August 23, 2022

Improper Time Call by an Umpire

Examples of MLB umpires improperly calling time during a play and the instant impact on the game

Improper Time Call by an Umpire

The D’backs and Giants played at Oracle Park on August 17, 2022 in a game Arizona won, 3-2.

In the top of the sixth, the D’backs’ Stone Garrett was facing Carlos Rodon with Josh Rojas on second base and two outs when Garrett hit a ground ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford. On the swing, plate umpire Dan Bellino called catcher’s interference on Austin Wynns. Bellino pointed to the infraction then kept pointing toward first base.

Garrett delayed going to first to make sure Bellino was aware of the interference. Bellino “apparently” kept the ball in play, but first base umpire Phil Cuzzi called “Time.” When he called “Time” Crawford appeared to have quit on the play before making his throw. Rojas, who was on third base when Cuzzi called “Time,” was returned to second and Garrett was given first base.

When catcher’s interference (rule 6.01-c) occurs, if the ball is put in play, the ball remains alive. The runners advance one base only if forced. The violation is ignored if all runners, including the batter-runner, advance at least one base on the play. And if the ball is put in play and all runners, including the batter-runner do not advance at least one base, the manager of the team at bat has the option of taking the play or the penalty. If the manager opts to take the play, he is usually trading an out for a run or an out for a base that will increase the chance of that run scoring. Also, the manager must initiate the meeting with the plate umpire. If he doesn’t, the umpires will invoke the penalty which is award the batter-runner first base and advance other runners one base, only if forced.

Did Cuzzi have the right to call “Time” in the middle of the play?  Is there anything D’backs’ manager Torey Lovullo could have done? Could he have asked for a RULES CHECK or exercised the option of taking the play instead of the penalty? These are questions that several have asked.

Ruleball Comments

  1. “Time” should not have been called by Cuzzi because there was the possibility of further action when Garrett grounded to the shortstop.  Rule 5.12 (b) (8) specifically states that no umpire shall call “Time” while a play is in progress. 
  2. There are three exceptions to the rule that rarely occur. Rule 5.12 (b) (1) (2) and (3) allows an umpire to call “Time” if:  (1)  there is light failure; (2) weather conditions make immediate further play impossible; or (3) an injury incapacitates a player or umpire as long as the ball is in dead ball territory.
  3. Although Cuzzi can be the target of criticism for improperly calling “Time,” his actions might have been the result of Bellino’s mechanics. Bellino properly pointed to the interference from his starting position behind the plate. He then moved out in front of the plate and kept pointing to first base. I think most umpires would agree the secondary point should have been to the catcher indicating the catcher interference, not to first base. The signal to first base could very easily be mistaken for an award of first base because of the interference.
  4. Garrett is also open to criticism for not immediately running to first following the interference. This is a common reaction for the batter when his bat makes contact with the catcher’s mitt, but the batter should quickly run to first when the ball is put in play because it’s a live ball. Assuming “Time” was never called, if Garrett ran hard to first base and was safe, the interference would be nullified and the D’backs would have runners on first and third.
  5. If the ball was kept alive in the above play, there was the possibility of Crawford making an errant throw and allowing both Rojas and Garrett to advance one or more bases, but “Time” was improperly called before he made his throw. Hopefully, Cuzzi will not make the same mistake again and Bellino will adjust his mechanics.
  6. Mechanical umpire errors like this can compound problems for the umpires and players. For example, if the umpires determined that Garrett stopped running because of umpire error, and they judged that he would have been safe at first and they consequently allowed Rojas to remain at third, then Giants’ manager Gabe Kapler’s argument would be that his fielder (Crawford) reacted to the umpire’s incorrect signaling and did not put forth his best effort to retire Garrett.
  7. In the above play, Rojas was on third base at the time Cuzzi called “Time.” Should the umpires have allowed him to remain at third base, instead of returning him to second? I don’t think so. Because Cuzzi killed the play, the umpires were handcuffed to enforce the penalty aspect of the rule because they never knew if Garrett would have been out or safe at first base, if Crawford did not delay after the call of “Time.” If Rojas was attempting to steal third on the play, the umpires would allow him to remain at third base under rule 5.06 (b) (3) (D).   
  8. In my opinion, Lovullo could have asked for a RULES CHECK in NYC hoping the ruling by the Replay Official would place the runners on first and third, but for the reasons given in No. 7, I think the ruling would have been to place the runners on first and second which is what the field umpires did.
  9. First baseman Brandon Belt never touched first base when he received the throw, but that’s a moot point because the ball was dead when Crawford threw to first base.
  10. As for Lovullo exercising his option, because there were two outs and the play was ruled dead, he had no option of taking the play or the penalty. He could have argued for the runners to be placed at first and third, but that is not considered an option such as trading an out for a run or an out for an extra base. Example: The same play occurs with no outs and “Time” is never called. Rojas advances to third base but Garrett is out at first base. In that situation, Lovullo has an option. If he accepts the penalty aspect of the rule, Rojas remains at second because he wasn’t forced to third and Garrett is given first base. If he takes the play, Rojas would remain at third base but Garrett would be out. The D’backs would have a runner on third and one out.                                                                                                                                                

Improper Call of “Time” by an Umpire Takes Away a Run

The top of the ninth inning of the New York Yankees- Los Angeles Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 24, 2019, turned into confusion when umpire Gabe Morales improperly called “Time.”

The Yankees had Gleyber Torres on second and Brett Gardner on first with one out trailing 2-1 when Gio Urshela bounced a ball to Justin Turner. The Dodgers’ third baseman threw to Max Muncy at second for the force. Gardner, who slid hard into the base, was called out by second base umpire Jansen Visconti. As a result of Gardner’s slide, Muncy fell to the ground.

The Yankees challenged the out call, and the Dodgers challenged the slide hoping to get a double play ruling on an illegal slide. The ruling out of NYC was that Gardner was safe and his slide was legal.

But this was only part of the play.

While Muncy was on the ground apparently injured, (he later admitted he wasn’t) the ball remained alive. Torres, who had advanced to third, kept his eyes at second base then took off for home. Shortly before his dash to the plate, Dodgers’ pitcher Kenley Jansen asked for “Time” because of his “apparent” injured teammate. The “Time” request was granted by Morales. By the time Morales signaled for “Time,” Torres was hustling well down the line and was about to score.

Morales sent Torres back to third claiming “Time” had been called. Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone properly argued that the run should score, and that “Time” was incorrectly called (because there was a play in progress). But the game resumed with the bases loaded and one out. Jansen proceeded to strike out the next two batters and the Dodgers won the contest, 2-1.

Boone was subsequently notified by MLB that Morales incorrectly called “Time.” But as far as the Yankees were concerned, it was too little, too late.


Rich Marazzi

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.  

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