Much is still being made of a triple play that occurred on Sunday, but unfortunately, the reason for the notoriety isn’t so much about the rarity of the play itself and a whole lot more to do with the strange way in which it occurred.

Picture it. Los Angeles, California. Sunday afternoon. A baseball game between the hometown Dodgers and the State rival San Diego Padres was tied at four, entering the ninth inning. Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso led off with a single to left off of Dodgers reliever Javy Guerra. Third baseman Chase Headley then drew a walk after falling down 0-2 to the right handed pitcher.

Then, Jesus Guzman stepped to the plate with two on and none out, and this happened:

As you can see, with Guzman squaring to bunt, Guerra’s pitch comes in high and tight. The batter reacts by trying to get away from the pitch, but it inadvertently hits his bat or his chest. The ball ricochets behind home plate, but then bounces forward.

Meanwhile, home plate umpire Dale Scott raises his hands and backs away as if to signify it’s a foul ball, but as A.J. Ellis, the Dodgers catcher, leaps up and throws the ball to third base, sending it around the horn for a 2-5-6-3 triple play, Scott appears to signal that the ball is actually fair.

And the top half of the ninth inning is over. The win probability added decreases by more than 32%, going from two on and none out to no longer being the Padres turn to bat in a single pitch. As you might imagine, San Diego manager Bud Black wasn’t very pleased with the call. The reputably mild mannered skipper was ejected, and then, as if to add insult to injury, the Dodgers won the game in a walk off in the bottom part of the inning.

Peter Woodfork, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations for MLB and the overseer of umpiring, released a statement about the play:

After review and discussion with the umpire, we have determined that the call itself of a fair ball was correct. However, while making the call, there was an incorrect mechanic, which appeared to confuse San Diego’s base runners. At no time did the umpire verbally kill the play on the field. After reviewing the entire situation following the game, the umpire realizes his hands were in an exaggerated upward appearance similar to a call that would indicate a dead ball. While we all agree that it was a fair ball that did not hit the batter, the umpire recognizes that the proper mechanic was not executed as he tried to avoid the catcher.

Harsh toke.

It’s easy to criticize the umpire in this instance, but slow your roll, pilgrim. The ball went foul and then bounced back into fair territory. According to reports, he made the motion with his hands, but didn’t “verbally kill the play on the field.”  I’m not sure what we expect an umpire to do in such circumstances.

The “improper mechanic” is part of an umpire’s job to be efficiently accurate. The ball appeared foul, he began to call it so, but it took a strange bounce forward into fair territory, and then adjusted his call with verbal confirmation this time. I think it’s pretty hard to have a beef with the umpire, unless you want to question whether the ball hit Guzman’s bat or chest.

And The Rest

Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander got his first win of the season last night pitching all nine innings, and even hitting 100 miles per hour in the final frame. [Walkoff Woodward]

Sticking with the Tigers, let’s take a peak at a recreation of a typical Delmon Young route to a ball. [Bless You Boys]

San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson has a “moderate sprain” of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Tommy John surgery seemed like a forgone conclusion, but it is possible that rehab alone could solve the problem. [Comcast SportsNet]

You might have heard about this already, but Madison Bumgarner signed the largest contract extension ever given to a player with one plus year of service time. [Getting Blanked]

Chris Cwik takes a stab at estimating what a Buster Posey contract extension would look like. [FanGraphs]

Ron Darling had an epic rant this weekend about teams revealing too much information to the media. [Amazin' Avenue]

A little bit of tax day humor for our American friends. [Value Over Replacement Grit]

This is some great work from R.J. Anderson, who takes a look at the effect pitchers get by changing their location on the rubber. [Baseball Prospectus]

Jon Morosi is the latest to cash in on the Ozzie Guillen/Fidel Castro controversy, asking if Miami residents are ready to forgive. [FOX Sports]

Our dear friend Sam Miller takes a look at the best pitches of the past week. [Baseball Prospectus]

A Getting Blanked favourite, Jeff Sullivan has some additional thoughts on the Miami Marlins finally hitting a home run. [Baseball Nation]

What’s the difference between Brandon Belt and David Coooper? [DJF]

Someone is trying to convince us that Derek Jeter has another 895 hits in him. []

In things that don’t seem interesting, but actually are: a running diary of the Oakland A’s pursuit of a new stadium anywhere in California. [Baseball Nation]

Finally, have you checked out The Getting Blanked Show yet? [Getting Blanked]

Comments (19)

  1. “According to reports, he made the motion with his hands, but didn’t “verbally kill the play on the field.” I’m not sure what we expect an umpire to do in such circumstances.

    The “improper mechanic” is part of an umpire’s job to be efficiently accurate. The ball appeared foul, he began to call it so, but it took a strange bounce forward into fair territory, and then adjusted his call with verbal confirmation this time. I think it’s pretty hard to have a beef with the umpire, unless you want to question whether the ball hit Guzman’s bat or chest.”

    I disagree (as will be made clear here sometime later today).. The main thing is that the ball isn’t “foul” until it either stops in foul territory, is touched in foul territory, or passes first or third base in foul territory. Although the ball started out foul, when he raised his hands to signal that it was foul, it was an unambiguous, final, incorrect call. It was never a foul ball, but the umpire signaled that it was. (And I’m not buying the verbal signaling thing at all — you can’t expect the runner on second to listen for the umpire’s voice, he has to go by the gestures.)

    Once he’d made that final, incorrect call and the players had reacted accordingly, I just don’t think there’s any argument that it was right to change the call and hold the players accountable for doing exactly what they should have done, given the umpire’s final call. He was absolutely at fault for changing his call and ignoring the fact that his initial mistake was really responsible for the entire play happening the way it did. It sucks that he blew the call (by ruling the ball foul in the first place), but that’s MUCH better than changing the call mid-stream and handing the Dodgers free outs.

