August 11, 2021

How Does a Runner Miss 1B and Be Ruled Safe?

How Does a Runner Miss 1B and Be Ruled Safe?

In the first game of the August 7, 2021, doubleheader between the Red Sox and Blue Jays, the following play created a unique situation.

In the top of the sixth, the Sox had Bobby Dalbec on 2B and Jonathan Arauz on 1B with one out when Alex Verdugo hit a ground ball to Santiago Espinal. The Jays’ third baseman threw to second baseman Marcus Semien to retire Arauz. Semien’s throw to 1B pulled Lourdes Gurriel off the base. Hustling down the 1B line, Verdugo failed to touch 1B when he leaped over Gurriel, who was blocking the base. Gurriel recovered himself and inadvertently stepped on the base while in control of the ball before Verdugo safely returned to the base.

Umpire Doug Eddings called Verdugo safe. Blue Jays’s manager Charlie Montoyo challenged the safe call, but the Replay Official confirmed the call on the field. He determined that Gurriel was not touching 1B when the ball contacted the interior of his glove. He also acknowledged that Verdugo had both feet on the other side of 1B and initially missed the bag. However, Gurriel failed to properly appeal the missed base before Verdugo returned to the base.

Ruleball Comment

  1. The Replay Official acknowledged that Verdugo had failed to touch the base, but because the Blue Jays (first baseman, Gurriel) never made a proper appeal, the “safe” call on the field was properly confirmed.
  2. Rule 5.09 (c) (3) reads, “Any runner shall be called out on appeal when he overruns or over slides 1B and fails to return to the base immediately, and he or the base is tagged prior to the runner returning to 1B.”
  3. In the above play, if Verdugo returned immediately to the base, a tag would have been required to put him out. The word “immediately” is subjective. If the batter-runner is a good distance beyond the missed base and slow to return, in my opinion, the first baseman would be able to make a verbal appeal to the umpire with ball in hand or glove and step on the base or tag the base so he can make a subsequent play on a runner, if possible.
  4. When a runner runs beyond a missed base and beats the throw, he is vulnerable to being called out on appeal. The onus, however, is on the defensive team to recognize the failure of the runner to touch the base and make a valid appeal by properly communicating the appeal to the umpire. An inadvertent touch of the base which Gurriel did, is not a proper appeal and the umpire has no authority to call the runner out unless the play is appealed.
  5. When a batter-runner, or any runner has both feet on the ground beyond the back edge of the missed base or beyond the edge of the base in the direction in which he is advancing and has not been legally put out, the umpire is not empowered to call the runner out, but the umpire should not make the safe call as Eddings did.
  6. The proper mechanic for the umpire when the batter-runner beats the play at 1B but fails to touch the base is to make no call because the batter-runner has not yet touched 1B.  This is covered in Section 37 “Appeal Plays” in the 2021 Major League Baseball Umpire Manual.
  7. If Eddings made no call, this would have alerted both Verdugo and Gurriel that they both had further responsibilities. Chances are a member of the Blue Jays would have directed Gurriel to tag Verdugo or make an appeal. On the other hand, most likely Red Sox 1B coach Ramon Vazquez would have hastened Verdugo to the base.
  8. Because the Replay Official is tasked with applying his discretion regarding the placement of a runner/s as it relates to an incorrect signal or call by an umpire, in my opinion Montoyo should have argued that Gurriel failed to make a valid appeal on Verdugo based on the improper mechanics of Eddings when he sent the wrong message by making the “safe” call. But chances are Montoyo’s complaint would have been DOA if it got to the Replay Official because of the inadvertent, invalid appeal. But it would have been worth a try.
  9. It should be noted that the Replay Official has the exclusive authority to place runners. If a runner or a defensive player is unaffected by an umpire’s incorrect signal or call, the call on the field will determine the placement of the runner/s. Although I disagree with Eddings’ safe signal, I do not think it affected the actions of Gurriel.
  10. Gurriel blocked the base which probably prevented Verdugo from touching it. But because Gurriel was in the process of fielding the throw, he had the right to block the base. This certainly is unfair to the batter-runner whose only recourse to touch the base would be to barrel over the first baseman which would be dangerous. Perhaps MLB should revisit this aspect of the obstruction rule.

Summary

  1. A runner can be ruled safe at a base even if he misses the base if the defensive team does not make a proper appeal before the runner returns to the base safely.  
  2. In such plays as the Verdugo/Gurriel play, first basemen should be prepared to make a proper appeal even if the umpire incorrectly makes a safe sign.
  3. The defensive team should carefully observe the actions of the batter-runner in case a runner is improperly called safe by the umpire, or there is no call by the umpire. A proper appeal would retire the runner either on the field or at the Replay Center.  
  4. As one of the broadcasters noted the umpires should have had a microphone to explain to the fans what is going on. He said, “This is where baseball has fallen down in its responsibility to the fans. The umpires should be explaining exactly what they looked at and should tell the entire ballpark.”

