Baseball: Appeal Plays

MLB rule 7.10 talks about appeal plays, which I take to be the little ritual most commonly seen when the fielding team appeals that a runner left his base too early on a caught fly ball. The fielding team gets the ball to the pitcher, they wait for the next batter to appear in the box, then the pitcher tosses the ball to a fielder standing on the base from which the runner left early. If the umpire agrees, he will call the runner out “on appeal”.

My wife and I were discussing this, and we were looking at two scenarios:
[ol]
[li]Runner on first and second, no outs. Batter hits a fly ball to the outfield, runner at third leaves early, ball is caught and both runners try to advance. Ball is thrown toward the plate, cut-off and thrown to the third baseman to make a play on the runner arriving from second. In the act of making a play on the runner, the third baseman has the ball in his glove and is touching third base. Is the runner who scored out automatically, or must the fielding team go thru the appeal play to record the out and erase the (illegally obtained) run?[/li][li]Runner on first, who is being held on by the first baseman. Batter hits a screaming line drive down the right-field line that the first baseman dives for and catches in fair territory. In the act of catching, his momentum causes him to roll over the base before the runner can return and tag up. By the time the first baseman gets to his feet and attempts to double off the runner by tagging the base, the runner is back on first. In the typical “double-off” scenario, no appeal is necessary, but I’m wondering if the umpire has to judge the intent of the first baseman in touching the bag on such a play; if the touch was inadvertent, does it count in doubling-off the runner?[/li][/ol]

A few points to consider: Rule 7.08(d) says a runner is out if “(h)e fails to retouch his base after a fair or foul ball is legally caught before he, or his base, is tagged by a fielder. He shall not be called out for failure to retouch his base after the first following pitch, or any play or attempted play. This is an appeal play;” (emphasis mine). Rule 2.0 covers the definition of the word “appeal”: "An APPEAL is the act of a fielder in claiming violation of the rules by the offensive team. "

IMHO, then, the runner is not out in either scenario. Has anyone ever seen plays similar to this in an MLB game, or know of a ruling on similar plays?

What runner on third? :confused:

I have not seen such a play but a strict reading of the rules does not imply that intent of the fielder is taken into account, only that he touches the base and is in control of the ball. I cannot imagine an umpire would have any justification to say, “Safe–fielder touched the based accidentally.” The rule says

I don’t understand appeals that well, and the rule you quoted seems ambiguous to me. So I will piggyback this question onto yours:

If a runner leaves a base, fly is caught, the base he left is tagged by a fielder holding the ball, does it require an appeal to call him out? I don’t think so, so maybe the appeal play part refers only to the second sentence, to wit. . .

Runner leaves first base, fly is caught by left fielder. Runner returns towards first but does not touch it, instead resumes taking a lead. The rule says “He shall not be called out. . .” Does that mean he shall not be called out unless the defensive team appeals? Or does it mean he’s not out? By extension, does the rule mean that the appeal can be made only after the pitcher pitches the next pitch, or that the appeal can be made only before the pitcher pitches the next pitch?

No, What’s on second base.

In your first case, I will assume you meant to say the runners are on 2nd and 3rd, not 1st and 2nd. Given your scenario, I’d say that the runner on 3rd will only be out if the appeal process is used. That seems pretty clear according to the rules.
In the second case, if by “roll over the base” you meant that the first basement actually touched the first base after the catch and before the runner got back to the base, then the runner is out. No question about that. If the first basement touched the base before he made the catch, then he will have to tag the runner or base before the runner gets back to first.

Proofreading is apparently not my strong suit…Yes, the first scenario should begin “runners on second and third”.

Again, I believe the runner is safe in both cases, because the rules specifically state the failure to tag up is an appeal play, and an appeal play is defined in the rules as the act of a fielder claiming a violation of the rules. Inadvertently touching a base, as opposed to clearly running over and tagging the base, does not in my opinion meet the criteria of “claiming a violation of the rules”.

My understanding is that doubling a runner off a base after at a caught fly is an appeal play, only it is silly to ask the fielders to appeal specially. Thus if the runner from third leaves too early and the third basemen happens to touch the base before the play is dead, the runner from third will be out on appeal. But the third baseman has to ask for it, unless it is clear to the blind man that the third baseman knows what happened. The scenario where the pitcher throws over to the base the runner is alleged to have left early (or, in another play, failed to touch) is the procedure to be followed when play has stopped and time is technically called. One difference between baseball and nearly all other sports is that it is often unclear if time is in or out and timeouts are kind of informal.

