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Some unique plays kept umpires alert in 2007.

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IT'S TIME FOR MY ANNUAL REVIEW OF some of the more interesting rules situations from the previous season. The 2007 campaign had its share of knotty problems on all levels of baseball. Here are a few:

April 6: Cleveland Indians' pitcher Paul Byrd was no, hitting the Mariners through 4.2 innings and had two strikes on Raul Ibanez with a 4-0 lead when the Indians' home opener was called because of snow. Sorry, no no-hitter.

April 25: In Baltimore, Red Sox batter Julio Lugo did not return to the batter's box when directed to do so by plate umpire Angel Hernandez. Hernandez ordered O's pitcher Daniel Cabrera to pitch and called a strike on Lugo. Again, Lugo refused to enter the box and Hernandez ordered Cabrera to pitch and called, "Strike Two."

By the way, Hernandez did not have to order Cabrera to pitch since under new legislation for the 2007 season, the plate umpire is empowered to call a "strike" on the batter if the batter refuses to enter the box. The pitcher no longer has to pitch the ball for the umpire to call the automatic strike.

April 28: The Indians-Orioles game at Cleveland was protested by the Tribe because of a "Time Play" situation. In the top of the third inning with Baltimore clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Birds had runners on first and third and one out when Ramon Hernandez lifted a fly ball to center field that Grady Sizemore dove for and caught. Miguel Tejada, the runner on first, ran hard on the play. He rounded second base when he realized he had to return to first.

Tejada was easily doubled-up at first but not before Nick Markakis, the runner on third, had crossed home plate with the run. It was a classic "Time Play" because the inning did not end in a force and the batter-runner did not make the third out at first base. But plate umpire Marvin Hudson waved off the run. Oddly, Orioles' skipper Sam Perlozzo failed to argue the play.

Before the start of the fourth inning, Baltimore coach Tom Trebelhorn brought the play to the attention of crew chief Ed Montague disputing Hudson's denial of the run. Montague subsequently sent umpire Bill Miller into the clubhouse to check the rule book. Miller affirmed that the run should have counted. In the sixth inning after the Indians tied the score, 2-2, Montague called the official scorer and shocked everyone by adding the run that was taken away from the Orioles to the Orioles score, now making the score, 3-2 Baltimore.

Indians' manager Eric Wedge protested the game that was won by the Orioles 7-4 but MLB supported the umpires, in essence, saying that they ultimately got the play fight after consultation.

April 29: In a game between Seattle and Kansas City at Safeco Field, the legal catch rule involving catchers on foul tips came to life. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Willie Bloomquist appeared to strike out on a tipped ball with two outs and runners on second and third. But plate ump Chris Guccione ruled that Royals' catcher John Buck did not make a legal catch of the foul tip because the ball hit his chest protector before it hit his hand or mitt

Rule 6.05 (b) says, "If a foul-tip first strikes the catcher's glove and then goes on through and is caught by both hands against the body or protector, before the ball touches the ground, it is a strike, and if the third strike, the batter is out. If smothered against his body or protector, it is a catch provided the ball struck the catcher's glove or hand first."

May 20: The Mets and Yankees played at Shea Stadium. In the top of the seventh inning, Doug Mientldewicz was hit by a Pedro Feliciano pitch but was not awarded first base by umpire Tony Randazzo because Randazzo ruled that Mientkiewicz made no attempt to avoid the pitch.

May 30: The Blue Jays hosted the Yankees when the subject of "verbal interference" came alive. In the top of the ninth inning, the Yanks had Hideki Matsui on second and Alex Rodriguez on first with two outs and leading 7-5 when Jorge Posada hit a high fly between Blue Jays' third baseman Howie Clark and shortstop John MacDonald. As A-Rod was running to third he shouted, "Hah," apparently with the intention of distracting the Toronto infielders. The ball fell untouched and Matsui scored on the play.

MacDonald and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons argued that Rodriguez had verbalized something that was confusing. The umpires made no call on the play but would have been within their rights to call verbal interference on A-Rod. Offensive interference is defined under rule 2.00 as any act that "obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play." There is nothing in the rule book that says that the act must be physical.

June 5: The Cards hosted the Reds. In the top of the fifth inning, the Reds had a runner on first and two outs when Adam Dunn hit a shot in the direction of Cards' left fielder Chris Duncan. Duncan gloved the ball momentarily before it popped out and struck the wall. The ball then caromed back to Duncan's glove where he secured the ball before it ever hit the ground.

The play was ruled a "legal catch" but it shouldn't have been because once the ball struck the wall it no longer remained legally in flight. In defense of the umpire, this type of decision can be very difficult since he is making the call at a great distance from the play.

June 7: Plate umpire Tyler Ramsey ejected Mike Murray, the public address announcer for the Reno Silver Sox of the Golden Baseball League in Nevada. Murray angered the umpire because he played a sound bite of a Bob Uecker line from the movie Major League following a close play at first base.

