September 23, 2023

MLB Rules Questions and Answer September 2023

Our Rules Expert answers questions on some of the most challenging questions around Major League Baseball

MLB Rules Questions and Answer September 2023

On-Deck Interference?

QUESTION: In the Pirates-Cubs game on September 19, 2023, interference was called on the on-deck batter. Was that the proper call? Can you explain what happened?

ANSWER: The Pirates and Cubs played at Wrigley on September 19, 2023 In the bottom of the sixth, Patrick Wisdom was batting with the bases empty and one out. Wisdom hit a pop fly in foul territory near the third base dugout. As Bucs’ third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes approached the ball he collided with Alexander Canario, the on-deck batter. Canario was trying to avoid Pirates’ catcher Endy Rodriguez who was also pursuing the ball and failed to see Hayes. Originally no call was made. But the umpires subsequently huddled and determined that Wisdom would be out because of Canario’s interference.

The umpires enforced rule 6.01 (b) titled, Fielder Right of Way.  It reads, “The players, coaches or any member of a team at bat shall vacate any space (including both dugouts and bullpens) needed by a fielder who is attempting to field a batted or thrown ball. If a member of the team at bat (other than a runner) hinders a fielder’s attempt to catch or field a batted ball, the ball is dead, the batter is declared out and all runners return to the bases occupied at the time of the pitch. If a member of the team at bat (other than a runner) hinders a fielder’s attempt to field a thrown ball, the ball is dead, the runner on whom the play is being made shall be declared out and all runners return to the last legally occupied base at the time of the interference.

Excluding runners, the base coaches, and the on-deck batter are the ones most vulnerable in violating this rule. Notice the rule is titled, Fielder Right of Way. When a fielder is in the act of making a play, he cannot be hindered or impeded. This is one of the most fundamental rules in the game.

Hit-by-Pitch Dead Ball Strike

QUESTION: The Twins and Reds played at the Great American Ball Park on September 20, 2023. In the bottom of the seventh, with the Reds leading 2-1, Luke Maile was batting with Will Benson on third and no outs. With the Twins infield playing in, Maile hit a pop-up bunt that was fielded by Twins’ first baseman Donovan Solano who threw to second baseman Jorge Polanco covering first for the apparent putout. Benson remained at third.

Reds’ manager David Bell claimed that Maile was hit by the pitch when he bunted the ball, and the play should have been ruled dead and a strike called on the batter. Plate umpire Ryan Blakney did not have a HBP and Bell challenged the no HBP call. The call was overturned to a HBP dead ball strike. The Replay Official determined that the ball struck the batter’s hand as he offered to bunt. Maile remained at bat and subsequently hit safely driving in Benson giving the Reds a 3-1 lead in a game they would lose, 5-3.

ANSWER: Rule 5.05 (b) (2) reads, “The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when he is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (A) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (B) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball; Since Maile attempted to bunt the ball, he was not entitled to first base. It is a dead ball strike. If it was strike three, he would be out.  

Judgement in Home Plate Collision Rule

QUESTION:  If a runner would be an easy out regardless of the catcher’s positioning, the catcher has not violated the home plate collision rule.  This is seldom called. Do you have an example of such a play?

ANSWER: I’ll have to go back to the Mariners-Astros game on May 6, 2023. In the top of the fifth, the Astros had Jake Myers on third and Mauricio Dubón on first with two outs when Yordan Alvarez hit a shot down the left field line. Myers scored easily and Dubón who attempted to reach the plate was called safe by umpire Dan Bellino who ruled that catcher Tom Murphy illegally blocked the plate.

M’s manager Scott Servais argued that his catcher did not illegally block the plate because the runner would have been out regardless of the positioning of the catcher.  He challenged the call which was overturned in New York. The catcher has no blocking restriction when receiving a throw from the pitcher, a drawn-in infielder, or when a runner would have been an easy out regardless of the catcher’s positioning. The rule reads, “A catcher shall not be deemed to have hindered or impeded the progress of the runner, if in the judgment of the umpire, the runner would have been called out notwithstanding the catcher having blocked the plate. (See 6.01 (i) (2) Comment).

Illegal Base Running on Acuña?

QUESTION: In this play, Ronald Acuña Jr.  did seem to disengage second base on the steal with his feet behind (or to the side) of second base before advancing to third. Is this a situation would he need to re-touch while advancing to third? Or is he within the margin of error of being to the side of the base?

ANSWER: This would not be considered illegal base running subject to appeal, because the runner went to the side of the base after touching it with his initial slide. If he stepped in back of the base with both feet on the first base side, he would have to retouch second base. His footwork for his advancement toward third was physically past second base but totally legal since he can create his own basepath in advancing. The “no call” here was the proper call.

Carlos Santana Throws His Glove

QUESTION: In a recent game Carlos Santana tossed his glove and ball to the pitcher covering first base for a putout. Can you provide any details?

ANSWER: The Cards hosted the Brewers on September 18, 2023. Alec Burleson, facing Freddy Perealta, led off the bottom of the fourth. Burleson hit a ground ball to first baseman Carlos Santana. It looked like it would be a routine 3-1 putout. But the ball got stuck in the webbing of Santana’s glove.

Santana didn’t panic, he simply tossed the glove and ball to Peralta covering first for the putout. Peralta made a legal catch of the ball as he controlled both the ball and glove.

Pitchers and first basemen should all be aware of this rule since it seems to happen every season where a ball gets lodged in the webbing of a pitcher’s or first baseman’s glove.  

First base umpire Vic Carapazza made the call.


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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