baseball rules question--runner returning

Under rule 7.02 a player who has to return to a base having touched one or more later bases, but retouch them in (reverse) order. But what the rule does not answer is this: suppose the runner has passed second on a long fly that is caught. He must touch second on the way back and can be forced out at first. But can he be forced at second? Can he be tagged as he is crossing second?

Here is how the question arose. I was telling a friend of mine the other night about a play I saw in person that ended a Phillies v. Mets game a couple years ago. The Phillies were ahead 8-6 and the Mets batting in the bottom of the ninth. The Phillies second baseman was a utility player named Bruntlett. The first two Mets batters got on and the Mets were threatening, having come back from an 8-1 deficit. Double steal, line drive hit directly to Bruntlett who had moved over to cover the steal. Two outs instantly. The runner from first veered off and went a little way towards center field and Bruntlett went over and tagged him. Game over and the 16th, I think, UTP in major league history and only the second one to end a game But should the runner have called out for leaving the baseline to avoid a tag. And suppose he had actually touched second and continued on. Would it have been three instant outs?

Quite an exciting play although I mostly missed it since I was trying to follow the ball into center and only afterward realized it had been caught and the result of that.

Working from my interpretation of the rules, I believe the answer to a force at 2nd is no. This is based off of Rule 7.10(a), “After a fly ball is caught, he fails to retouch his original base before he or his original base is tagged;” which specifies the original base.

I wasn’t aware that this was an appeal play as the rules seem to indicate. Is the fielding team actually supposed to ask the umpire for an out in this situation?

A runner is out on appeal if:

I think the “original base” applies to any tag up situation. In other words, he could not be forced at 2nd if he started from 1st.

AFAIK a tag will always function the same as touching the base would. In fact, I don’t know of a situation where tagging a runner off a base while the ball is in play would NOT result in an out.

According to wiki (bold mine):

I think the OP meant the situation where the runner is required to return to first base, but is currently touching second base.

My understanding is that in the situation you describe (where the runner from 1st just keeps running past second) the only way to retire him is to tag him (either touching a base other than first or not) or to make the appeal play at first. Tagging second after he has passed it will not constitute an out.

Yeah, what I meant was in any situation where touching a base while holding a ball would retire a runner, that tagging him with the ball would accomplish the same task.

First of all I think you have a couple of misunderstandings. Getting put out for not tagging up in time on a caught fly ball is not a force out; it’s a timing play. A force out is when a runner legally loses his right to occupy a base by reason of the batter becoming a runner. So there’s no such thing as him being forced out at second if he passes it after leaving first on a caught fly ball. So yes he could be tagged out. That’s called a live ball appeal.

Regarding being out of the baseline. There’s no rule for being out of the base line. The base line is a straight line between bases. However there is a rule for being out of the base PATH. The difference being that the base PATH is determined by runner at the time a play is being made on him, and is (under most, if not all rule sets) defined as a straight line from the player to the base he is going towards at the time a play is being made on him.

Yep, just found it, 7.08 Any runner is out when—
He runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged
unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A
runner’s baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight
line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely; or
(2) after touching first base, he leaves the baseline, obviously abandoning his
effort to touch the next base;

Enright - when is “a play on him” defined (or assumed)? If I’m in a rundown (the most likely time to be called out for being out of my base path), can I veer wildly off course when the ball is in the air between fielders? (Not sure why I’d want to, maybe just to confuse them?)

Here’s the play in case anyone hasn’t seen it before.

Still haven’t seen it:

I’m confused. I’ve quite often seen the double play where you catch a fly and throw to the original base. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player tagged in that situation.

So what is the term for that situation if not a forced out?

And are you saying that, in the OPs instance, tagging second base before the runner returning to first tags back would or would not be an an out?

I suppose the term is “he’s out for not tagging up” or you could say he was out on the timing play. Meaning which ever got back to the base first wins, either the fielder with the ball or the runner.
Also you are correct, if a runner passes second base, and the caught fly ball is thrown back to a fielder standing on second base before the runner gets there on his way to first, he would not be out. It’s not illegal for him to be past 2nd base (meaning 2nd base has nothing to do with the play at this point); but it is illegal for him to have left first base early on a caught fly ball. The only way to put him out is to get him by tagging him (even if he’s standing on second base) or by tagging the base from which he left early.

The real answer is “a play on him” is the umpires judgment, and (I’m sure you’re going love this) you know it when you see it. Even if I’m in a run down, I’m facing a base. If I move 3 feet outside of a direct path to that next base TO AVOID A TAG, then I’m out of the base path and should be called out.

“A runner’s baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely;”