"COME ON, BLUE" is a typical preface to unsolicited remarks to an umpire by a player, parent, fan or coach who feels they or their player have been wronged. Mark will write a series of articles under "COME ON, BLUE" explaining various common baseball misconceptions.
As the above photo shows, we umpires are always getting grief for one thing or another.
We don't usually mind, really, so long as it's not questioning our judgement. For example, if Dusty was arguing that the called strike was "this far outside", he may as well start writing a cheque for the ejection to Bud Selig right now.
However, when the manager (never a player—let your coaches do the talking, boys & girls) is coming to talk to one of us about a point of order, a specific rule, we USUALLY don't mind.
I say "usually" because there are a few grave misconceptions. My favourite?
"COME ON, BLUE! TIE GOES TO THE RUNNER!!!"
NO. It does NOT. Not EVER. (Have I been emphatic enough?) Let me be literal; NOWHERE in the Rules Of Baseball does it say "tie goes to the runner."
There's no such thing as a "tie" in baseball—that's an article of nearly religious faith in the baseball community, and it's a big part of why we love the sport. No shootouts or sudden death here—play until someone drops.
That runner comes across the first-base bag—the "tie" call is, at least in most fans' perception, most common at first—and let's say, BANG-BANG, the ball arrives at the EXACT SAME MOMENT.
Now, let's say that instant replay (shudder) is REQUIRED (shudder) on ALL contested baseball plays—perish the thought.
We trot over, outraged skipper behind us, to the Sony Fantasmatron HD 1000080p Official Major League Baseball Review Machiny-thingy. It SHOWS us, LIVE AND IN COLOR, the ball hitting Carlos Delgado's glove at the EXACT MILLISECOND that the leading spike on Joey Votto's right foot first ttttttouched the bag. DEAD EVEN. A physicist couldn't make an argument one way or the other.
BLAM. "HE'S STILL OUT!" Uh-oh. Dusty's getting ejected again. Good thing it wasn't Pinella or that jerk from the minor leagues who threw the rosin bag like a grenade.
"WHAT? WHY?!?" come the howls of protest from the fans, wronged by "yet another" dingbat umpire.
Check your rulebook, baseball students;
Rule 7.01 - "A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touches it before he is out." The key word here is "before". The INSTANT that ball touches the fielder's mitt, if the runner was not there BEFORE the ball, he MUST be called out—no leeway. If the ump thought the ball was there before or at the same time, he's gotta bang Mister Votto.
Still not sold? Check 6.05 (j) - "A batter is out when, after a third strike or after he hits a fair ball, he or first base is tagged before he touches first base" (there's that "before" bit again).
Still shaking your head? Okay, try 7.09 (e), which actually goes a teeny-tiny step further; "...is out when he fails to reach the next base before a fielder tags him or the base..."
So, it's pretty clear. Gotta get there before the ball, Sparky, or you can just keep on running.
"The coach told me that ties go to the runner. I said the batter has to beat the throw to first because there are no such thing as ties.
McClelland: That is exactly right. There are no ties and there is no rule that says the tie goes to the runner. But the rule book does say that the runner must beat the ball to first base, and so if he doesn't beat the ball, then he is out. So you have to make the decision. That's why umpires are paid the money they are, to make the decision on if he did or if he didn't. The only thing you can do is go by whether or not he beat the ball. If he did (beat the ball), then he is safe."
MLB umpires, and, truthfully, even those of us at lesser levels, are taught a simple little ditty;
"IF IN DOUBT, BANG HIM OUT."
In other words, if you're not sure of the result, SELL THE CALL—reeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaalllly ring him up, give it "the big sell"; "HE'S OUT!" and bang the air with your fist (If you sound sure, the coach is probably going to stay put & grumble. That's a good thing.).
At that point, you're probably going to have an argument either way, which you can't win if you're an ump. Call him out, and you're one step closer to that game being over. (No, we don't want to go home early—unless there's a coach yelling at us. Do YOU want to stay late at work if the boss is a screamer?)
Here's the challenge; Prove me wrong. Check the MLB rulebook, stem-to-stern (especially Rule Seven, "The Runner") and come back at me here if you can find something you could take out to me on the field. Here it is;
So, next time you're at the game (especially a Little League game) and some ignoramus (love that word) yells, "TIE GOES TO THE RUNNER!" you can sagely lean back and inform the 'ramus in question that, "No, actually, if you look up Rule Seven-Oh-One, it says that he can only be safe if he arrives BEFORE the ball. No ties in baseball, mate."
Oughta make the game a little more peaceful for a few more minutes...at least until the ump calls "infield fly—batter's out!"
More on that NEXT column.
Mark Dewdney is a failed player, and, as a result, a long-time Ontario umpire, typically found on a midget, junior or senior ballfield somewhere in Toronto.
Have a question? An idea for an article? Drop me a message, question or comment. I'll get as many as I can answered.