Last night something unusual happened in the Cardinals game against the Brewers. Let us review:
A lot of things happened during this play, a lot of things did not happen, and a lot of things happened, but might as well not have happened.
- Paul DeJong made a great play to throw Mike Moustakas out at home
- The Cardinals executed a perfect rundown to get Moustakas out quickly
- The quick rundown kept other base runners from advancing further on the play
- The runner on first - the hitter Orlando Arcia - drifted too far off base because he could not advance further on the play
- Jedd Gyorko deked Arcia into thinking the play was over, who then took his sweet time getting back to first
- Meanwhile Jose Martinez skulked in from right field
- Gyroko threw the ball to Martinez and Martinez tagged the lollygagging Arcia out
- And none of that mattered because the umpire called time out
In this post we will focus on event number eight. Of course, after the umpire disallowed the out at first, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt asked for an explanation. It was this:
Shildt said the explanation on the time out was that the umpire said the ball was wet so the umpire wanted to call time.— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) September 25, 2018
Seems weird. Let’s check out the rule book! Everything having to do with calling time can be found in section five, subsection twelve of the MLB Official Rules, conveniently laid out in this PDF here. This is the rule that we are specifically interested in:
(a) When an umpire suspends play, he shall call “Time.” At the umpire-in-chief’s call of “Play,” the suspension is lifted and play resumes. Between the call of “Time” and the call of “Play” the ball is dead.
(b) The ball becomes dead when an umpire calls “Time.” The umpire-in-chief shall call “Time:
(1) When in his judgment weather, darkness or similar conditions make immediate further play impossible...
...(8) Except in the cases stated in paragraphs (2) and (3)(A) of this rule, no umpire shall call “Time” while a play is in progress.
So, according to this, the umpire is within his rights to call time if he thinks the ball is wet.
But, uh... why would he think the ball was wet? Here is what happened to the ball after DeJong fielded it:
The ball being wet did not seem to hinder DeJong from making a perfect throw home or Yadier Molina from throwing a strike to Jedd Gyorko. It did not make it too slippery for Gyorko to catch in his glove and tag out Moustakas. Up to the point, the ball did not seem to have any impact on game play at all.
Look: Umpiring is hard. What this investigation seems to have revealed is that what more likely happened is the umpire preemptively called timeout on a live ball assuming someone would call timeout, a reflex from umpiring hundreds or thousands of games in his career. Unfortunately for the umpire, no one called time because they saw the opportunity to get more outs (that were ultimately negated by the umpire’s timeout). It was a mistake. Fortunately, it was one that did not cost the Cardinals this time.
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