Reds’ Baserunning Blunder Causes Chaos Scoring the Play
The Orioles and Reds played at Great American Park on July 30th. In the bottom of the fifth, the Reds had Kyle Farmer on first base and one out when Nick Senzel hit a line drive that caromed off the left field wall into the hands of O’s left fielder Austin Hays.
Farmer, thinking the ball was caught, retreated to first base safely while Senzel kept running and passed Farmer. First base umpire Dan Bellino called Senzel out. The ball came in from the outfield to first baseman Trey Mancini, who tagged Senzel who was already out.
- The play was ruled correctly by first base umpire Dan Bellino. When two runners cross in opposite directions such as we had in the above play, the trail runner is called out per rule 5.09 (b) (9). The ball is not dead and the play proceeds when there is a passing the runner violation. If Farmer was tagged-out, the O’s would have completed a double play.
- Normally the trail runner is responsible to know what the runner in front of him is doing. Runners should be instructed that they can physically assist each other to prevent the passing because they are both active runners. I believe that most players (and some base coaches) are not aware that it is permissible for active runners to assist each other.
- When passing a runner occurs, if the violation results in the third out, any runner who crossed the plate before the violation should be allowed to score since that would be considered a “Time Play” because the inning did not end in a force out. If less than two outs, all runners who cross the plate should score with the exception of the runner who is ruled out for passing a preceding runner. Let’s say a batter hits a home run with the bases loaded and one out. The runner on first, not locating the runner on second who retreats back to second base, passes the runner on second. The runner on first should be called out for passing the runner on second, but the three other runners should score.
- One of the broadcasters erroneously said that Farmer was tagged, and it was a double play. Broadcasters, as well as the on-the-field participants, should keep their eye on the umpire’s signal who is covering the play. If no out call is made, runners should proceed as normal. Communication from the base coaches is vital. In the above play, both runners appeared confused as to whether or not the ball was caught by Hays. The base coaches in this play, especially the first base coach, should have been in a position to direct the traffic.
- If the umpire errs in such plays, the play can be challenged, and the Replay Official will rectify the situation and place the runners accordingly. In the above play, let’s say the umpires incorrectly ruled that Hays caught the ball and by doing so put the runners in jeopardy. If the play was challenged, the Replay Official can rectify the situation and place the runners, in his judgment, to the base they would have made if the call had been initially correct.
- I found the scoring of the play to be confusing. The official scorer on the game said,
“Since the lead runner ended up at first base, it is treated like a force play.” Therefore, he did not credit Senzel with a hit.
- Because there appeared to be questions as to how the play should be scored, I asked two scorers who work the New York ballpark venues how they would score the play. One agreed with the official scorer in Cincinnati, the other did not. I also asked Andy Wirkmaa, the author of Baseball Scorekeeping: A Practical Guide to the Rules,” and he said he would credit the hit. So, if you’re keeping score, four experts are split 2-2. As Yogi said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
- Per 9.09 (c) (4), the putout goes to the first baseman (Mancini), “the player closest to the passing.”
The next play illustrates the need for improved eye skills and rules education regarding the rights of the runners in potential passing the runner violations. Below you will see a play where a passing the runner situation occurred and nobody, including the umpires and the opposing team, observed the violation because they were fixated on tracking the ball while ignoring the underbelly of the play.
The Cardinals beat the Brewers 7-0 in St. Louis on April 14, 2016. In the third inning, the Cards’ Randal Grichuk hit a shot to deep center off Wily Peralta that went off the glove and over the wall of leaping Brewers’ center fielder Keon Broxton for a two-run homer. However, Brandon Moss, the runner on first base, retreated to the base to tag-up in case the ball was caught. Grichuk, who was watching the ball, did not locate Moss and passed him as he rounded first base. Grichuk, the back or trail runner, should have been called out but nobody, including the umpires and the Brewers bench noticed the infraction.
The play was the responsibility of the first base umpire, John Hirschbeck, who should have been in a position to line up the tag-up. While in that position the umpire can observe the tag-up and the passing of the runner if that should occur. It’s possible that at least two of the other three umpires could have glanced at the play, but they had other responsibilities. In another breakdown of responsibilities, Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell failed to challenge the play because he, nor anyone in the Brewers’ dugout, failed to see the passing of the runner because they were most likely following the flight of the ball.
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