Agree!

Rich Marazzi

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

Comments

Bob Portman

Is this article saying that the runner after having passed and miss the base HAS to be tagged? If the first baseman realizes that both he and the runner missed the base, can he touch the base and ask for the appeal? He should be able to do that because if the runner missed the base, and went to second, then the defense could ask for an appeal after the ball is dead by stepping off the rubber after the ball is back in play and throwing to first and touching the bag. What would be the difference?
Now, if the umpire calls time, and runner hasn’t returned to the base, the defense is stuck, because the runner will be on the base when the ball is put back in play.
IMHO, if the fielder comes off the bag, the runner misses the bag and the fielder rocks bag on to the bag, I think the runner should be still out. But that’s only my opinion.
It is interesting that this could apply on a force play at 2nd or 3rd as well. So, it would be important to know if you can tag the bag or have to tag the runner.

Gerry

Jim Kovac I’m with you 100% unless someone can tell me if I’m dreaming we use to be instructed to make the call on the play based on what we saw and we were to signal the runner safe until such time as the defense makes a proper appeal.
Been out there since 1969.

One of the first place I learn this ruling was in a Little League Rule Instruction Manual and they explained it like this. Runner goes through the bag first but doesn’t touch the base and the ball arrives somewhat after the runner so just like you would if he did touch the base call him safe. They said it’s up to the defense to appeal that he missed the base and the fact that the fielder caught the ball while touching the base isn’t an appeal. Made sense to me but I guess OBR thought it needed to be changed for some reason. I’ll have to see if Little League made the change as well seeing how they have developed their own silent mechanic for 3rd strike not caught and have a free video on their Umpire University.

I had almost this same play in a Connie Mac (OBR) playoff game a week ago. 3 fielders all went after a ground to the right of the mound, F1, F3 and F4. F3 gave up when he realized no one was going to 1st base to cover. He was late getting there and trying to touch the base and catch the ball at the same time missed the bag and his foot kept right on going as it slipped on the hard ground. Now the BR has to jump over his F3’s to get to the bag and my eyes are on the bag and foot but his leap told me he missed the bag, I call safe as I was taught and indicated F3 was off the bag with mechanic and voice. ( My thinking on this is that you are making a call on a play or attempted play NO?)
Well F3 wants to argue he touched it but gets no where with me nor do his team mates F1 & F4… meanwhile BR comes back to the bag. Now I walk over to the B spot and the Manager for the defense comes out to me so I tell him what I had, missed bag. He says I want to appeal him missing the bag. I look over my shoulder then turn back and say “He’s on the bag coach he’s safe”

But in reading through my new copy of MiLB manual 2021 I see they are now instructing not to call anything…. but to stay silent… What about that attempted play the fielder just made? Obviously my silence alerts the defense.

.

Highandin

I’m with Will Bell on this with regard to Obstruction (Type 1). Gurriel was not pulled into the base path but lost situational awareness with his foot. The runner clearly made a move to avoid an injury.

However, if not going with the Obstruction call, then it seems the mechanic would be a ‘no call’. Yes, it would give the defense an indication that something is amiss, but it would give the same to the offense, so neither is advantaged. Since 5.06(a)(1) says: “Running the Bases, (a) Occupying the Base (1) A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touches it before he is out.” Yet, he has NOT touched it, so the Safe call would seem to confuse the issue. (The BR KNOWS he missed. What if he didn’t hustle back, but came directly, and the defense appealed quickly ‘anyway’? Or from the other direction, taking out the replay component, why would the defense appeal a Safe call?)

C3GPS

The newer mechanic is to no longer signal safe at first base if a runner misses the base. Signaling safe is the old mechanic. Likely with Eddings he either didn’t see the miss or it is habit from being an umpire for so long with that old mechanic.

William Bell

Are we sure about this? “But because Gurriel was in the process of fielding the throw, he had the right to block the base.”
I was taught that, under OBR, you could block a base while fielding a throw only if the throw takes you there. Clearly, the throw did not take Gurriel’s right leg entirely across the front edge of the first base bag. Using your logic, F3 could effectively block the bag on almost every play at first base because he is in the process of “fielding the throw.”
I also agree with Jim Kovac that you make the safe call at first base in this situation. Failing to do so could give the defense an indication that something is amiss.

Vincenzo Russo

Agree. To me that’s an obstruction. The batter-runner should have been called safe for F3 obstruction.

Jim Kovac

Are we sure on that ‘no call’ mechanic? It is my understanding that if the runner has passed the base we are to signal safe in all situations but at home plate. The runner is considered safe until there is a valid appeal.

Bob Portman

I was taught to give a reasonable length ‘no call’ and then call safe if no attempt to tag or appeal is made.

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