    • I agree with Bill entirely. An umpire doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) rule a ball as foul until it is irrevocably foul due to one of the reasons mentioned by Bill (i.e. it either stops in foul territory, is touched in foul territory, or passes first or third base in foul territory). Until one of those things happens, the ball is still in play and may roll fair, which is exactly what happened in this case. By raising his arms and keeping them raised, the umpire made the wrong call. Having been ruled a foul ball, the play should have been called dead at that point. The fact that the umpire may have subsequently verbally made the correct call does not help matters as the runners on base had already responded to the physical call by not running out the play.

    • Right. The foul call is a time out signal followed by pointing to foul territory. The time out signal (both hands held up, palms open) signals dead ball and the end of the play. Of course, the onus is on the players on both sides to keep playing until they are sure the play is over. The runners had no risk trying to advance in that case–it’s not like they weren’t sure if a flyball was caught or not.

      • It’s true that they could and probably should have kept running, but I also think they had a right to feel sure the play is over. Maybe as a matter of best practices it’s better to keep running until an umpire directly orders you to stop and turn around. But at that point it’s a bit like blaming the murder victim for leaving his window open; maybe he should’ve been more cautious, but he nonetheless had a right to expect not to be killed in his bed.

        • Agree entirely with Bill and the other commenters. In fact, I have no idea how Parkes doesn’t see it this way.

          The umpire clearly made the motion for a foul ball. That motion rules the play dead. I don’t think you can fault the runners for not continuing to run. The old adage is you keep your head down and keep running until the ball is called foul. To expect them to keep running after such a call is nonsense.

          The MLB’s response appears right as the ball was actually fair: so “right call, wrong mechanic.” But the fact is that the mechanic is part of the call itself, so the reversal is a wrong call. Imagine a referee believing a puck to be under the goalie’s pads blows the whistle, then immediately realizes the puck isn’t under the goalies pads, and allows a forward to tap it in and the goal to stand. The whole thing is ridiculous.

          • In Little League, you get taught to put your head down and run until you hear the ump call foul. Since there was no verbal call, the runners have just run for it.

  2. The blame should be on the runners, not the umpire. when you start playing baseball your told to always run when the batter hits a ground ball. The players should have been running and not looking at the umpire anyways. Since he never verbally said foul the runners should not have been affected.

    • That’s just silly. You’re told to run until the umpire tells you otherwise, which he clearly, unambiguously did by signaling the play dead. Might work to wait for verbal confirmation on a little league field, but not so much when you’re standing on second base in Dodger Stadium. If the umpire is standing there with his arms in the air and you take off for third anyway, you just look like an idiot.

    • I tend to agree with Tom. An umpire says something when the ball is foul, but doesn’t say anything when the ball is fair. If you hear him yell anything, you know it’s foul, otherwise you’re running. Runners shouldn’t be watching the umpire, they should be moving.

      • On a ball down the line, absolutely. Here, the ball and umpire were three feet from each other. That just doesn’t seem to hold any water to me at all. Even if they just happen to see him out of the corner of their eye, runners are entitled to rely on the umpire’s signals.

      • Whether the runners should or should not be looking at the umpire misses the point. The point is that the umpire initially gave the foul ball signal by raising his arms. At that point, the play was dead… but the umpire then resurrected the play by changing his call. That is improper.

      • Parkes, your argument makes no sense. It doesn’t matter whether or not players should or shouldn’t take their cues from the hand signals of the umpires. Sure, as a coach you say “just run until you hear otherwise” but that doesn’t change the fact that if the players do see the umpire make such a signal, they are still entitled to rely on it.

        In this case, the players clearly relied upon the umpire’s signal in not running. If there hadn’t been a signal from the umpire, they definitely wouldn’t have stopped running and the situation would never have happened. I don’t think both guys pulled a Rajai Davis and just forgot to run.

        Your suggestion is that a verbal signal is different than a hand signal. And I see absolutely no logic in that distinction. If I wanted a lack of logic in my baseball commentary, I’d read the Toronto Star.

  3. In hockey you play until the whistle, in baseball you play until your hear the umpire. Easy enough concept isn’t it?

    • Sure… Except that the umpire raising his arms in calling a foul ball is the equivalent of blowing the whistle in hockey. The plays ends upon those signals and anything that happens afterwards is not counted.

      • Tom, I’m not sure the last time you played baseball, but rdillon99 is right. The game just doesn’t work as you describe. The hand signal is on par with a vocal call in terms of its cue to the players.

        For anyone that has played the game for any length of time, this shouldn’t be a difficult thing to understand. It’s why I was very surprised to see Parkes rationalize the fact the umps let the play stand.

        • I agree that the focus on the baserunners’ decisions is misplaced. Either the hand signal or the umps call can end a play. If that’s weren’t the case, there would be no point in having both. A parallel might be an offside call in soccer/football. There’s both a lineman raising a flag, and a whistle if a player is offside. Either will end he play though.

          MLB’s explanation is the the ump’s signal was inadvertant, and only coincidentally did it look like a dead ball signal. I think that’s BS, especially because Scott seems to re-emphasize the signal a second after making it the first time. The notion that it’s inadvertant is disingenuous on MLB’s part, and a distraction from the issue, pointed out by others of a dead ball being resurrected by the changed call.

  4. I figure this will be buried, but I read some reports that the radar gun in last night’s Detroit v Kansas game was a little hot. Duffy throwing 99 consistently? Seems a little out of whack.

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