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Instead of the usual Notes, I am going to describe some of the mechanics behind changing and reversing calls, to try to explain why the umpiring crew last night blew their decision.

The facts are as follows. It's the bottom of the second inning, 1-0 St. Louis. There are no outs. Eduardo Perez is on second, Tino Martinez on first, Mike Matheny is at the plate.

Matheny hits a flare into LF, Frank Catalanotto comes running in and appears to trap the ball (replay showed it was very close). 3B umpire Kerwin Danley makes the call - "out". Catalanotto sees the runners have advanced, and tosses to Orlando Hudson at second who steps on the bag (2B umpire Bill Welke then points at Perez and makes the "out" sign) and tags Martinez, who is still standing vacantly on second base, like a man who had just wandered onto the field accidentally while looking for a peanut vendor. Welke makes another out call.

All very clear and unambiguous. Tony LaRussa then comes out of the dugout, waves his [deleted] at the umpires, and ten minutes later they go over to talk to the Jays dugout... they reversed their call, all hands were safe. Carlos Tosca gave four umpires a blast of sulphurous hell for about 15 minutes, and finally Danley was the poor sap left hung out to dry... he had to eject Tosca.

Generally, as every fan knows, the umpire's call is final. There are two circumstances in which two different calls can legally be issued on the same play. The first, is known as a "corrected" call. This is one where the umpire immediately reverses himself ("he's out!" "no, wait, he's safe!"). ANY call can be corrected. It is very poor mechanics, but it's entirely legal.

The second circumstance is usually known as a "changed" or "reversed" call. This is where a call is changed, but only after time has elapsed. It is not immediate. There is a tightly restricted set of calls which can be reversed. Author, umpire, and expert Carl Childress has set out what he calls the "Fab Five". These are calls which are capable of being reversed. They are:

1. Where a half swing that is called a ball, is changed to a strike. (See Rule 9.02(c)).

2. Where two umpires make opposite calls on the same play (since only one can be accepted, one of the calls must be changed).

3. Where an umpire misapplies a rule (See Rule 9.02(b) and (c)).

4. Where a home run is changed to a double (or vice versa), or a "foul" call is changed to "fair", on (a) balls hit out of the park; or (b) where no one reacted to the call of "foul" . (This is as a result of longstanding professional practice, and now the PBUC has ruled twice that these are legally changeable).

5. Where an "out" call is made on a tag play, but the ball comes free, and another umpire observes it. (See Jim Evans' Official Rules Annotated 9:15-16).

And that's it.

Now we've all seen umpires in various places, reversed calls that don't appear on this list. And that's fine. There is a legitimate difference of opinion in the umpiring community about whether reversing such calls is actually illegal (the best evidence appears to be that it is) or merely incredibly bad form for the umpire crew. There are three calls which are frequently reversed in this way... Childress calls them the "Terrible Three". These are (1) where the first baseman pulls his foot off the bag; (2) where a swipe tag is made; and (3) where a ball is dropped on a force play. Childress says that changing those calls is illegal, but that umpires do so anyway, all the way up to MLB.

So far, so good. The best interpretation of the rules is that a trapped/caught fair ball judged to be caught (and the consequent "out" call) cannot be reversed. But why doesn't such a call appear on the "Terrible Three" list?

The answer is simple... because no umpire in their right mind would EVER reverse such a call. It is simply inconceivable that an umpire could reverse that call... because the call of "out" changes the rest of the play, forever. The call of "out" occurred in what is known as a "continuous action situation". In such a situation, changing a call is totally inconceivable, because the rest of the action of the live-ball play depends entirely on whether the batter was out or not. I have never once seen an umpire advocate that you can go back and undo a play completely, in order to correct what may be a legitimate mistake on a call that was not immediately corrected.

There was a well-known incident from an Orioles-Yankees game in July of 1999. Derek Jeter hit a fly ball down the right field line that Albert Belle juggled. The ball bounced off Belle's glove and was trapped between his body and the wall before he grabbed it with his bare hand. First base umpire Larry Barnett initially called Jeter out but after an umpires' conference, Jeter was given a double. Why could this stand? The difference (and it is my opinion that the reversal was illegal, though defensible) is that there was nobody on base and the play had continued. The changed call, like the change of a call of "foul" where no one reacted to the call, didn't change the futher action in the play. But in this particular situation the call of "out" changes everything that happens thereafter... in particular, it caused Cat to throw to second base to attempt to double off the runner from second (and led to the triple play when the runner from first walked right into a tag). It would have caused Martinez to hustle back to first if he had the brains of a grapefruit. And so on.

This situation was so badly blown by the umpires, that there is no possible interpretation of the rules that could explain what happened and let the umpires off the hook. The "out" calls cannot be changed, it was a triple play, and the protest should be upheld and the game resumed. MLB will not do this; they will never do this, they are much too craven... (I think it's most likely that the protest will be denied because it will be interpreted as "protesting a safe/out call." You cannot protest a safe/out call because it's a judgment call.) But right is right, and wrong is wrong. Cat might have trapped the ball, but the right (bad) call is for the triple play to stand as called.
Notes : Getting It Right | 22 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Dave Till - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 07:18 AM EDT (#62866) #
Craig: thanks for providing such a detailed explanation. You've made an important point: had the umpires gotten the call right in the first place, Catalanotto would have thrown to third to force the lead runner. There is no circumstance under which the Cardinals would have had the bases loaded with nobody out.

