You Make the Call!
There are three different scenarios in this report and I am challenging you to make the call for each one which may not necessarily concur with my opinion.
Play No. 1
The Brewers and Mets played at Citi Field on June 28, 2023.
In the top of the eighth, the Brewers had runners on first (Blake Perkins) and second (Brian Anderson) and two outs. Joey Wiemer was batting facing Adam Ottavino with a 0-1 count. On the next pitch, Wiemer checked his swing and was hit by the pitch. Plate umpire Carlos Torres ruled HBP and so did first base ump Ron Kulpa. Three pitches later Christian Yelich collected a two-run RBI single to make the score 5-2, which proved to be the final score.
At that point, Mets manager Buck Showalter, frustrated by it all, argued with Kulpa and was ejected.
- Showalter argued that Wiemer swung or offered at the pitch.
- From this corner, this was a tough one. In real time it certainly looked like Wiemer offered at the pitch. But did Wiemer intend to offer at the pitch or was the follow-through of his bat the result of an involuntary reaction from the HBP?
- You can probably make a better argument that it was a swing.
- There is no rule that defines what constitutes a swing. Umpires must judge whether or not the batter “offered” at the pitch. Did he intend to swing?
- If the batter is judged to have offered at the pitch, and is hit by the pitch, the HBP should be ignored, and a strike called on the batter. Also, the ball is always dead when the batter gets hit by the pitch whether or not he checks his swing.
- It is incorrect to say that for a swing to be ruled, the bat must come through the front of the plate because some batters stand deep in the box.
- The batter should never request an appeal when the umpire calls a “Ball” on a check swing.
- If the plate umpire calls a “Strike” on a check swing, there can never be an appeal to one of the wing umpires.
- If the plate umpire is appealed to by the catcher or the manager, he will check with one of the wing umpires (first and third base). For left-handed batters he will check with the third base umpire. For right- handed batters he will check with the first base umpire.
- When the umpire checks with one of the wing umpires, he will extend his left arm and point to the umpire. The left arm is used so as not to confuse the right arm strike signal.
- Some umpires working first and third base, use the foul lines as a marker in making the judgment when appealed by the plate umpire. For example, if a right-handed batter carries his bat across the first base line, most likely the first base umpire will have a swing, if appealed.
- But to be practical, it’s the trained eye of the umpires that in most situations will properly evaluate if the batter offered at the pitch.
So, what’s your call in the above situation?
Play No. 2
The Padres and Pirates played at PNC on June 28, 2023. In the bottom of the seventh, the Pirates had runners on first and second and no outs when Jared Triolo, facing Nick Martinez, showed bunt on a 2-1 pitch and was hit by the pitch. Plate umpire Chad Fairchild ruled a hit by pitch/no bunt attempt. On appeal, first base ump Nic Lentz agreed.
This loaded the bases as the Bucs exploded for five runs in the inning leading to their 7-1 win.
Padres’ manager Bob Melvin argued with Fairchild that Triolo offered at the pitch and a strike should have been called. Melvin challenged the HBP, but the Replay Official subsequently upheld the call on the field that the ball struck the batter’s hand.
Melvin was eventually banished by Fairchild and Lentz ejected pitcher Nick Martinez and Steve Wilson who was in the dugout.
- From the side view I don’t think the batter offered at the pitch.
- Holding the bat in bunt position without intent to make contact with the ball, is not considering offering at the pitch. That’s how I see it.
So, what’s your call?
Play No. 3
The Mariners hosted the Nationals on June 28, 2023. In the top of the sixth, the Nats had Keibert Ruiz on first base and no outs when Dominic Smith drove a ball down the right field line. Ruiz was sent home. M’s catcher Tom Murphy attempted to tag Ruiz, but the Nats’ runner was called out for running out of the baseline by plate umpire Derek Thomas.
Nats’ manager Dave Martinez argued the call and was ejected.
I think the overhead clip in the middle link shows how the runner widened his lane before the catcher made a motion to tag.
- In the above play, I do not think the runner ran out of his restricted baseline.
- A runner doesn’t have a restricted baseline unless he is avoiding a tag or is in a rundown.
- A runner’s baseline is actually dictated by the defensive player. When the defensive player with control of the ball in his hand or glove makes a motion toward the runner, it is at that point when the runner’s restricted baseline begins.
- When a runner is avoiding a tag or is in a rundown, the runner’s baseline is a straight line to the base he is going to, and he cannot exceed 3-feet to either side of the line.
- A wise runner will widen his base path when anticipating an imminent tag attempt.
- In the above play, it is my opinion, that Ruiz in anticipating the tag by Murphy, widened his base path before Murphy made progress toward him. At the point Murphy made a motion toward him, Ruiz’s unrestricted base path turned into a restricted baseline, which was a straight line to the plate, and he had 3-feet to either side of that imaginary line without penalty. I do not think Ruiz exceeded his 3-foot imaginary lane.
- The broadcasters did not handle the baseline rule very well. One of them said, “You’re (Ruiz) trying to elude the catcher on a throw that took the catcher into foul ground.” That statement has no relevance in describing the running out of the baseline rule. This was not a blocking of the plate issue.
- The same broadcaster added, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy called for going out of the baseline at home.” Home plate is one of the four bases, and a runner has a restricted baseline when attempting to reach the plate as he does at any other base when avoiding a tag.
- The other broadcaster said, “You’re supposed to run into the catcher’s mitt.” In my opinion the opposite is true. A runner (as stated in No. 6), should widen his basepath when a tag attempt is imminent, so he does not exceed his 3-foot limit on both sides of the imaginary straight line to the base he is going to.
So, what’s your call?
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.