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Case Play 2020-1 - Home Plate Standoff & Brawl

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A runner attempting to score fails to touch home plate as the catcher misses his tag; it's happened before, but in this Toledo-Alabama State game, it will spark a fight and ejections. The umpire initially withholds the call—signaling neither safe nor out—and waits for a tag or touch. Yet it soon...

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OK ... this is an interesting one!

I’d like to say that the runner was not making an immediate effort to touch home, so he should be out.  However, using the OBR rules @Gil posted in the article, it shows yet another example of overly specific language being a detriment to the intent of the rule.

OBR 5.09(b)(1): "Any runner is out when—He runs more than three feet away from his base path to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A runner’s base path is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely."
OBR 5.09(b)(12): "In running or sliding for home base, he fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to the base, when a fielder holds the ball in his hand, while touching home base, and appeals to the umpire for the decision."
OBR 5.09(b)(12) Comment: "This rule applies only where runner is on his way to the bench and the catcher would be required to chase him. It does not apply to the ordinary play where the runner misses the plate and then immediately makes an effort to touch the plate before being tagged. In that case, runner must be tagged."
MLB Umpire Manual Interpretation [Runner Misses Home Plate]: "In such cases, base path rules still apply to the runner."
NCAA 8-6-4: "A runner shall be called out on specific appeals that occur as a result of a base runner error when—The runner does not touch home plate and does not make an attempt to touch it. The fielder may touch either the runner or home plate."

We toss out 5.09(b)(1) as standing with the ball is not a tag attempt.  With no tag attempt, there is no base path to deviate from.

5.09(b)(12) looks to be a good place to hang our hat ... but that is based on my interpretation of this silly cat and mouse standoff NOT equating to an attempt to “immediately make(s) an effort to touch the plate”.  HOWEVER, the language in this rule requires the fielder to make an appeal.  Again, this may subject to your opinion on what constitutes an appeal, but I don’t think the catcher did make a proper appeal.  The “Comment” tacked on further confuses this by being too specific.  At first you could look at it and say “this was not an ordinary play, we can apply this!”; but the first part is too specific and states “where the runner is on his way to the bench.”  D’oh!  Why baseball, why did you have to say that specifically?!

As I often fall in the “common sense must prevail” camp, I have the runner out at the point that he is no longer advancing towards home plate.  I’m not convinced the rule as written supports that though.

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