July 10, 2023

July 2023 MLB Rules Question and Answer

Our Rules Expert answers questions on some of the most interesting plays in MLB

July 2023 MLB Rules Question and Answer

Play No. 1

QUESTION: There was a question in a recent Pirates game as to whether or not an outfielder made a legal catch in left field. Can you explain what happened?

ANSWER: The Pirates and Marlins played at loanDepot park on June 24, 2023. Jon Berti led off the bottom of the fifth inning and hit a drive to left field. Pirates’ left fielder Josh Palacios attempted to make a diving catch. In the process, his glove, with ball in pocket, came off his hand. The glove touched the ground, and it’s uncertain whether or not the ball ever came out of the glove and touched the ground.

Second base umpire Edwin Jimenez ruled “no catch.” The ruling was challenged by Bucs’ manager Derek Shelton. The Replay Official confirmed that it was no catch. He determined that the fielder was unable to gain firm and secure possession of the ball in his glove and firmly hold it. Even though the ball remained in the glove, the glove was in contact with the ground while the fielder did not have possession of the glove. He confirmed the call on the field.

There is much to unpack here. The Replay Official ruled that Palacios was unable to gain firm and secure possession of the ball in his glove and did not firmly hold it even though the ball remained in the glove. If a fielder no longer has firm and secure possession of the glove and ball at any time throughout the act of making the catch, then it is no catch. I think that is the strongest argument why the play was not ruled a catch.

Also, it was ruled that Palacios lost control of the glove and ball and it touched the ground. I could not see the ball touch the ground but if it did, it would be no catch. But because Palacios was unable to gain firm and secure possession, in my opinion, anything that followed would be irrelevant.

If Palacios retained possession and securely held the glove and ball, and the ball didn’t hit the ground, this would have been a legal catch even though his hand was not in the glove. The best analogy I can give is as follows: The batter hits a ground ball to the pitcher. The ball gets stuck in the webbing of the glove and the pitcher throws the glove with ball in it to the first baseman for the legal catch. The first baseman’s hand is not in the glove that was tossed, but he gets credit for the catch.

If the glove comes off and the fielder never loses firm and secure possession, then takes the ball out of the glove it is a catch.

If the ball pops out while the glove is off, then there is no catch. This may have happened in the Palacios play.  

If the glove hits the ground with the ball in it and the fielder has firm and secure possession of the ball and glove it would be the same as if the glove was on his hand. Again, the ball cannot touch the ground to legalize a catch. If just the glove touches the ground, the ball is still in flight.

Let’s say the second baseman and right fielder collide while chasing a fly ball and both fall to the ground. The second baseman snares the ball. Both are incapacitated but the ball remains in the glove of the fallen second baseman. Because the ball has remained in flight since it never touched the ground, it would be wise for the nearest fielder to pull the ball out of the second baseman’s glove. That would legalize the transfer and the catch. This would be true whether or not the glove was on the fielder’s hand or on the ground.

Play No. 2

QUESTION: The Rangers and Yankees played at Yankee Stadium on June 23, 2023. In the bottom of the fifth, Jose Trevino was at bat with one out and Isiah Kiner-Felefa on first base. IKF attempted to steal second and was called safe by second base umpire John Bacon. For some reason, IKF, thinking he was out, exited the base and headed toward the Yankees dugout. He was tagged about 20-feet away by Rangers’ second baseman Marcus Semien. How should IKF have handled the situation, and could he have been called out for runner abandonment?

ANSWER: Kiner-Falefa admitted it was a bonehead play on his part. He thought he heard either the umpire or Semien yell, “out.” Because there’s a fifth umpire, the Replay Official, whenever there is a close play, the runner should remain on the base, and follow the command of the coaches regardless of the umpire’s call.

In my opinion, IKF progressed a reasonable distance from second base and could have been called for runner abandonment even if he wasn’t tagged. Rule 5.09 (b) (2) Comment reads, “Any runner is out after touching first base, he leaves the base path, obviously abandoning his effort to touch the next base.”

The sample play the rule book gives is as follows: Runner believing he is called out at first or third base starts for the dugout and progresses a reasonable distance still indicating by his actions that he is out, shall be declared out for abandoning the bases.

QUESTION: When a runner is called for abandonment does the ball remain alive?

ANSWER: Yes, unless there are two outs. With less than two outs, other runners are not affected by the runner who abandons. Let’s say there is a runner on first and one out and the score is tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth. The batter hits a home run. The runner on first thinking the home run wins the game, exits the field after he rounds second base. The runner is called out for abandonment but the batter-runner who hit the home run, is credited with the four-bagger. He is not called out for passing the runner. If there were two outs when he hit the home run, the home run would not count. Also, if a runner crosses the plate before a trail runner abandons for the third out, the run will score unless the trail runner abandons his next base that is a force out.

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.  


Vincenzo Russo

On Aug. 2 the Padres beat 11-1 the Rockies at Coors Field. Scott Barlow entered the game in the bottom of 6th with one out, bases empty, and San Diego up 4-1. There was not a save situation, still Barlow was credited an Hold after completing 1.2ip. I’m missing anything?
Thank you!

Bob Portman

One scenario you didn’t cover: Ball Enters the glove, Glove come off hand, ball stays in glove, fielder picks up glove.
Second scenario, similar to first: Ball Enters the glove, Glove come off hand, ball stays in glove but starts to come out , fielder pushes ball back into the glove and picks up the glove. Ball never touches the ground.

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