Summary: the Jays got hosed.
_bunyon - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 08:30 AM EDT (#62867) #
Nice analysis. I agree with everything except the comment that replays showed that it was close. It wasn't close. It wasn't a trap, it was a short-hop. It was a terrible, terrible call and then a terrible, terrible attempt at rectification.

And you're right that no protest will be upheld.
_Wildrose - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 08:37 AM EDT (#62868) #
If I'm ever in trouble with the law Craig, I want you as my lawyer.

The problem with this crew reversing themselves as I see it are;

Why not go a step further and review the replay.To Black and Tabler's credit earlier in the game they were discussing Curt Schilling trashing an umpire cam and how Tabler felt replays etc.. would taint the human element in baseball and was a path not to be followed.After this incident I agree,especially in a situation where "continual play" is involved.

By reversing themselves it left the distinct impression that Tony Larussa was calling the game,not the umpires.
_Rob C - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 08:51 AM EDT (#62869) #
I think that's what Tosca was arguing about at the end of his 15 minutes of tirade - that if Catalanotto did not make the out, and the umpire had made the safe call, he would have thrown to third to get the force out. Tosca had pointed to second base and third base a few times while making his argument last night.

Plus, didn't the replays show that both the third base and second base umpires initially called it an out? What did LaRussa say to those guys to make them change their minds?
Pepper Moffatt - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 08:56 AM EDT (#62870) #
What bugs me about the whole thing is this:

All very clear and unambiguous. Tony LaRussa then comes out of the dugout, waves his [deleted] at the umpires, and ten minutes later they go over to talk to the Jays dugout... they reversed their call, all hands were safe.

We all **know** the Jays aren't going to get anywhere with MLB... plus Tosca got tossed. Yet LaRussa could get the call changed by arguing with the umpires. This implies that:
(a) Managers can appeal safe/out calls.
(b) Managers cannot appeal errors in rule interpretation by the umpire(s) to either umpires or the league.

Which is the exact opposite of what the rules state. I'm really surprised there's been so little press about it. Anyone who has umpired before, which I'm sure has to include a few journalists, knows what a boneheaded thing last night's crew did.

Pistol - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 09:05 AM EDT (#62871) #
I think it's most likely that the protest will be denied because it will be interpreted as "protesting a safe/out call." You cannot protest a safe/out call because it's a judgment call.

I think the key to the protest is how the protest is presented. The Jays should not say that he caught the ball (and I don't think they are or will) but rather that the continuation of the play was screwed up because of the call made on the field - as Craig laid out nicely.

Anyone know when the last time a protest was upheld? I can't ever remembering it happening.

Last night was Tosca's first ejection. If he wasn't ejected I think he still might be out there......
robertdudek - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 09:05 AM EDT (#62872) #
Had the ball been ruled trapped (or short hopped) there was no opportunity to get any of the runners. Perez was already standing at third and started shaking his finger ("no, no, no") when Danley made his first call, and Martinez was already standing on second base when the throw came in there. The original call was so bad that the runners made no attempt to get back because they were absolutely sure the ball had bounced.


How do you view the MLB reversal of the pinetar homerun. In my recollection, the hit was initially ruled a homerun before Billy Martin came out and protested that pine tar was applied above the label and therefore illegal. The umpire concurred and called Brett out.

The Jays are not protesting a safe/out call, but rather an illegal reversal of a call. Do you really think there is no chance for a league reversal on this issue?
robertdudek - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 09:10 AM EDT (#62873) #
The second umpire was reacting to the first out call. Having seen his fellow umpire rule the ball caught, he rightly pointed to Perez and called him out for failing to tag up when Hudson caught the ball and stood at the 2nd base bag. I didn't actually see the third out call, but Hudson clearly tagged Martinez while the latter was standing on second base.
_Larry Mahnken - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 09:22 AM EDT (#62874) #
I think the fact that this was an interleague game ensures that the protest will be denied, no matter how valid.
Coach - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 09:36 AM EDT (#62875) #
Last night was Tosca's first ejection. If he wasn't ejected I think he still might be out there......

Carlos appeared incredulous when he first came out, and it wasn't acting, because like the rest of us, he had never seen such a thing. Even when he began to get angry (quite justified) he showed restraint; I would have been tempted to pull my team off the field. He had to get tossed -- staying in that game would have been like accepting the reversal. It looked like he tried to get the other umps to kick him out, but they all showed unprecedented tolerance waiting for Danley to compound his original mistake. From Richard Griffin's column in the Star, here's what Tosca said later:

"Why would he make an out call if he was uncertain? Not only did the umpire who went out there make a definitive out call, but the umpire at second base also made a definitive out call. I just wanted to know what was the responsibility of each umpire on a ball hit to left. I got no answer. They just said they were trying to get the play right."

