The Cubs and Dodgers played at Wrigley on Tuesday, April 29, 2019, when an interesting “out of the baseline” controversy developed.
In the bottom of the second, Javy Baez was batting with an 0-2 count and one out when he tapped a soft ground ball to Dodgers’ first baseman, David Freese. It looked like an easy out, but Baez hit the brakes, did a juke move to his left to avoid the tag, and dove safely to first base.
Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts argued that Baez should be called out because he ran out of the restricted 3-foot baseline. The umpire reportedly told Roberts the 3-foot line applies only if you’re trying to avoid a tag. Roberts argued that Baez was trying to avoid the tag because of the distance he traveled from Freese.
You can view the play by going to the link below:
Rich Marazzi Expert Analysis
The Baseline Rule: 5.09 (b) (1)
The moment a fielder with ball in hand or ball in glove makes a move toward the runner, the runner has a restricted baseline. The restricted baseline is an imaginary direct line to the base he is going to and the runner cannot exceed 3-feet in either direction of that line. In essence, the runner has 6-feet of real estate to operate-3-feet on either side of the imaginary baseline.
Until the 2017 season, the defensive player had to make a definitive tag attempt with ball in glove or ball in hand to restrict the runner’s 3-foot baseline. No longer is the tag attempt with ball in glove or ball in hand extended necessary. The only requirement is for the fielder to have possession of the ball in his hand or glove and MAKE A MOVE WITH THE INTENT TO TAG THE RUNNER.
The following is the revision to rule 5.09 (b) (1) as handed down by MLB two years ago.
OUT OF THE BASEPATH Rule 5.09(b)(1) [former Rule 7.08(a)(1)]: When determining whether a base runner should be called out under Rule 5.09(b)(1), so long as the umpire determines that a play is being made on the runner and an attempt to tag is occurring, i.e. the fielder is moving to tag the runner, no physical tag attempt is required to call a runner out for leaving the basepath.
When making a judgment on the Baez/Freese play, you have to determine what came first: Freese’s initial move toward Baez or Baez’s change of direction to escape the tag? Baez had the right, without penalty, to deviate his base path before Freese made a move in his direction because at that point he did not have a restricted baseline.
If you judge that Baez changed direction before Freese moved toward Baez, then the “no call” was the right call.
If you judge that Freese’s initial move with ball in glove occurred before Baez made a sharp change of direction, then Baez should have been called out because he obviously exceeded his allotted 3-feet.
From my standpoint, it is wise for a runner to deviate his path to any base when he is anticipating an imminent tag. The change of direction must be made before the fielder gains possession of the ball and makes a move toward the runner. I call this, “Anticipate and Escape.”
I freeze framed it a number of times. In my opinion, Freese made his move before Baez changed direction. I support Dave Roberts’ argument that Baez ran out of the baseline. But to be honest, I had the luxury of slowing the play down in the privacy of my office. The umpires (Ted Barrett and Chad Whitson) did not.
So now it’s time for you to make the call!
Rich Marazzi, Rules Consultant: Blue Jays, Brewers, Cardinals, D’backs, Dodgers, Mariners, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, the FOX Regional Sports Networks, ESPN, the White Sox TV announcers and WFAN radio.