You make the call: Triple play, or dead ball?

Before winning in the last of the 9th today in Los Angeles, the Dodgers turned a crazy triple play in the top half. After squaring to bunt, Jesús Guzmán recoiled from a meat-seeking missile, only to have it hit his bat, bounce behind the plate, and then dribble into fair territory.

Reeling from his close encounter — the pitch would have drilled him square in the chest had it not hit the bat — Guzmán turned and jogged completely out of the dirt area and never did run to first, and the Dodgers turned the rare 2-5-6-3 triple play at a stately pace suited to a Sunday afternoon in the park.

A controversy ensued over whether the plate umpire, Dale Scott, had initially signaled dead ball, and San Diego manager Bud Black was ejected.

The video shows Scott, as soon as the ball hits the bat, retreating from the plate and raising both arms above shoulder level in a way that suggests “dead ball.” After a moment, Scott points toward the field to indicate “live ball,” but that gesture clearly came after catcher A.J. Ellis had picked it up and thrown to third.

I think Scott blew it. It’s not clear whether Guzmán was even aware of the apparent initial call — his back was to the plate during some part of the play — but the runners clearly were affected: Each one went back to his base, and each one as he was called out physically echoed the ump’s initial gesture.

I don’t think there are any grounds for appeal, as it was strictly a judgment call. I can’t find anything in the rules that speaks to an umpire changing his call during the course of a single play. But here’s a link to the MLB rules, if you want to investigate for yourself.

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28 Comments on "You make the call: Triple play, or dead ball?"

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Doug
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Dead ball.

Once the ump has signalled play is dead, it’s dead. Even if the call was wrong.

If there isn’t a rule like that, there should be.

Doug
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To clarify my point a bit, the key point was that the ump signalled the play was dead. It’s different than a live ball play. For example, if the ump calls a runner out, but then changes the call if he sees the fielder bobbled the ball, that is defensible becauses the ball is still alive and the reversal comes almost immediately.

But, when the ump throws his hands in the air, it’s like an NFL referee blowing his whistle. Everyone stops. You can’t then change your mind and say the play is still alive.

Mark in Sydney
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I don’t think that there is such a rule, Doug, just an understanding. The ball wasn’t really dead and we don’t have a sound bite of what he said. Looks like he was confused as to whether Guzman was hit or not. The rest of the play was fine, the ball went fair and was in-play. And the protest was as per the book (Mr Scully is a touched confused here, the umps are required to consult under s9.02). It was all about the initial confusion and the fact that once the play started, none of the bozos put their… Read more »
Doug
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My point is the players did “play the whistle”. When the ump throws his hands in the air, that’s the equivalent of the referee blowing his whistle. Don’t think you can blame the Padre runners for stopping when they saw that sign. But, I agree, the umpire was confused. Immediately after throwing his hands in the air, he then makes a pointing gesture to indicate fair ball, as if he were trying to reverse his call. Probably because he suddently realized there was no reason to call the play dead. But, it’s too late – even though dead ball was… Read more »
Mark in Sydney
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Agreed.

My point is that when the ball went to 3rd and the umpire there called an out, the runners on 2nd and 1st, who were both within a step of their bags, would have done well to step on their respective bags, then throw their hands up in protest. That would have, at least, avoided the dumb outs.

All moot, really.

Evil Squirrel
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How would that have avoided the dumb outs? As long as the Dodgers went third to second to first, it was three force outs. The runners couldn’t just hold their bases, they HAD to advance…

I agree with the consensus that the play should have been overturned if it was confirmed Dale Scott initially called it a dead ball. Fielders can deke the runners, but the umps really shouldn’t go there…

Mark in Sydney
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@ES

Yup, I blew it. It was a force play so no avoidance possible. Sorry about that.

Hartvig
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I agree- it’s like an umpire calling a strike and then changing it to a ball. Once the call was made that effectively stopped play that should have been it. It’s one thing to override a call after the play is finished after consulting with other umpires. It’s another thing entirely to signal a play dead and then try to override yourself.

Ed
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Just watched the video and I’d have to agree that the ump blew it. Even during the play Vin Scully was confused saying “No play, no play. The plate umpire I thought was pointing that the ball was dead”. Of course, MLB will do what it always does, bury it’s head in the sand and pretend that it never happened.

BTW, was it just me or did Vin sound amazing! Hard to believe that he’s 84 years old, he sounded just like he did during his prime.

topper009
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Reminds of the Doug Eddings phantom out call that was he claimed was just a strike call. I actually played poker with him in Vegas once, it was during spring training so he went up to Vegas for the weekend. He was incredibly drunk and throwing his money around and hitting on every female with a pulse.

Dave V.
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I watched this play live and also agree that it was a terrible call. Terrible break for the Padres, who were in a position to take the lead there in the 9th inning.

And @4 Ed – I totally agree with you re: Vin Scully. He’s a pleasure to listen to.

brp
Guest

I was watching MLB Network and saw this happen… I’m astonished that the umpire didn’t admit he made a mistake. He put his hands down and then back up, indicating a foul ball (regardless of whether the ball was actually fair). Never seen a triple play quite like that before.

bluejaysstatsgeek
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An unforgivably bad call.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
Maybe he was confused because everybody was wearing #42. ____________________ It looked like he was raising his arms to get out of the catcher’s way, but yes, it is his responsibility to communicate clearly with his arms. No way that a triple play should occur because an umpire is confused. We cannot entirely blame the ump, though. Bang Bang! Anybody would have needed a moment to recognize that the ball hit the bat and not the batter. ____________________ What I am not clear about is the rule as to whether the ball should be foul because it started in foul… Read more »
Ed
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Here’s Fangraphs’ analysis of the play, which includes some video stills:

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/attention-dale-scott-hands-up-means-foul-ball/

Insert Name Here
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I’ve umpired some Little League games – not many, but enough to know that you can’t raise your hands to call a foul and then change your signal and point fair. If you do do that, then you meant to point foul and pointed the wrong way (even in Little League, you can’t change your call unless both managers disagree with you – I’m sure its much different than that in MLB, though). I can’t tell from that video or the Fangraphs analysis if the ball was fair or foul when Ellis picks up the ball, but if the ump… Read more »
Shping
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Yep: Ump blew it; manager blew it by not protesting.

And how cool would it be if they had protested and we did get a replayed-inning? Coulda been fun — and possibly even good PR for mlb/umpires for taking steps to make things right. Dang it Bud Black, why didnt you protest?

But somebody’s got to give credit to A.J. Ellis and rest of Dodgers for playing it out, too. Well done.

Ed
Guest

Here’s an article with screen shots of a fouled off bunt attempt from earlier in the game. Guess what? Scott makes the exact same motion as he did on the controversial play. So yeah. That’s definitely his motion for calling a foul ball.

http://mlb.sbnation.com/2012/4/17/2953521/dale-scott-dodgers-padres-triple-play

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