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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Yahoo sports: Yasiel Puig called out for phantom ‘lean’ toward second base

Umpires do a great job in Major League Baseball, usually in a thankless way. They’re expected to be perfect, and when they’re not, we complain. Bad calls happen — not very often, actually — but they happen. And every once in a while, an ump will make a call that just makes us go “huh?”

One such call happened to everybody’s favorite controversy magnet, Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers, on Thursday night. In the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins, umpire Tim Welke called Puig out after he made a phantom “lean” toward second base after an infield single. Puig’s reputation for reckless baserunning had preceded him — though it was Welke’s mistake, not Puig’s, in this case.

With one out, Puig beat out a chopper up the middle that second baseman Brian Dozier threw in the dirt to first base. Chris Colabello couldn’t pick it and the ball hopped past him, with catcher Yosmil Pinto backing up the play. After he ran through the bag, Puig sharply turned his head to the right to check for the ball’s location. It was evident from Puig’s body language that Puig wanted to take an extra base, but when saw Pinto with the ball, he applied the brakes. If Puig’s left shoulder began to dip toward second, the rest of his body actually leaned right. He never left the baseline, never crossed the foul line. He stopped, turned around clockwise (that’s away from second base), and started walking back to the bag like an innocent man who just had hit an infield single.

Alertly — as Twins announcer Dick Bremer noted — Pinto went to tag Puig just in case he had made a break for second base, which would have made him vulnerable. Had he broke for second. Incredibly, or perhaps not because it’s Puig, Welke called him out. It had to be one of the worst calls of a career that spans 29 seasons in the majors. Puig looked around incredulously, as though someone had picked his pocket. Coach Davey Lopes asked Welke what the deal was, and he pointed with his thumb toward second, as if to say Puig had turned that way. Lopes told Puig to go back to the dugout. Thanks a bunch, coach.

Bremer, for his part, made it seem like a mass hallucination was happening by saying that Puig had “squared his shoulders toward second.” Not true, Bremer, not close to true. Had everyone gone crazy?

Puig being sent off didn’t ruin the day for the Dodgers. They swept the doubleheader and Puig went 6 for 10 over both games. No matter about that; Puig was done wronged.

Tripon Posted: May 03, 2014 at 09:28 AM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dodgers, dugout, twins

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   1. Ray (RDP) Posted: May 03, 2014 at 03:02 PM (#4699632)
He did initially make a move towards second base but then he thought better of it and (as the author notes) stopped before he actually crossed the foul line; then his foot did sort of touch the foul line as he was ready to return to first. But is the line really relevant? There's no mention of it in the rule quoted in the story.

I don't know the rules as well as some here but it seems the relevant portion of the rule quoted in the story is:

"He fails to return at once to first base after over-running or over-sliding that base."

I mean, he did make the move so I guess you could read "at once" to mean that he wasn't committed the entire time to returning to first base.

   2. JoeC Posted: May 03, 2014 at 04:05 PM (#4699676)
Yeah, there's an argument for it right? Bad call, in the sense that if that much movement constitutes a move to second there would be a lot more outs of this type, but not inexplicable.

He didn't "square his shoulders toward second" but he flinched that way. And Puig's reputation probably meant he had a closer eye on him.

It was the wrong call, but that's going to happen sometimes. The article's got all the facts right, it just doesn't seem like "one of the worst calls of a career."
   3. Jim Wisinski Posted: May 03, 2014 at 05:01 PM (#4699706)
That happened to BJ Upton once and was highly questionable in that case. I think it was just a tiny flinch towards 2B or a bit of a lean and the ump decided to call him out when the fielder tagged him. I suppose by the literal interpretation of the rules the call could be justified but it seems like a pointlessly strict standard was applied; nobody was going to be fooled into thinking Upton was going for the extra base from the tiny movement.
   4. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 03, 2014 at 05:28 PM (#4699716)
That happened to BJ Upton once and was highly questionable in that case. I think it was just a tiny flinch towards 2B or a bit of a lean and the ump decided to call him out when the fielder tagged him. I suppose by the literal interpretation of the rules the call could be justified but it seems like a pointlessly strict standard was applied; nobody was going to be fooled into thinking Upton was going for the extra base from the tiny movement.


I hate these calls. And the above cited rule isn't really relevant, but I'm not even sure where in the rulebook this type of play is spelled out.

   5. Kurt Posted: May 03, 2014 at 05:54 PM (#4699726)
It's an awful call; he doesn't remotely make a move toward second. He turns back the other way to look at the ball, flinches in place, and starts walking back to first. He stays in foul territory the whole time, he never moves toward second, he never leans toward second. Awful.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: May 03, 2014 at 06:09 PM (#4699734)
You can debate whether he leaned but I'm pretty sure this is the way the rule has been interpreted and called my entire life. You make any move towards 2B -- a "lean" -- and you surrender your right to over-run 1B. You don't have to "turn", the foul line's got nothing to do with it ... and in fact I think you can cross the foul line as long as you never display intent to go to 2B.

