MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre confirmed today that the controversial passed-ball call during Max Scherzer’s meltdown in Game 5 of the NLDS was, in fact, wrong.
A reminder of how the call went down—the Nationals were down 5-4 to the Cubs, with runners on first and second and two outs in the fifth inning. On an 0-2 count to Javier Baez, this happened:
That was ruled a swinging third strike on a passed ball, but catcher Matt Wieters made a throwing error that allowed Baez to advance to second and the lead runner to score. (Another run would go on to score before the inning was over.) But the video pretty clearly shows Baez clipping Wieters on his backswing—and the MLB rulebook seems to say that such a situation should be ruled a dead ball. To wit:
If that ball is called dead, that nightmarish inning for the Nationals gets a different ending, and the game—which the Cubs won by one run—very likely does, too.
The home plate umpire, Jerry Layne, later said that he believed the fact that the play involved a passed ball should override whatever happened after that point: essentially, because the ball had already passed Wieters by the time Baez’s bat struck him, it didn’t matter that the batter hit the catcher on his backswing at all. Today, though, Torre said otherwise. From Chris Russo’s SiriusXM show, as transcribed by the Washington Post:
“You know, the whole rule interpretation—there’s rules, and then there’s instructions to the umpires,” Torre began. “There’s separate books. And what Jerry’s feeling was, that the interference didn’t take precedent over the fact that the ball was already past [Wieters] when the contact took place.
“However, the rule states—and you probably have read the rule—that when contact is made—in other words, when the bat came around and hit the catcher’s mask—it’s a dead ball,” Torre went on. “It’s a dead ball. And that’s the one thing that should have taken precedence.”
Great news for suffering Nationals fans who were already probably somewhat haunted by what they felt should’ve happened on this play: you were right! The Nats got screwed. Now you know for sure.