I, for one, am excited that 2016 has kicked off as the season of baserunning controversies.
The Yankees gave away the lead, and ultimately the game (a 5-3 loss to the Astros) in the eighth inning when reliever Dellin Betances sailed a throw to first over everyone’s heads. He did so because batter Carlos Correa was running on the infield grass, directly between Betances and the first baseman.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi came out to argue, and declared New York would be playing the rest of the game under an official protest. It’s an unwinnable argument, because as the official MLB rulebook has it, it’s a judgment call for the umpire.
A comment to Rule 6.01(a):
A runner who is adjudged to have hindered a fielder who is attempting to make a play on a batted ball is out whether it was intentional or not.
In his comments after the game, home plate ump Dana DeMuth said,
“In my judgment he didn’t impede or hinder the first baseman from fielding the ball. The pitcher launched it, threw it off to right field. The runner does not have to be in a 45-foot baseline. Joe thinks he does. That’s what he protested on.”
The Yankees will not win this protest, but you can see Girardi’s argument. Sure, Correa didn’t get in the way of the skied throw. But Betances only skied it because Correa was in the way.
The rule very much ought to be clarified—6.01.(a) currently runs for three-and-a-half pages. And any update should take into account wild throws made because the runner is out of the baseline. As it is now, cause and effect are backward.
DeMuth had advice for what Betances should have done:
“Throw it into the runner’s back,” DeMuth said. “Because then what’s happening? He is impeding.”
It’s a lot to ask a player, working on instinct, to intentionally not record an out just to draw attention to a rules violation. Girardi isn’t having it:
“I don’t want to go in and tell my pitchers, ‘Just throw it and hit him in the back,’” he said. “Now you’re asking one of our players to assault theirs.”
Maybe MLB needs to implement kickball rules. Peg a runner and he’s out.