It's easy to look over your right shoulder while leaning towards 2B. I've done it -- it's almost instinct to start to lean towards 2B when the throw gets away but you can still have the presence of mind to check and try to keep yourself from going that way.

Dreadfully slow internet at home so I can't check the video, so I'm not saying Puig did lean. I'm just saying I've seen this called for little more than a dip of the left shoulder and it seems to me it's always been that way. Which isn't to say umps don't let innocent dips slide a lot too.
   7. Dan Posted: May 03, 2014 at 06:19 PM (#4699740)
That happened to BJ Upton once and was highly questionable in that case. I think it was just a tiny flinch towards 2B or a bit of a lean and the ump decided to call him out when the fielder tagged him. I suppose by the literal interpretation of the rules the call could be justified but it seems like a pointlessly strict standard was applied; nobody was going to be fooled into thinking Upton was going for the extra base from the tiny movement.


Not a coincidence that it happens to guys like Upton and Puig. It's one of those rules that gives umpires a chance to screw over players they don't like, and they avail themselves of that opportunity.
   8. steagles Posted: May 03, 2014 at 06:21 PM (#4699741)
Coach Davey Lopes asked Welke what the deal was, and he pointed with his thumb toward second, as if to say Puig had turned that way. Lopes told Puig to go back to the dugout. Thanks a bunch, coach.
i've mentioned this a few times, but when puig's own coaching staff is so vocally and publicly critical of him, it opens the floodgates for everyone else to pile on.
   9. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: May 03, 2014 at 06:27 PM (#4699746)
I just think replay has neutered anyone's arguing instinct. Even though this isn't reviewable, I think it's more likely that Lopes is already conditioned to not bother anymore. Mattingly will come out and they'll pick their butts for a few moments and then get told what to do.

That seems way more likely than Lopes hating Puig.
   10. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 03, 2014 at 06:35 PM (#4699750)
The reflexive need to go to bat for Puig is becoming just as predictable and tiresome as the need some have to denigrate the guy. This is a bad call but why is it worth a story? I see what Welke thought he saw and I get why he did it but this is a nothing story. Umpire makes mistake, world does not stop spinning on its axis.
   11. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: May 03, 2014 at 08:40 PM (#4699807)
Arguing the call isn't going to get it reversed, so Lopes' priority is to keep Puig cool and not do or say something to get himself ejected. Getting Puig off the field ASAP after a controversial call is exactly what he should be doing.
   12. Bug Selig Posted: May 03, 2014 at 11:16 PM (#4699851)
Watching it, I don't think I call him out but I can see where somebody might. From the camera distance, I don't see any shoulder dip (doesn't mean there wasn't one that a guy ten feet away would see, I suppose). What I did see, though, was that his feet/legs clearly shift from under him to being outboard of his center of gravity and his path curves (not suddenly or dramatically) to the left. I wouldn't have read it as intent to advance, but I also can't tell Welke that he's wrong.
   13. Ray (RDP) Posted: May 03, 2014 at 11:36 PM (#4699854)
Not a coincidence that it happens to guys like Upton and Puig. It's one of those rules that gives umpires a chance to screw over players they don't like, and they avail themselves of that opportunity.


What indication is there that umpires don't like Puig? I was under the impression it was the media and idiot fans who have problems with him. As well as his manager.
   14. Ray (RDP) Posted: May 03, 2014 at 11:39 PM (#4699855)
I have my problems with umpires -- mainly due to balls and strikes and being needlessly confrontational at times -- but I think they usually are very good at understanding the rulebook. Cold.
   15. Greg K Posted: May 03, 2014 at 11:45 PM (#4699859)
I can understand umpires not liking Delmon Young. I can't immediately think of another player they'd have a reason to dislike. Maybe guys that ##### about strikes a lot. Jose Bautista for instance, though I'm happy to say this year he's really eliminated that annoying habit. I suppose it's hard to argue strikes when you're walking in 112% of your plate appearances.
   16. Scott Lange Posted: May 03, 2014 at 11:58 PM (#4699860)
Umpire makes mistake, world does not stop spinning on its axis.


Its a problem when the rules are applied differently to players based on whether folks like them or not. Somehow I can't imagine Jeter getting called out on that play.

Very solid bat flip tonight though.
   17. JJ1986 Posted: May 04, 2014 at 12:07 AM (#4699862)
I can't immediately think of another player they'd have a reason to dislike.


Someone (I think Lassus) posted here that the Uptons were the only two players that umpires disliked.
   18. Random Transaction Generator Posted: May 04, 2014 at 12:33 AM (#4699867)
Very solid bat flip tonight though.


The best part of that clip is the guy in orange standing at the top of the stands who mimics ripping out his hair when he realizes it's a home run.
(Or, at least that's what it looks like.)

   19. Ray (RDP) Posted: May 04, 2014 at 12:36 AM (#4699868)
I don't think umpires call players out based on whether they like them.