I concur. If the first baseman has possession of the ball and touches the bag ahead of the runner who is tagging up, he’s out, no matter if touching the bag was incidental or intentional. No appeal necessary (although I can see an appeal of the out, which would lose.)

Plays like this happen a lot on hit-and-runs where the ball gets lined right at the first baseman.

The appeal must be an “unmistakable” act, but not necessarily verbal. So throwing the ball to the base that the runner left early is unmistakeable, and constitutes a valid appeal.

However, inadvertently touching the base would not constitute a valid appeal. Let’s say the runner on 1B advances to 3B on a base hit, missing 2B. As the ball comes back to the infield, the shortstop (with the ball) moseys back to his position and happens to touch 2B with his foot. This is not an unmitakable act, and no umpire would call the runner out.

Hari Seldon – you can’t appeal with a dead ball. The ball must remain in play, or be put back in play, before you can appeal.

I’m not sure how the second scenario involves an appeal play – if the runner is leading off and the bag is touched by the first baseman (after line drive cought), the runner is out (assuming he never got back to first in time).

Now the first scenario – growing up through high school, it was such that on an appeal play the pitcher would take the ball after the play, come set on the mound, step off the rubber, and throw to the base in question. After the fielder steps on the base, the umpire makes his call. I always thought this to be the rule.

However, I was at a Cubs/Padres game earlier this year, where a Padre (Brian Giles?) tagged up on a fly ball to left. Matt Murton threw home, close play at the plate, Giles was safe… but then Barrett (catcher) simply threw the ball directly to the third baseman, who stepped on third just before the third base ump called him out for leaving early. No “procedure” was neccesary. I think it worked this way in the WBC between Japan and USA too in that wacky appeal reversed call play… ?

ah, jsc1953, I should have previewed, that makes sense.

BkoN – we’re probably on the same page, but just to make sure:

Your scenario with the pitcher stepping off and then throwing to the base would be required if “Time” had been called at some point. Since you can’t appeal during Time Out, you have to go to Time In status; and the way you do that is – pitcher steps on the rubber with the ball, and umpire calls “play”.

The second scenario, the ball was never dead. The throw to 3B was the “unmistakable act”.

Here’s the relevant text, from 7.10 Comment

Can you explain this further? My understanding is that time is out when an umpire calls that time is out, period. Dead ball is a related but different issue; the ball becomes dead for a timeout, but can also become dead under other conditions. All of this is pretty formal.

On a related note, you used the phrase “the play is dead,” which I don’t understand, unless you mean informally that the runners have stopped running and the fielders have stopped trying to get them out. After a play the ball remains live unless time is called for some reason.

I’m not HariSeldon, but I’ll jump in anyway:

Your understanding of dead ball/timeout is correct. But no matter how the ball was made dead – whether it was thrown/batted out of play, or an umpire called “time” – the ball must be made live again, before we can have an appeal.

On the related note…don’t confuse “relaxed” with “dead”. Umpires are extremely cognizant of the difference, even if it looks informal to the casual observer. When play is “relaxed” you’ll see umpires getting new baseballs, etc, without calling time. At higher levels (MLB) you’ll never see play attempted during these relaxed periods. At lower levels, you never know what’s going to happen. So umpires are always aware of when the ball is live, and when it’s dead.

Clearly from the rule cited by jsc1953, an appeal play requires an actual verbal appeal or an unmistakeable act by a player, and that inadvertently touching the base with the ball in the scenarios I described would not put out the runner.

I had also wondered why the fielding team sometimes goes thru the ritual of getting the ball to the pitcher, having him step off the rubber, and toss to the base, while in other cases the fielding team just quickly relays the ball to the base and score the out (TheBoneyKingofNowhere, I also was at that sunday Cubs game where they doubled off the runner for leaving early; being a Cubs fan it was the only thing worthwhile about that game, which as I recall ended 9-0 SD). The dead vs. live ball distinction was a key point for me to understand this, thx jsc1953

FYI: On a close examination of the appeal rules, I note that a balk and a wild throw count as plays. If the pitcher appealing a play at 3rd doesn’t step off the rubber he (slightly) risks balking on his throw for the appeal, in which case the illegal run would stand. Similarly, if his toss to 3rd goes into the stands the appeal would be off as well.

I wonder what happens if another baserunner, say, attempts a steal just before the appeal? I would guess throwing out the runner would nullify the chance for an appeal, a sneaky (but legal) way for the offense to protect an illegally-obtained run on the board…

Absolutely true. I’d love to see this happen someday.