Reading The Rule Book
One of the problems most people have when trying to interpret, or understand, baseball rules is that the rules aren't necessarily guided by what is considered common sense. And there is one thing you can be sure of -- the only uniformed personnel who know the rules are the ones wearing umpire's garb.
Players, and on some occasions managers, are quite often among the least informed -- and yes, that includes former players now making a living in the broadcast media. The Orioles' game in Seattle Tuesday night was a perfect example of this as not one but two rules were misinterpreted.
O's manager Dave Trembley was thrown out of the game after a bitter argument -- but that appeared to be more because of a comment made by plate umpire Tom Hallion than the rule interpretation itself -- until Hallion later indicted himself with a bad interpretation.
In the broadcast booths, Jim Hunter, Jim Palmer, Tom Davis and Rick Dempsey were all having tougher games than Hallion -- they just didn't realize it. There were two plays in question during that game and both were ruled on by Hallion, who was wrongly taken to task both times.
The first came in the first inning, when Luke Scott, who hit the two-run single, and Nolan Reimold were only allowed to advance to second and third base respectively after an errant throw from the outfield. While Reimold's position on the basepaths came under severe scrutiny, overlooked was the fact that it was irrelevant to the debate.
"The position of the batter-runner at the time the wild throw left the thrower's hand is the key in deciding the award of bases ... if the batter-runner has not reached first (which was certainly the case), the award is two bases at the time the pitch was made for all runners," is how the rule reads. End of discussion. Whether Reimold had rounded second base before or after the throw (which at least was debatable) was irrelevant. The only problem was, Hallion had the right call for the wrong reason, and he further complicated matters by giving the wrong explanation.
The other call that upset everyone came via a safe bunt that bounced off a discarded bat while in the field of play -- a clear violation according to those who didn't examine the entire rule, which clearly states that the ball on such a play, if it's deemed accidental, remains alive and in play. No debate.
The Major League Baseball rule book might not follow what we consider the rules of common sense, but it is the rule book. And it very often makes for good reading -- something that perhaps should be required of all players, coaches, managers and media experts. And evidently the umpires could use a refresher course now and then.
Posted July 8, 2009