The sound bite was, "Personally, I think we got hosed on that call." League commissioner Kevin Outcalt decided that the appropriate penalty would be for Murray to umpire third base the first inning of the game the next night.

June 20: The Reading Phils hosted the Binghamton Mets in a seven-inning game because the first game, a suspended contest from the night before, went 11-innings.

With the score tied in the bottom of the seventh, the Phils had the bases loaded and two outs when Jason Hill hit a liner to the shortstop for what looked like the third out, sending the game into extra innings. But plate ump Mark Buchanan correctly called catcher's interference on Mets' catcher Mike Nickeas. Hill was awarded first base and all runners were advanced a base allowing Michael Spidale, the runner on third, to score the wining run.

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According to the Elias Bureau, it was the first time in professional baseball history that a game ended on a catcher's interference call, rule 6.08 (c).

June 22: The Nationals and Indians played in Washington. In the top of the second inning Cleveland had a runner on first base and two outs when Franklin Gutierrez hit a sharp grounder to Nationals' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman tried to field the ball to his left but it went inside his uniform top instead and disappeared.

According to section 5.10 of the 2007 MLB Umpire Manual, "If a batted or thrown ball inadvertently goes inside a player or coach's uniform (or lodges in the catcher's mask or paraphernalia), the umpire shall call 'Time.' He will, using common sense and fair play, place all runners in such a manner that, in the umpire's judgment, will nullify the action of the ball going out of play. In no case may any outs be recorded on such play."

In the above play, the umpires called "Time" and each runner including the batter-runner, was awarded fine base. Official scorer Dave Vincent credited Gutierrez with a base hit.

July 21: The New Haven Cutters hosted the Worcester Tornadoes in a Cam-Am League game played at Yale Field. In the top of the first inning the Tornadoes had a runner (Dominic Ramos) on second base and one out when Omar Pena hit a foul ball near the first base dugout. Cutters' first baseman Chris Gaskin gloved the ball and his momentum took him into the dugout.

Ramos tagged-up on the play and headed toward third base. As Gaskin attempted to transfer and throw the ball, he dropped it. By doing so he actually threw the ball into dead ball territory. At that moment the play should have been ruled dead and Ramos should have been awarded two bases and allowed to score per rule 7.05 (g) and MLB 5.5. But Ramos was only awarded third base. The next batter struck out and Ramos never scored.

Tornadoes' manager Rich Gedman had a long discussion with the umpire but the call was not reversed. It didn't matter since the Tornadoes won 6-3.

August 22: The Mariners and Twins met in Minnesota. In the top of the eighth inning, Jose Guillen hit a shot deep to right field. Twins' right fielder Jason Tyner leaped against the wall but couldn't make the catch. When he made contact with the wall, a ball that was lodged under the wall (baggie), escaped and trickled onto the field.

Fortunately, Tyner picked up the proper ball when he threw back to the infield. If Tyner had picked up ball No. 2, the umpires would have had to call "Time" and kill the play. They would have had to place Guillen (and any other runners) on the base in their judgment they would have made had there been only one ball in play.

Because this type of play is not addressed in the Official Baseball Rules, umpires can refer to rule 9.01 (c) which allows them to rule on any point not specifically covered in the rules.

September 17: The Cubs beat the Reds 7-6 in a game that was protested by Reds' manager Pete Mackanin who argued that Cubs' manager Lou Piniella didn't follow proper protocol while making a double-switch.

In the top of the sixth inning Piniella brought in Scott Eyre to pitch and Geovany Soto to catch with the intention of double-switching them in the batting order. Piniella crossed the foul line, took three steps toward the mound and then did a U-turn in the direction of plate umpire Rick Reed, whom he informed of the double-switch.

Mackanin reportedly argued that Piniella had to inform Reed about the double-switch before he crossed the foul line. Mackinan charged that Piniella didn't tell Reed about the double-switch until after he crossed the foul line.

The protest was denied by Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer per section 3.5 of the 2007 MLB Umpire Manual. There is no requirement that the manager or coach announce to the umpire a double-switch before crossing the foul line. However, the manager or coach must do so before signaling for a new pitcher, as his signal to the bullpen constitutes a substitution for the pitcher. In that case the new pitcher would have to bat in the pitcher's spot.

In the above scenario, Piniella never signaled by motioning to the bullpen until after he had conferred with Reed.

By RICH MARAZZI

Rules consultant for the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros. His web site is: www.Ruleball.com you can e-mail him at: Rtmarazzi@aol.com or you can. write to him at 105 Pulaski Highway, Ansonia, CT 06401
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Title Annotation:Baseball Rules Corner
Author:Marazzi, Rich
Publication:Baseball Digest
Date:Mar 1, 2008
Words:1945
Previous Article:Necrology: deaths of former major league personnel including broadcasters and writers: from January 25, 2007 to January 25, 2008.
Next Article:Transactions: (from end of 2007 season through January 25, 2008).
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