August 29, 2023

Runner Abandonment 2023

This report coverings the subject of "Runner Abandonment"

Runner Abandonment 2023

Moore Out for Runner Abandonment

The Royals hosted the Mariners on Aug. 17, 2023. In the top of the seventh, Dylan Moore was batting with one out. He hit a looping fly ball to left fielder MJ Melendez who made a running, sliding attempt to catch the ball and dropped it.

Moore, thinking the ball was caught, gave up on the play and headed back toward his dugout. Meanwhile, Melendez fired the ball to first baseman Matt Duffy and Moore was called out by umpire John Libka. If you watch the video closely, you will see that Libka called Moore out for abandonment.

Ruleball Comments

  1. Rule 5.09 (b) (1) and (2) Comment reads, “Any runner after reaching first base who leaves the base path heading for his dugout or his position believing that there is no further play, may be declared out if the umpire judges the act of the runner to be considered abandoning his efforts to run the bases. Even though an out is called, the ball remains in play in regard to any other runner.” This is not an appeal play.
  2. The OBR gives the example if a runner believing he has been 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.
  3. I don’t understand why the OBR would not include second base. But the key words are if the runner “progresses a reasonable distance” which is umpire’s judgment. There is no definitive amount of feet a runner must travel to be declared out for abandonment. What is a “reasonable distance” for one umpire may not be for another.
  4. I don’t know what role the first base coach played here but along with Moore, he should have been aware that the ball wasn’t caught.
  5. Too often players and coaches are fixated on the ball and fail to observe the signal of the umpire who is making the call.
  6. Runner abandonment is treated equally at all bases. But a wise umpire who feels that a runner is confused for some reason, will not pull the trigger on the call too soon. Did Libka make the call prematurely? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
  7. It should be noted that if a base runner is called out for abandoning his effort to touch the next base on a force play, it does not change a force play to a tag or a time play on any other runner.
  8. Batter-runner abandonment is a bit more rigid, and the umpires have a line of demarcation to go by. Whether or not a batter is aware of his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate. This happens frequently.

Jones Out for Abandonment

The Orioles hosted the Indians on June 27, 2013, at Camden Yards. In the bottom of the fifth, Adam Jones was called out for abandoning the base path.

The O’s had the bases loaded with one out when Chris Davis chopped a 2-1 slider to the right side where second baseman Jason Kipnis attempted to start a 4-6-3 double play with Mike Aviles. Jones was ruled safe initially at second base, but he thought he was out, so he left the base and was called out for abandoning the base path. Aviles fired the ball to first, but Davis was called safe.

Ellsbury Out for Runner Abandonment

Jacoby Ellsbury was ruled out because of runner abandonment in the August 24, 2013, game played between the Red Sox and Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Ellsbury was batting in the top of the ninth with one out and Xander Bogaerts on first base. Ellsbury hit a grounder to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez who threw to second for the force. Ellsbury, after running through the base, thinking that was the third out, headed for the visitors’ dugout on the first base side before making an abbreviated attempt to return to first. Hanley Ramirez, who had taken the throw from Gonzalez, ran across the diamond and tagged Ellsbury for the double play. The tag was a moot point since the umpires had already ruled Ellsbury out for runner abandonment.

If a runner on third had crossed the plate before Ellsbury was declared out for abandonment, the run would score because Ellsbury’s abandonment occurred after he touched first base. Therefore, he would not have made the third out before reaching first base. This would be a rare “Time Play” because Ellsbury’s out (the third out) was not the result of a force.

Regarding the above plays, the lesson here is that runners and base coaches should be aware of the umpire’s call, and know how many outs there are to avoid an abandoning the base path violation.

Hypothetical Play

The Cubs and Cardinals are playing at Busch Stadium.  The Cards have a runner on first base with one out with the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth. The batter hits a home run for the apparent 6-4 walk-off win. But the runner, who was on first base, touches second and thinking the home run automatically wins the game, cuts across the diamond toward the dugout as the batter-runner circles the bases.

You make the call? Does the game go into the tenth inning tied 4-4 or do the Cardinals win 5-4, or 6-4?

In the above play, the runner who was on first base at the start of play, would be out for “abandoning his effort to touch the next base” after he touched second base. But the batter-runner would be permitted to continue around the bases to validate his home run because there

were less than two outs. If there were two outs when the batter homered, no runs would score, and the game would go into the tenth inning tied 4-4. Because there were less than two outs when the runner on first base abandoned, the batter would be credited for the home run and the Cards would win the game, 5-4.

When a preceding runner abandons, a trail runner cannot be called out for passing the runner who abandoned. When runner abandonment occurs during an inning-ending play, it can become a “Time Play” unless the runner who abandoned was forced to reach the next base in which case no run can score.

Lou Gehrig Loses Sole Home Run Title Because a Runner Abandoned

A running faux pas cost Lou Gehrig the sole home run title in 1931. Here is what happened. The Yankees played the Washington Senators on April 26, 1931, at Griffith Stadium. In the top of the first inning the Yankees had Lyn Lary on first base and two outs when Gehrig hit a rocket off Firpo Marberry so fast and hard that the ball popped out of the center field bleachers and into the hands of center fielder Harry Rice. Yankees’ third base coach Joe McCarthy, who was also the team’s manager, reportedly told Lary to slow down. Apparently Lary thought the ball was caught when he saw it fall into the hands of Rice. He left the basepath and Gehrig kept running. He was subsequently called out by umpire Bill McGowan for passing Lary. The “Iron Horse” was credited with a triple. The Yankees lost two runs on the play in a game they lost 9-7. Thanks to Lary’s misadventure, Gehrig ended the season with 46 home runs, tied with Ruth for the AL home run title.

Under current rules, Lary would be called out for abandonment. Because there were two outs, Gehrig would lose the home run. With less than two outs, Lary would be called out, but Gehrig would not be called out for passing his teammate and his home run would count.

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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