May 4, 2023

May 2023 Question and Answer

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

May 2023 Question and Answer

Extra Innings Rule

QUESTION: Say we go to extra innings and our No.6 hitter made the last out in the bottom of the ninth. We come to bat in the bottom of the 10thinning, and we put our No. 5 hitter on base, because we know he is much faster, and we want to try and have him run. If the opposing team doesn’t see or say anything, nor do the umpires, are we good? And what If the other team doesn’t see or say something and a pitch or two is delivered on our batter, are we good?

If we got “caught” after the fact is there a penalty and what would it be?

ANSWER: To begin with, the umpires should be checking this. However, if they miss it, whatever action follows, will stay. Let’s say on the first pitch in the 10th inning with the No. 5 batter on second base, the batter hits a home run. Everything counts, including the ghost runner’s run. There can be no appeal.

So, you are good if the strategy goes unnoticed by the umpires and the opposing team. However, this can prove to be a public relations disaster. I don’t think you want your team to be labeled “cheaters.” Although it would be difficult to prove, if the umpires can prove that the team is circumventing the rules, the manager can be ejected. 

Regarding a penalty if caught, that would be a MLB decision.


QUESTION: Can a game be played under protest if there was an improper ghost runner?

ANSWER: No. Since the 2020 pandemic season, there no longer is a protest rule. If a manager believes the umpires have misinterpreted a rule, the best remedy is for a manager is to ask for a RULES CHECK.


QUESTION: Would intentionally using the wrong ghost runner be the same as batting out of order?

ANSWER: No. Batting out of Order has a specific appeals system. If a pitch is thrown after an improper batter completes his bat, this legalizes the improper batter’s at bat and the batter listed after the improper batter, should be the next batter.

Other Questions

QUESTION: The runner steals, his helmet falls off, infielder tags the helmet since it was in line with the arm. The fielder tagged his arm and was clearly out. But what if he tagged only the helmet which was off of his head?  Would this be a legal tag?

ANSWER: No. To make a legal tag the fielder would have to tag the runner with his helmet properly worn on his head.


QUESTION: If a player is available on the active roster but is not on the umpire’s card exchanged at home plate, can the player participate in the game?

ANSWER: According to rule 4.03 (c), “As a courtesy, potential substitute players should also be listed, but failure to list a potential substitute player shall not make such potential substitute player ineligible to enter the game.”


QUESTION: If a catcher tries to back-pick the runner on second base and the hitter falls over the plate, is that interference?  Can you reference the rule with either ruling?

ANSWER: Yes…that would be interference if the batter hinders or impedes the catcher’s throw. Rule 6.03 (a) (3) reads, ” A batter is out for illegal action when he interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base.” If the catcher retires the runner with a direct throw, the interference is nullified. With less than two outs, the batter is out if the runner is not retired. If the interference occurs on strike three, both the batter and runner being played on are out.


QUESTION: Cubs’ pitcher Drew Smyly had a perfect game going on Friday, April 21, 2023, for seven innings. Let’s say first baseman Trey Mancini dropped a pop fly in foul territory and was charged with an error. Would that have ended the perfect game even if the batter was ultimately put out? Can there be a fielding error in a perfect game?

ANSWER: A perfect game can have an error/s as long as the batter doesn’t reach base and is subsequently retired. Therefore, the error would have to be made in a foul ball situation. So, if Mancini had dropped the ball in foul territory, the perfect game would still be intact as long as the batter is subsequently retired. If Mancini dropped a fair ball and the batter reached base, the pitcher cannot get credit for a perfect game. A perfect game is one where no opposing player reaches base by any means. 


QUESTION: Quick question on a “Time Play” – if the inning ends on a runner not tagging up properly at a base and the run scores first does it still count? I believe it would since this is not considered a force out but wanted to confirm with you.

ANSWER: The run would count. If the infraction was a force play, it would not. As long as the lead runner crossed the plate before the third out was recorded, the run would count. Let’s say there were runners on first and third and one out. The batter hits a pop fly to the short outfield and the ball is caught by the second baseman. The runner on first takes off with the pitch and is easily doubled-up at first base. The runner on third properly tags-up and crosses the plate, but before the third out putout at first base. In that situation the run would count.


QUESTION: The Royals and D’backs played on April 26, 2023. In the top of the second inning, the Royals’ Freddie Fermin hit a soft foul ball that took the seam off the top of the ball. If the ball was a fair ball, how would the umpires handle this?

ANSWER: They would keep the ball in play. The sphere of the yarn is what forms the ball, not the cover. This situation is covered by Official Baseball Rule 3.01 Comment. “Should a ball come partially apart in a game, it is in play until the play is completed.”

This has happened several times over the years. In a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 18, 2014, Martin Maldonado of the Milwaukee Brewers hit a routine groundball to third base. When Pirates’ third baseman Pedro Alvarez fielded the grounder, the ball was literally coming apart at the seams. He attempted to throw the ball to first, but the flapping ball died in flight, and Maldonado reached on an infield hit.

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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