Running out of the basepath rule - at home plate?

Last nights Cubs-Mets game. Runner trying to score on a hit to right. Fukudome gets the ball to the catcher in time to tag the runner coming down the line from third. The runner scrambles around the catcher and circles back to tag the plate before the catcher can tag him. My question is, Why wasn’t the runner called out for leaving the basepath to avoid a tag? Is there some rule that negates that rule when the catcher has the ball? The Cubs didn’t beef, but I thought that’s because they don’t really care at this point. Sup? xo, C.

I didn’t see the play, but the rule is that the runner cannot go more than three feet outside the base path. How far off the path was he?

If the catcher (or other fielder) has the ball, it doesn’t negate the rule, in fact, that’s the point of the rule. (If a fielder does *not *have the ball he can’t block the base path.)

Looked like a good bit more than three feet to me. Picture the catcher squatting there with the ball ready to tag him. Guy runs around the catcher while the catcher lunges for him with the ball. That’s three feet if the runner is going to avoid the tag. Heck, your arm is three feet long.

Here’s a link to a page that has the video of the slide on it. From

He steps about a foot onto the grass off the basepath to avoid the tag.

Nice link. What would you say - four, five feet away from the baseline?

There are rules as they are written and rules as they are enforced. Last week I saw a batter hit in the back by a throw from the catcher and he was nowhere near the 45 foot line (fully in fair territory, in fact) and he was not called out. On the other hand, a catcher is not, according to the rules, allowed to block access to the plate even if he has the ball (and not even allowed to partiall block it if he doesn’t). He can, if he has the ball, stand squarely in the base path, but not block all access. You never see a second baseman, say, completely block second base. But somehow, umpires have let both rules, against blocking and against leaving the base line, go by the boards.

Back in the 40s and 50s, the balk rule was only loosely enforced and it was rare for anyone to steal more that 20 bases a year. I don’t have the stats, but I recall that Richie Ashburn would regularly win the SB title with fewer than 30. Ty Cobbs 96 seemed as difficult as flying to the moon. Then the powers-that-be decided that base stealing was exciting (no argument there), suddenly the balk rule was rigorously enforced and suddenly 100 SBs a year became possible. The rule didn’t change; its enforcement did.

You’re right about the evolution of enforcement of rules. But I’ve seen many runners called out between first and second for trying to avoid the 2nd baseman’s tag. This was clearly a violation - and at a crucial moment in the game. Hell, a crucial moment in the season, although more so for the Mets, of course. But it was so obvious! (Clearly, it’s a difficult life being a Cubs fan).

Good video. I can’t believe he wasn’t called out, and I can’t believe nobody argued with the ump. The catcher looked pissed.

This page

is an article from baseball digest, that uses an example from 2005 of Hideki Matsui running to 2nd where he avoids a tag from Edgar Renteria.

So even if Church was indeed 4-5 feet from the white line, he was already running along the outside grass due to the muddy basepath, and hadn’t altered his path much in the umpire’s judgement.

That is usually allowed. The problem is that first base in in fair territory, so to reach it, you need to run in fair territory. But the rule requires you run in foul territory. For this reason, the rule is generally a judgment call by the umpire. As long as the batter isn’t deliberately altering his path to get in the way, he’s not called out.

Full enforcement of the rule would probably mean no runner reached first base – he’d probably step over the foul line in some point.

Ok, so this excerpt from MLB rules tells us that the runner establishes his own baseline.

“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…”

I’m saying that even with that interpretation, the baseline of the runner at the point that the tag attempt occurs is a straight line to the plate from where he is, and he definitely goes three feet away from even that baseline when he runs around to the back of the plate. But I now see that it’s a lot closer than I had originally conceived of it, given this interpretation. Still, where was Uncle Lou?

From this video it looks like he was approximately 3 feet off the foul line. Is the foul line equivalent to the “base path”.

Is the base path the “dirt” area? If so he’s easily within the rule. And if the Base path is the foul line then he’s pushing the limit on the 3’ rule but then every runner rounding third has destroyed that rule near third base. I can’t rmember a runner who didn’t run into the grass after rounding third.

Disclaimer: I have very little interest in MLB and absolutely none in these two teams.

Note that as he approaches home plate he must get to within 3 feet of it or he is outside his established base path. After he avoids the tag, he falls to the ground beyond home place and still can’t reach it. He then crawls, reaches with the right hand and touches the plate. Unless he is under 3 feet tall, he must have been more than 3 feet from home plate. He should have been called out. Having said that, I see this kind of play at home all the time. I don’t think the rules about within 3’ of the base path are really enforced at home plate.

There’s also a bit of reciprocity going on. By that, I mean the Cubs and Mets players, coaches, and managers are all aware of the rule and of how it’s enforced in practice, and are used to that interpretation. Lou Pinella knows that if he decides to get all rules-lawyer on the ump, the umpire may throw him out or, even worse, agree with him. The latter result means that some time a Cubs player is trying to avoid a tag at home plate his own player will be called out. It’s not worth it to him to try to get the rule strictly enforced. He benefits more by maintaining the current situation than by erasing one Mets run.

Are we talking about the same video? Your description of the event makes it sound like the guy was standing over 6 feet away and then fell over towards the plate. The video shows that he was sliding and falling past the plate and would have actually fallen on it had his momentum not continued after he hit the ground.

I can see how one might debate or discuss the base path issue as it applies to the area close to the catcher in the video but after the runner passed the catcher he was clearly in the area of the plate.

I guess it depends on where you measure how far away he is. If you measure from his feet, he is over 6’ away (assuming he is over 6’ tall). At the 8 second mark he is directly behind the plate, left foot and right foot both on the ground with the left foot in front of the right one. He is leaning back towards the point of the plate. The point of the plate would have been the furthest “south” point in his base path, and his feet are more than 3’ away from the point of the plate. He is leaning over towards the plate, so his upper body is probably closer than 3’ to the point of the plate.

In other words, I think I agree with you. As defined by the line from him to the plate, I don’t think there was ever a time when his entire body was more than 3’ from the base path.

Note that all the running out of the baseline rules apply only to avoiding a tag (with two exceptions). When you round third, for example, as mentioned by one person, you can take as big an arc as you wish as long as no one is trying to tag you (and if they are, you’d likely be sliding into the bag not rounding it.)

One exception is running to first base. You are supposed to run in foul territory between the two lines you can see on the ground during the last half. If you hit a ball just fair and the catcher fields it and his throw hits you when you’re in fair territory, you should be called out. I suppose in principle, you could interfere with a throw from another fielder, but the first baseman would have to be stretching to reach the throw straight towards home and this seems unlikely.

The other exception is if you are hit by a throw after you are out. So for example if you’ve been forced out at second on a double play and the throw to first hits you, the batter could be called out if you interfered. It isn’t automatic (as the first base call is supposed to be), but is a judgment call.

Former umpire here.

From the POV of the cameras, the runner is safe. As he circled third, his momentum carried him out into foul territory and he curved back toward the plate. The catcher missed the first tag, the runner ran past the plate, then went back to touch it. The catcher missed the second tag as well, and I imagine that’s why he’s pissed.

Moved from GQ to The Game Room.

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