricted the first 45-feet between home and first. He is not restricted the last 45-feet either, but if he is running out of the Runner’s Lane the last 45-feet and interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, he should be called out for interference. Regarding your question, because the batter-runner was retired at first base, he must now be aware that he cannot interfere with the throw to the plate even if he is in the first 45-foot area between home and first. In the video you sent, the batter-runner made every effort to avoid interfering with the play and I see no violation.


The Best Way to Break up a Double Play?

QUESTION: In your opinion, staying within the sliding rule regulations covered in rule 6.01 (j), what is the best way to break up a double play?

ANSWER: In my opinion the best slide to break-up a double play is the pop-up slide. However, the runner must have control of his body. If the runner pops-up and loses body control, umpires are more apt to call the batter-runner out as well if he impedes the fielder in any way.

Rich Marazzi

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

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