I think the Jays should hire Craig to help present the protest, and the unwarranted ejection should be as prominently mentioned as the illegal reversal. Not that I have the faintest hope that MLB will do the right thing -- replay the game with a different crew while these bozos go back to ump school -- but this shouldn't be allowed to go away quietly.
_Jordan - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 09:41 AM EDT (#62876) #
Great job, Craig! As for when was the last successful protest, I can only think of the Pine Tar Game. Y'know, someone should produce a Broadway musical based on that game. With hit songs like (I'm Having an) Apoplectic Fit, What's Good for the Goose, and the rousing eponymous tune Pine Tar!, it would sweep the Tonys.
Pepper Moffatt - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 09:42 AM EDT (#62877) #
If Craig could successfully present the protest, I'd bring a couple cases of Keith's to the party which would be sure to follow.

_Elijah - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 10:42 AM EDT (#62878) #
This is really good stuff, Craig. Since the Box has apparently some, shall we say, "connections" to the Jays' higher-ups, you think there's any chance if you e-mail them and present your position to management, they would listen?

If this sounds like a bitter fan trying to influence the outcome of a game, well, of course it is. =P This bitter fan is just as realistic as the rest of the ZLC in knowing that the chance of any protest being upheld is like the Devil Rays winning the Series this year.
robertdudek - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 11:00 AM EDT (#62879) #
I don't really fault Tino. He has to make his decision based on what Perez does. Perez stayed at third and made no attempt to run back to 2nd, so Tino stayed at 2nd.
Pepper Moffatt - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 11:39 AM EDT (#62880) #
Other than the Pinetar game, have any protests been upheld in the last 25 years? I know back in the 30's and 40's it happened quite a bit, but I don't recall it happening recently.

IMHO I don't see how this game is any different than the Pinetar one. In both games umpires took an unusual situation and went well beyond the scope of the rules to make their final rulings.

_Daryn - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 01:20 PM EDT (#62881) #
One question, one comment:

Q. What happens to the stats of the game if the objection is upheld?

Comment: Craig, you really should try to make sure someone at the bluejays has a copy of your argument. It is convincing, as long as it is true that Cat would've had a chance to nail the runner at third if they had made the right call.
Pepper Moffatt - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 01:28 PM EDT (#62882) #
I think the Jays should argue that allowing safe/out calls to be overturned with runners on base is a dangerous precedent because it allows for all kinds of bizarre scenarios which are detrimental to the offensive team. I gave one example on Baseball Primer, but I'm sure the ZLC could come up with a dozen more.

If the Jays do argue it, I think it should be a two-pronged attack:

(a) The umpires clearly overstepped their bounds and the rules.
(b) Allowing umpires to overturn calls like this is a dangerous precedent which can lead to all sorts of ugly scenarios.

Pistol - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 02:11 PM EDT (#62883) #
Q. What happens to the stats of the game if the objection is upheld?

Well, if the protest was upheld I believe that they would start back at the point in question. In that case anything happening after that point would be erased from the books.
_A - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 03:38 PM EDT (#62884) #
As the captain for little league umpires, I'm fearing that the kids I assign to do games this weekend might have watched last night's excuse for a baseball contest...If this is the case, my larger fear comes into play: angry moms yelling and screaming at me because their son got cheated out of a win.

Could you imagine if O-Dawg's mom called MLB headoffice DEMANDING the game be replayed because her son's team was screwed over by incompetent umpires? (Craig, your arguements were great but having O-Dawg's mom throwing a fit would probably give the Jays a better chance at winning their protest.)

As a side note...Atleast the umpires kept an ounce of respect when they messed up on Gruber's tag for a triple play in the '92 WS. Well, I guess that's not totally true, but since everything's in relitivity they look good now ;-)
_Mike Carminati - Friday, June 06 2003 @ 11:47 PM EDT (#62885) #
Hi Craig,

I am similarly confounded by this call. It's one thing to reverse a catch/trap call in isolation. It's another to reverse two other outs because of it.

There are two other problems that I have with the reversal:

1) By allowing the runners to advance automatically, the umps gave the Cards a free pass and essentially called the ball dead after the miscall. Where in the rules is this accounted for?

2) The runner at first has to be out: The Jays tagged second base to double of the runner from second and then tagged the runner. If the ball was not caught, then don't they have a force at second? That means that the runner from first was out twice.

I also found a precendent for reversing a miscalled shoestring catch from 1960, but it was on a batter leading off the inning so no runners were affected.

By the way, this is all up on my site if you're interested.

Take care,
robertdudek - Saturday, June 07 2003 @ 10:33 AM EDT (#62886) #
The runner on first beat the throw into second - so if the ball was not caught, he would have been ruled safe.
_Mike - Wednesday, May 26 2004 @ 03:09 AM EDT (#62887) #
With Barry Bonds hitting the home run that went out of the park, and back on too the field in his own park. I think #27 Vladimir Guerrero of the Montreal Expos should have the 40-40 on his stat sheet. My father and I have pictures.
Notes : Getting It Right | 22 comments | Create New Account
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