   20. Random Transaction Generator Posted: May 04, 2014 at 12:38 AM (#4699869)
Just watched that video.

That's definitely an umpire picking on a player.
No way in the world would I have interpreted what Puig did as "turning towards 2nd base"
The announcer is straight up lying when he says "squared his shoulders towards 2nd base".
   21. Baldrick Posted: May 04, 2014 at 12:54 AM (#4699872)
The most I can possibly say for the call is that Puig changed his gait so that he would be able to turn to second if he wanted to. But, then, he did not in fact turn to second. It is extremely tenuous but I can, very very faintly perceive a way to justify this call.

But given how weak the case is, it's much easier to say that it was just a mistake. Frankly, the alternative to 'stupid mistake' is 'strategic enforcement of the rules against a player you don't like' which is way worse.
   22. RJ in TO Posted: May 04, 2014 at 01:35 AM (#4699882)
I can understand umpires not liking Delmon Young. I can't immediately think of another player they'd have a reason to dislike. Maybe guys that ##### about strikes a lot. Jose Bautista for instance, though I'm happy to say this year he's really eliminated that annoying habit. I suppose it's hard to argue strikes when you're walking in 112% of your plate appearances.


He's mostly eliminated the habit. It's still there, but not nearly as much as last year, where he seemed to complain any time any strike was called on him.
   23. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: May 04, 2014 at 02:41 AM (#4699885)
You're allowed to turn toward 2nd base actually and can even take a step or two in that direction. For example if a guy runs safely past first, and then casually turns clockwise to head back to the base while adjusting his batting gloves, you can't tag him out. If he does the same thing but instead turns counter-clockwise, you still can't tag him out. It doesn't matter.

What counts is if you make a clear attempt to start to _advance_ to 2nd base. I see no way that happened here. A bad call and I think the base runner should probably get the benefit of the doubt in most circumstances on such a play. The unintended consequences of treating things otherwise probably are not good (I think you'd see more dives into first for starters).
   24. Lassus Posted: May 04, 2014 at 07:08 AM (#4699897)
Someone (I think Lassus) posted here that the Uptons were the only two players that umpires disliked.

Good memory. Not really only (and I'm equally sure not ALL the umpires), just - from listening to the supervisors at the start of replay in 2008 - the ones that they generally disliked the most, enough for it to be mentioned, because they (the Uptons) were unbelievable dicks. A-Rod was also mentioned, but that seemed the same impetus as everybody else, macho people disliking strange weirdos.


This Puig call seems like a real weird overreaction that I'm sure the umpire at this point wishes he could take back. It's certainly possible and to me more likely that there's no ill will involved, just a bad call. That means you have to give the ump the benefit of the doubt, and people aren't always likely to do that, I guess.
   25. JLAC is engulfed in a harmless burst of flame Posted: May 04, 2014 at 07:55 AM (#4699899)
The reflexive need to go to bat for Puig is becoming just as predictable and tiresome as the need some have to denigrate the guy. This is a bad call but why is it worth a story?


One of the best players in baseball is getting mau-maued without rhyme or reason and this doesn't bother you? Another player gets to rules-lawyer his way into outs with the full connivance of the umpires and this is somehow part of the game? This isn't good baseball. It's destructive of the game when this #### is allowed to happen unchecked.
   26. Scott Lange Posted: May 04, 2014 at 08:34 AM (#4699903)
This Puig call seems like a real weird overreaction that I'm sure the umpire at this point wishes he could take back. It's certainly possible and to me more likely that there's no ill will involved, just a bad call. That means you have to give the ump the benefit of the doubt, and people aren't always likely to do that, I guess.


There's no way to prove the call was the result of a bias against Puig, but it does seem like an awfully large coincidence that this year's poster boy for mental mistakes and undisciplined play is the one who bears the brunt of a phantom call of this sort. I'll ask what I alluded to above- can you imagine Derek Jeter being called out on this play? I sure can't.
   27. Lassus Posted: May 04, 2014 at 08:43 AM (#4699906)
I'll ask what I alluded to above- can you imagine Derek Jeter being called out on this play? I sure can't.

Well, that's a really bad parallel. Pick any relatively unknown second-year player who hasn't been in the press as an example, and I admit I sure can see an out being called. (Even if I think it was a bad call.)
   28. Walt Davis Posted: May 04, 2014 at 05:47 PM (#4700070)
Voros .. sure, like I said, you've got to display intent to go to 2B. OK, "intent" is too weak but "clear attempt" is too strong.

So, yes, as I said you can turn in the direction of 2B as long as the umpire doesn't detect a "move" toward 2B. But do they no longer teach this? If the throw gets away, always look over your right shoulder (Puig did this I gather); if you're just going back to the bag, always turn to your right to make sure the ump doesn't have a chance to misinterpret.

Of course umpires are going to look for this more carefully in particular contexts. First, the throw has to get away ... if you beat a throw fielded cleanly by the 1B, the umpire "knows" whatever you do is not an attempt to advance. Second, if it's Prince Fielder running, the umps default perception is surely that Fielder is not going to try to advance unless the ball really gets away but they still call him on a "clear attempt". Fast runner, they're going to be paying extra attention.
   29. McCoy Posted: May 04, 2014 at 05:59 PM (#4700072)
If the ball gets away how does one look over their left shoulder for it? How would that be a natural reaction to a lost ball?

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