By now everyone has seen the biggest blown call of the season. Okay, it was the first game, but it was still a big play at a crucial point in the game. Quick recap for those who somehow have not seen the play by now: in the top of the 8th with a man on second, Carlos Correa hits a dribbler down the first base line. Pitcher Dellin Betances fields the ball and throws it over first baseman Mark Teixeira's head allowing the runner to reach first and the runner that was on second to score. The problem was that Correa ran well inside of the foul line, causing interference according to manager Joe Girardi. The play is not subject to replay, and after a meeting of the umps, the call stood. After some loud objections by Girardi, the rest of the game was played under protest.
Now if you read most of the commentary out there (I have), they all say that the protest will go nowhere because it's essentially a judgment call, and judgment calls are never overturned. While that's generally true, I don't believe this is a judgment call. Here is Rule 6.05(k), right off the Mlb.com website. It states that a runner is out when --
Rule 6.05(k) In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpires judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he may run outside (to the right of) the three-foot line or inside (to the left of) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball;
This is where the comments come in that because he didn't interfere with Teixeira (i.e. the "fielder taking the throw at first base"), there is no interference. Umpire Dana DeMuth even told Girardi that if Betances had just drilled him in the back with the throw, the runner would have been out. This is where the call drifts well into stupid territory. What he's saying is that if the runner had been hit, the runner's actions would have been ruled as interference. But because the ball didn't hit the runner, they won't call those same actions. Even though it's a judgment call by the umpire. But it gets even better. Rule 6.05(k) has a comment:
Rule 6.05(k) Comment: The lines marking the three-foot lane are a part of that lane and a batter- runner is required to have both feet within the three-foot lane or on the lines marking the lane. The batter-runner is permitted to exit the three-foot lane by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base.
As far as I can tell, neither foot was in the 3-foot lane or on the line for the entire length of the lane, not just in the immediate vicinity of first base. This is where it's no longer a judgment call, and it's a rule that apparently the umpires were either unfamiliar with or chose to ignore. The good news is that the protest has a process, and MLB will review the protest. Based on the 6.05(k) comment and the video of the play, it should be a slam dunk, right?
Wrong. Protests are almost never upheld. I did some digging on this and found that protests were upheld only 15 times in the history of MLB, only 6 times in my lifetime, and only once in the American League - the Pine Tar game. It's not surprising, though. The umpires work for the league and the league will always defend their own, even when they're dead wrong. But who knows. Crazier things have happened.
"You can never count on an umpire's call on this kind of a play" was David Cone's comment on the air afterward. I get that. You play the game to win and you can't count on a correct reading of the rulebook. It's not like Betances had a stellar outing with 2 walks, a hit, and failing to get out of the 8th. Betances should have known to hit the runner in the back. I'll bet he'll never forget after this game. Still, the rules are there for a reason and they should be followed and upheld.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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