The Oakland A’s earned themselves an extra out on a weird play Thursday, so let’s take a closer look.
In the 4th inning, Baltimore Orioles batter Trey Mancini hit a grounder up the middle. It deflected off the pitcher and caromed toward the second baseman, who fielded it but made a wide throw. The first baseman wasn’t quite able to squeeze the ball, and it dribbled away into foul territory.
Mancini ran through the bag safely and cast a glance behind him to see if there was a chance to head toward second base, but he quickly deduced that he’d need to stay at first. However, as he halted his momentum and turned around to head back toward the bag, he made just the slightest hop to his left, without even realizing it. But the ump noticed it, and catcher Sean Murphy noticed it, and Murphy hustled over with the ball and tagged Mancini as he strolled back to the base that he thought he’d already fully earned.
The Orioles did not like that call. Mancini had some choice words from the dugout and was ejected, and Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde was booted too.
It’s easy to understand why the Orioles were unhappy. This is one of those instances where the letter of the law and the spirit of the rule don’t exactly coincide.
On one hand, this is a fundamental that players learn in Little League. When you run through first base, turn to your right when you head back. Turning to your left isn’t automatically wrong, but it leaves you open to the ump making a judgment call.
On the other hand, c’moooon. He objectively did make a tiny movement toward second base, yes, but not in a way that could be construed as any serious attempt to advance. Even A’s broadcasters Glen Kuiper and Dallas Braden showed sympathy, agreeing that it seemed like heavy enforcement of the technicality.
Nevertheless, that little hop was apparently enough to qualify as advancement toward second, according to umpire Rob Drake. Here’s Rule 5.09(b)(11):
Any runner is out when: He fails to return at once to first base after overrunning or oversliding that base. If he attempts to run to second he is out when tagged. If, after overrunning or oversliding first base he starts toward the dugout, or toward his position, and fails to return to first base at once, he is out, on appeal, when he or the base is tagged.
Of course, we’re not complaining too much here, as the A’s benefited from the ruling in what turned out to be a close game. And regardless of how each of us feel about the call, let’s recognize Murphy for being heads-up enough to notice this detail and capitalize on it. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Personally, I can see each side of this. It’s literally a defensible call, and it’s not an obscure rule by any measure, everybody knows about it. But it’s an area of lackadaisical enforcement, and you just don’t see it cited that often, so runners don’t always focus on it and Mancini didn’t know today was going to be the surprise inspection.
What do you think, Athletics Nation? Vote in the poll below!
Should Trey Mancini have been called out?
This poll is closed
Yes, them’s the rules, and he slightly moved toward 2B
No, he should have been safe, it wasn’t an attempt to advance