Brandon Belt

Pablo Sandoval, base running and the art of arguing a call

With one out in the bottom of the fourth inning of the Giants’ 5-1 loss to the Reds Friday night, Brandon Belt hit a grounder that resulted in a play at second on Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval was called out, but he managed to break up the double play and allow Belt to reach first.

That play sounds pretty standard, but here’s the kicker: Sandoval hooked his arm around Reds shortstop Zack Cozart’s legs as he was sliding towards second base. Now things get confusing.

Reds manager Dusty Baker came out to argue the call and after a meeting between all of the umpires, Belt was ruled out on the play to end the inning.

Wait… Aren’t base runners going into second base supposed to break up a double play? Well, yes. Sort of.

Runners are allowed to slide into second and break up a double play if they are making a clear attempt to touch the bag, but according to the official MLB rule book, there’s a few catches:

Rule 7.09

f) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes
with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious
intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner
out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his
teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a
runner.

In other words, if an umpire thinks that the runner made a deliberate attempt to break up a double play without trying to go into the bag (and umpires are pretty lenient towards the runners with that, evidenced by some rather nasty slides into second), the double play will be awarded to the fielding team if it was not successfully turned.

In Pablo Sandoval’s case, he grabbed Cozart’s leg and didn’t let go as he slid in, and that is what got him in trouble, as Bruce Bochy points out: “The slide was fine… What he did is grab the shortstop, which you can’t do. That’s a rule.”

It doesn’t get much more deliberate and in line with section f of Rule 7.09 than that. So, to the dismay of many Giants fans (evidenced by the tremendous amount of boos at AT&T Park), the umpires made the right call after the huddle, even if Sandoval didn’t know he couldn’t grab Cozart’s leg until Bochy told him so:

http://youtu.be/JBmAJoYPuyg?hd=1

Of course, all of this depends upon the judgment of the umpire. That’s why second base umpire Dan Iassogna did not call Belt out immediately after Sandoval interfered with Cozart. He didn’t see the interference in real time, so he didn’t call him out.

But now, here comes Dusty Baker.

He came out and stood with his infielders to argue the call with Iassogna. As a result, Bill Miller, Dale Scott (the crew chief), C.B. Bucknor and Iassogna huddled and determined that it was an intentional action to break up the double play, so they made the call that Belt was out.

Now, say Dusty Baker doesn’t come out and argue the call. Maybe the Giants get away with one and have a big inning, knock Leake (who threw his first career complete game and went yard in the sixth) out of the game, and win 5-4 rather than losing 5-1.

Maybe. But the fact is that Belt was correctly called out after Baker argued the call. Arguing calls with umpires is usually nothing more than a team-rallying tactic, but sometimes it actually works. In this case, it did.

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