What is Runner Abandonment?
Before getting to the plays in this report, it’s important to outline the two rules that the umpires had to reference in making their decision.
Runner Abandonment: Rule 5.09 (b) (1) and (2) Comment
The rule reads, “If a runner leaves his base path and heads for his dugout or his position believing that there is no further play, he may be declared out if the umpire judges the act of the runner to be considered abandoning his efforts to run the bases. “
A runner who discontinues his advance or return to a base, progresses a reasonable distance toward his dugout or defensive position, and indicates no intent to reassert his status as a runner has abandoned his effort to run the bases. It is umpire judgment whether or not a runner has progressed a “reasonable” distance toward his dugout or defensive position.
It should be noted if a runner is called out for abandonment, any trail runner should not be called out for passing the runner who abandoned.
Rule 5.09 (b) (9) Comment
“A runner may be deemed to have passed a preceding (i.e., lead) runner based on his actions or the actions of a preceding runner. PLAY—Runners on second base and third base with one out. The runner from third base (i.e., the lead runner) makes an advance toward home and is caught in a rundown between third base and home plate. Believing the lead runner will be tagged out, the runner at second base (i.e., the trailing runner) advances to third base. Before being tagged, the lead runner runs back to and beyond third base toward left field. At this time, the trailing runner has passed the lead runner as a result of the lead runner’s actions. As a result, the trailing runner is out, and third base is unoccupied.
The lead runner is entitled to third base if he returns to touch it before he is out unless he is declared out for abandoning the bases.”
It should be noted that this could happen at first, second, or third base.
Marwin Gonzalez abandons base path vs Royals June 30, 2021
The Royals and Red Sox played at Fenway on June 30. In the bottom of the fourth inning the Sox had Marwin Gonzalez on second base and one out when Michael Chavis hit a ground ball to Royals’ shortstop Hanser Alberto. Gonzalez broke for third and Alberto threw to third baseman Hunter Dozier. A rundown ensued between second and third.
During the rundown, Chavis advanced to second base. With Chavis standing on second base, Gonzalez ran by the base and headed for the Red Sox dugout on the first base side of the field. Second base umpire Todd Tichenor called Gonzalez out for abandonment and allowed Chavis to remain at second base.
This play triggered several questions.
- Why was Gonzalez ruled out for abandonment?
- Apparently, it was clear to Tichenor that Gonzalez’s actions indicated that he progressed a reasonable distance toward his dugout with no intent to continue to run the bases. Because of that he used rule 5.09 (b) (1) and (2) Comment and called Gonzalez out for abandonment.
- Is there a certain number of feet a runner must run to be considering abandoning his efforts to run the bases?
- No. This is an arbitrary judgment by the umpire.
- When Gonzalez ran by Chavis who was standing on second base, Chavis, the trail runner, technically passed Gonzalez. Why wasn’t Chavis called out for passing Gonzalez?
- When a runner is called out for abandonment, other runners are protected from the passing the runner rule. If Gonzalez ran to and touched second base and continued running to the first base side of second base, Chavis would then be called out for passing Gonzalez under rule 5.09 (b) (9) Comment.
- What if Gonzalez during the rundown decided to go back to second base and both he and Chavis were standing on the base. Would that be a violation?
- No. There is no rule that prohibits two runners on the same base, but if both were tagged, Chavis would be out. Gonzalez would be protected because he was not forced to leave that base at the start of play which is when the pitcher’s movements commit him to pitch.
- Why did Gonzalez abandon his rights as a runner since he was never tagged in the rundown, nor was he called out for running out of the baseline?
- I don’t know the answer to that. In my opinion he should have prolonged the rundown once he saw Chavis standing on second base. By extending the rundown, which was not executed very well, there is always the chance he could have picked-up the obstruction call or there could have been an errant throw that would have allowed him to advance to third base or farther.
- Let’s assume Gonzalez, who bypassed second base completely, decided to go back to second before he was called out for abandonment. Can he do so and what would you do with Chavis?
- Gonzalez had the right to return to second base before being called out for abandonment, but in my opinion, if he did, Chavis should then be called out for passing Gonzalez because the trail runner (Chavis) ended-up in front of the lead or preceding runner (Gonzalez.)
Sanchez passes Stanton as runs past 3B during rundown
Rule 5.09 (b) (9) Comment (clearly misinterpreted in the Orioles-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium on April 6, 2018.)
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Yankees had Gioncarlo Stanton on third base and Gary Sanchez on first with one out when Neil Walker tapped a grounder back to O’s pitcher Richard Bleier. Bleier ran at Stanton to create a rundown. During the rundown, Sanchez reached third base. With Sanchez parked on third, Stanton ran through the base several feet down the left field line. O’s catcher Caleb Joseph tagged Sanchez then headed for Stanton who was tagged by Joseph a good distance from the base. When that occurred, third base ump Ron Kulpa pointed to Stanton and made the out call.
O’s manager Buck Showalter wanted a double play. He argued that Sanchez should be out as well. But the umpires met and incorrectly allowed Sanchez to remain at third base.
- Before being tagged, the lead runner (Stanton) ran back to and beyond third base toward left field. The moment Stanton went beyond the base, the trail runner (Sanchez) should have been called out for passing Stanton as a result of Stanton running through the base.
- Joseph’s tag of Sanchez was irrelevant because he was out the moment Stanton ran to and beyond third base.
- Stanton was entitled to third base if he returned to touch it before he was tagged out, unless he was called for abandonment which he was not.
- When the smoke cleared, the O’s should have recorded a double play but only got one out.
- Following the game, the umpires admitted that two outs should have been called on the play.
- According to rule 5.09 (b) (1) a runner’s baseline is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely.” Rule 5.09 (b) (9) Comment allows a runner to run beyond the base he is attempting to reach. In my opinion the two rules are in conflict. Rule 5.09 (b) (9) Comment puts the defensive team in a position in having to chase the runner several feet from his established baseline. By allowing a runner to run beyond the base when returning to a base can jeopardize the defensive team from making a play on another runner.
One former umpire said, “It makes no sense to allow the lead runner to attempt to return to third base after he advanced down the left field line. If that is not running out of the baseline to avoid a tag or abandoning the base, I guess I don’t know what is.”
But that’s the rule!
Rules consultant: Cardinals, D’backs, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Bally Sports, ESPN, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.
In the Orioles-Yankees game, both runners should have been called out without need of tagging, Sanchez for surpassing the preceding runner Stanton and the latter for runner abandonment.
When I watch the Stanton play, I’ve got Stanton giving himself up and abandoning when he sees Sanchez at 3B; he made no further effort to run the bases, just “jogged it out” and turned to go back to his dugout… nothing in the way he moves indicates a runner attempting to safely retreat or advance; he even appeared to make a point not to touch 3B, clearly ceding the base to Sanchez. While strict reading of the rule and comment would allow 2 outs to be called, recording only 1 out here seems like good judgment to me.